Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Few families in America have been unscathed by Alzheimer’s disease or another forms of dementia. It is a disease that begins subtly and slowly robs the individual of cognition and memory, all while preserving physical function and outward appearance. Losing one’s intellect is terrible, but the real travesty is the personality transformation and inability to sustain the loving relationships that makes life so precious. Dementia makes one physically close and mentally distant.
As the tidal wave of baby boomers crests and begins its descent into caducity, researchers continue to scramble to uncover the cause and develop a cure. Rumblings of minor breakthroughs are heard in the news, but no viable solution is on the horizon. At present, there is no silver lining in this battle, but there are resources for families. In the Lehigh Valley alone, both Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network each have specialized practices and resources for those with dementia. Additionally, there are educational workshops and caregiver support groups also held outside the hospitals, including churches, local businesses, and community centers. The entire community is acutely aware of the issue and has rallied to provide care and options to families.
One service that has evolved and proliferated around the Valley over the past 10 years is that of a memory care community.
What is a Memory Care Community?
A memory care community is similar to assisted living or a personal care home (sometimes characterized as “senior living”) in that the residents live on site and receive meals, medication managment, support and care by staff. In fact a memory care community appears like a senior living environment with subtle differences. Memory care differs in that residents receive a higher level of care given the cognitive needs of residents with dementia. This includes additional oversight, specialized care, and secure facilities that are locked and detract residents from wandering off premises. All staff members are specially trained on dementia, engaging with residents, and managing agitation and other issues. Many memory communities’ floor plans are designed, based on research and best practices. This is manifested through building layouts, designs that encourage interaction and social engagement, disuasion from exit seeking, and even furniture, fixtures and materials that are safe for residents. It may include higher contrasts and textures in flooring, lever handles for tactile function, and the elimination of certain fixtures that can be disassembled and used for personal injury. Also, activities and dining are arranged to maximize the well-being of residents with dementia, for example, dining in smaller venues are more calming to one with dementia than the commotion of a large dining room. Activities, games and entertainment are structured with content that stimulates cognition.
Who Pays for Memory Care?
Memory care communities, like other forms of senior living, are paid through one’s private funds, i.e. savings, pensions, and Social Security income. Medicare, Medicaid, and medical insurance does not cover memory care. Qualifying individuals can have the cost covered by a long-term care policy as well as eligible veterans may receive funding from the Veterans Administration.