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Finding the Best Memory Care Facility for Your Loved One

Homes for Elderly with Dementia – Elderly Care Companies

No doubt, Alzheimer’s and related dementia are pervasive and heartbreaking illnesses. As often the case, the data illustrates the critical nature of memory-related diseases:

— According to the Bright Focus Foundation, approximately 50 million people suffer from memory-based diseases on a worldwide basis https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/.

— Additionally, Alzheimer’s and related dementias are also listed by the Alzheimer’s Disease International as the “top cause” of disabilities suffered by seniors later in life. As usual, with pervasive illness comes pervasive cost.

— The Alzheimer’s Association in 2020 cites an estimated 5.8 million people above the age of 65 in America as living with Alzheimer’s disease. “This number is further predicted to increase to 13.8 million people above the age of 65 by 2050,” the association reports .

— According to health care statistics, Alzheimer’s and dementia coverage costs tallied $277 million in 2018, with the total lifetime cost of care of an average dementia patient totaling $250,174 (again, in 2018.) Even more alarming is the expected total cost of dementia treatment on a worldwide basis by 2050 – a staggering $1.1 trillion.

Is It Time for a Memory Care Provider?

With so much on the line in terms of quality of life, cost, and care for Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases, U.S. households dealing with a senior family member with symptoms of dementia have a tough call to make.

When do you decide it’s time for a loved one to live in a memory care facility?

It’s a fair – and emotionally charged – question to ask.

By and large, medical experts note that any shifts in an individual’s behavior, signs of angst or confusion, and a general deterioration in physical health are the primary indicators of memory disease.

They’re not, however, the only ones. Family members and close friends can rely on these “red flags” as an indicator that memory loss is turning into a serious issue for a loved one.

Eyesight troubles. One might not consider vision woes a serious sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but medical specialists that’s exactly the case.

Any sign of reading or television/computer troubles, or any difficulties with vision colors or contrast, could be a direct path to memory loss. Especially concerning are any issues driving. If troubles persist, it’s highly advisable not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Issues with communicating – verbally or via the written word. If a family member or friend notices a senior exhibiting problems talking or writing, special attention is needed.

Specific signs include when a senior loses his or her train of thought, can’t finish a sentence, or seeks help writing a letter or email. Any sign of a senior who is demonstrating negative base communication traits and characteristics warrant further review by a medical professional.

Lapses in decision making. Memory disease is often preceded by long bouts of judgment impairment. For example, a senior family member may take a longer, alternative route from home in a vehicle, or issue an odd request, such as asking a waiter for money or asking a grocery store cashier where he left his wallet or jacket.

If that seems like odd behavior – it is, and it could be a clear warning of brain impairment.

Personal financial issues. A senior who’s having trouble paying bills, falling victim to identity theft scams, can’t accurately monitor spending, or can’t calculate a routine restaurant check, could well be exhibiting signs of dementia.

With this particular affliction, the stakes are high and early intervention is required. Most seniors live on a fixed income in the first place, so any personal financial mistakes resulting in loss of money or that lead to bad credit need to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible – for health and for financial reasons.

Losing their bearings. An early dementia sufferer may signal oncoming diseases by regularly getting lost outside his or her home. If a senior can’t find his or her way home from places they’ve done so regularly before, such as a local pharmacy or grocery store or a nearby family member’s home, memory issues could be in play.

Loss of memory often manifests itself in forgetting familiar patterns of thought, like directions home from a daughter’s house or not realizing what street they live on.

Any signs of that behavior should be addressed quickly, before a senior family member gets so lost away from home that law enforcement may be required to bring him or her home.

10 Questions to Ask a Memory Care Facility Provider

If a family member or other loved one requires professional memory health care on a full-time basis, it’s time to start vetting potential care centers.

Like most critical senior care provider decision-making campaigns, the goal is to take your time, expand your search, include family members and close friends (if needed) on any progress made or obstacles faced, and eventually on any decisions to be made.

In all of the above cases, thorough preparation is highly advised. One good example of laying out a memory care provider blueprint is to have the proper questions in hand when you do start vetting health care providers, either on site or via phone, letter or email.

By and large, these are the key questions you should ask of a memory care center provider. Any hesitancy in responding (or worse, getting no response at all) should be an indicator that the provider isn’t measuring up and that it’s best to move on and keep on looking.

Key Questions to Ask

What exactly is a memory care center? Yes, at first blush this seems like an obvious question. But ask it anyway. See firsthand how a care center manager, owner or staffer describe their care facility gives you a good starting point on what you really need – and what your center is offering.

Is the staff properly trained? Ideally, memory care center staffers should be trained in general health care and in mental health care, as well. Additionally, regular access to qualified nurses and physicians onsite is non-negotiable.

How many staffers are on hand every day – and every shift? Generally, the more memory center staffers on hand every day and overnight, the better. You might pay extra for a senior home with more trained staffers, but it’s worth the money for safety reasons alone.

What’s your ratio between residents and staff? Again, the more trained caregiving professionals on hand, the better the quality of the care provided.

How does the care center handle medical emergencies? How does it handle other emergencies, like flooding, fire or power outages? A good memory care center has proper protocols for patient emergencies and for emergencies like fire, flooding, and other disasters. Ask to see those protocols and review and compare to other care center emergency protocols.

What is the path to hospice for residents? Ideally, your memory care center provider has a clear and effective path to hospice for residents who require the extra care. Make them show the directive to you.

Can I interview residents and families of residents? There’s nothing like a good “user review” from the people who are front and center at a memory care facility. Any center that resist providing access, or at least references, should be avoided.

If you’re a memory care facility that’s inside a nursing home, how does care differ? There are distinctions between general nursing home care and specific memory care services. Find out well beforehand what those distinctions are and how they’ll manifest in real life. In general, cost and quality of care will be the biggest differences.

What about care center security? You’ll want to check on security at your memory care facility. If a resident wanders off, what happens? How are visitors vetted? Is theft of personal possessions or bullying a regular problem? How are they handled? Get answers to all of the above security-related questions.

How about cleanliness, hygiene, meals, laundry, and housekeeping? Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, personal hygiene safety has become a senior home “no compromise issue” and with good reason.

Make sure you’re well aware of a care center’s health, safety and cleanliness measures before you sign on the dotted line.

Benefits of Living in a Memory Care Facility

When a Alzheimer’s or dementia patient does move into a memory care facility they can expect some immediate and longer-term benefits.

These “upsides” are at the top of the list:

You’re getting specific memory disease care. Unlike a traditional senior care facility, a memory care-only facility is geared specifically toward Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients. The focus is squarely on memory care conditions and treatment, and that’s a big benefit for patients and families looking for one place to go for specific memory diseases care.

You’re safer with professional caregivers watching out for you. The variables in living at home with a memory care condition or living in a professional care center are significant.

In a memory care facility, safety is the number one objective – no wandering off into high risk areas, taking the wrong prescriptions, or forgetting to turn off the stove are allowed in a professional care center, and that alone makes a memory care facility worthwhile for safety-minded patients and families.

You’re not isolated. Memory care patients don’t fare all that well when left alone for extended periods of time.

In that scenario, the risks remain too high that an injury will occur, or another illness will go unattended. In a memory care facility, residents not only get to engage with other patients, usually in their own age group, they also get the direct help they need on both the necessary physical and mental health fronts.

Expected Costs for Memory Care Centers

Costs for live-in memory care facilities are largely dependent on the location of the care center, the amount and quality of services offered, and what a family or individual can afford to pay for quality care.

In general, expect to pay more for quality memory care center services than traditional nursing home services, as care is more comprehensive with memory center care.

That said, some industry averages do apply.

According to Genworth https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html, care in a traditional senior care facility costs about $4,000 per month, on average. Given the need for specialized Alzheimer’s or dementia care on a full-time basis, families should plan on spending an additional $1,000-to-$4,000 per month for quality memory facility care on a full-time basis, although those figures vary on a state-to-state basis.

Payment Options

Paying for quality senior care is largely the result of preparation and the quality of any associated long-term care health insurance plans.

Common ways to pay for memory facility care include:

Long-Term Care Insurance. Recipients who invested in long-term care insurance a decade or more before entering a memory care center show the best financial outcomes when paying for senior center care.

Depending on the policy and the recipient’s age, long-term health care insurance can account for almost all of the care center’s cost, although plan premiums start at between $1,500 and $3,900 for a healthy 55-year-old individual.

Cash and savings. If you’ve saved an abundant amount of cash for your senior years, primarily through personal savings, financial market savings, or other investments, you’re well on the way to paying for most memory care facility live-in costs.

Medicare. Here’s where cost aid becomes limited. Medicare does over some coverage for Alzheimer’s or dementia care.

Basically, coverage costs are only for direct medical care, and not for supervision, assistance, and direct physical care needs, like bathing, dressing and eating. Most diagnostic procedures and prescription drug needs related to memory care are covered, however.

Medicaid. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does offer broad coverage for memory care services.

Direct aid is available, with Medicaid covering the costs of ongoing senior care needs. Memory care patients can also deduct specific cost-of-living expenses related to living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, thereby qualifying for more health care coverage based on income every year.

Veterans programs. U.S. military veterans also offer financial assistance with memory care patients, and that coverage does include cash for dementia-related diseases that weren’t directly tied to military service.

Under the Veterans Administration coverage statutes, money for memory care services and facilities can also be paid out via the agency’s Aid & Assistance cash payout program.

Mortgages. Families can also pay for care through reverse mortgages, where a homeowner borrows cash against the value of their home. When they move out, the lender takes ownership of the house. This, however, is a risky move, especially for single homeowners, as once they leave the home and move into a memory care center facility, there’s no going back to the original home.

The Takeaway on Memory Care Center Experiences

The data shows that getting direct help for major memory illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia leads to better and safer patient outcomes, compared to living at home and/or going it alone as a memory illness sufferer.

Yes, it is a balancing act in comparing pros and cons on key issues like cost, safety, quality of care, and health care insurance coverage.

But with proper due diligence and careful planning, there’s no reason a loved one suffering from memory loss can’t live a better life, with better experiences, while living in a memory care facility.

Additional Resources

Alzheimer’s Association – https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/care-options/residential-care

Caring.com – https://www.caring.com/senior-living/memory-care-facilities/

Centers for Disease Control – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/memory-care.html

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