Early Signs of Dementia

A woman identifies very early signs of dementia in her partner.

A dementia diagnosis is typically the end result of a progressive series of signs that started months or even years before the screening appointment. More often than not, early “red flags” were present, but family members assumed they were normal or were too afraid to address them head-on.

Because dementia is a progressive disease that intensifies over time, early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

The sooner you know a loved one has dementia, the sooner you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to slow down its progression and begin making a long-term memory plan that includes your spouse or parent’s wishes.

“Normal” age-related memory loss vs. dementia

Age-related memory loss is normal and not the same as dementia. One of the most significant differences is that “normal” memory loss is fleeting, sporadic, and it doesn’t increase significantly over a short period of time. Non-dementia-related memory loss is also less likely to be associated with confusion, mood swings, or other unusual signs of agitation. To put this difference into context, while we all misplace our keys every once in a while, it’s exceedingly rare that we’d temporarily forget our way home from our neighborhood grocery store.  

Temporary or situational memory loss can also occur due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, depression, medication side effects, or undiagnosed medical conditions (like a UTI). This is why it’s so critical to be open and honest about any changes in memory or mental fog. A general physician is the first rung of support as you figure out the cause of memory changes.

Very early signs of dementia

The first and earliest signs of dementia are easy to miss because the majority of them read like “whoops, I forgot,” scenarios such as:

  • Misplacing keys
  • Forgetting a name or a word for something
  • Missing an appointment or a social date
  • Not remembering the exact day/date after days at home in a row
  • Forgetting an item or two on the grocery list
  • And so on

With dementia, these episodes occur with greater frequency and may co-exist with states of confusion or mental fogginess.

Other very early signs of dementia are:

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Trouble finishing projects that used to be straightforward
  • Having to read a familiar receipt or set of instructions over and over to follow them through
  • Increased moodiness, angry outbursts, or irritation

You can see why these are easy to miss at first, but more frequent repetition of this type of forgetfulness warrants professional dementia screening by a physician or neurologist.

Signs of early dementia

Those very early signs cumulatively turn into more consistent and significant signs of dementia. Examples include:

  • Difficulty remembering recent events (At first, your loved one may cover these “senior moments” out of embarrassment. However, in quick time, they will no longer have the ability to hide their forgetfulness from spouses and close friends/loved ones)
  • Trouble performing daily tasks
  • Inability to track days, dates, times with any consistency
  • Asking the same questions repeatedly OR telling the same stories often, in a short period
  • Apathy, withdrawal from social life or favorite activities, and/or depression
  • Unusual angry or frustrated outbursts
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or working through typical challenges
  • Trouble finishing crosswords, word searches, or puzzles
  • Not remembering where they are or how they got there
  • Wandering and getting lost in familiar shopping centers or their neighborhood
  • Struggling to read, make good spatial decisions (which affects driving and walking), or judging distance
  • Trouble following or participating in a conversation (they may lose their train of thought and begin rambling or repeating the same things over and over)
  • Losing words without being able to recall them in a reasonable amount of time

It is far better to learn that you were overly concerned about normal, age-related memory loss than to find out a loved one has had dementia for months or longer without access to necessary early treatment and support.

Research shows that certain medications, as well as a dementia-supportive diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, slow down dementia’s progression, allowing those with dementia to live more independently for longer. That said, a care plan must be put in place to ensure the person with dementia and their caregiver(s) have the support required to enjoy a high-quality of life.

Mid-stage dementia

By the mid-stage of dementia, there is no denying something is wrong. People with mid-stage dementia can’t be left home alone without spouses or family members worrying about them wandering off, forgetting to eat, or leaving the stovetop burning unattended. If someone with dementia insists on driving, family members worry they’ll get in a fender bender or have trouble finding their way back home.

The middle-stage of memory loss is evidenced by:

  • Continued behavioral and personality changes
  • Increased agitation in the later afternoon/evening (often referred to as Sundowning)
  • Inability to read or follow instructions
  • Not remembering words, faces, names, or yesterday’s activities
  • No longer being able to play favorite games or to follow along with television or movie plots
  • Not remembering to take medication
  • Inability to manage money, do basic math, or figure out the correct change or tip when at a store or restaurant
  • Insomnia or noticeable sleep changes

If you are the spouse or family caregiver for something with mid-stage dementia, you can no longer go it alone. Individuals with mid-stage dementia require 24/7 care and monitoring, which is impossible for one person to handle on their own. Doing so leads to caregiver fatigue and burnout.

Get Support In the Early Stages

Those early signs of dementia are a call-to-arms. Once you have a diagnosis, it’s time to activate a well-rounded care plan that ensures both the person with dementia – and family caregivers – have the support they need to optimize quality of life. This includes caregivers getting much-deserved time off via respite care, adult daycare, or residential memory care services to prevent burnout.

If you or a loved on is at risk of suffering from caregiver burnout, read our helpful resource below.

Understanding and Managing Dementia Caregiver Burnout

Age-Related Memory Loss vs. Dementia

An adult daughter, confident she knows how to recognize age-related memory loss vs. dementia, sits with her older mother on a bed.

Not all memory loss is created equal. There is a distinct physiological difference between age-related memory loss and dementia. Knowing the difference can help you remain calm when normal forgetfulness makes you fear the worst.

That said, ignoring clear signs of dementia means your loved one isn’t getting the help and support they need to slow down the disease’s progression and begin creating a long-term care plan.

Keep reading to learn more about recognizing the differences between age-related memory loss vs. dementia and what to do about it.

Memory Loss: Age-Related or Dementia?

All of us have moments where our mental faculties are not at their best. We forget an appointment, can’t recall a name, or absent-mindedly miss a turn on a familiar route. And, as we age, these scenarios are more common. 

However, with Alzheimer’s, these forgetful or foggy moments are not recoverable, happen more frequently, and can negatively impact our mood, behavior, and personal safety. 

If you are worried about memory loss, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your general physician. While there is no single test to diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s, physicians use health screenings, questionnaires, brain scans, and other tools to determine the cause of changes in thinking, movement, or behavior.

In the meantime, here is a chart you can use to determine the difference between normal, age-related memory loss or “senior moments” vs. signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. We’ve divided the chart into the main memory functions:

  • Short-term memory or learning something new
  • Organizing, problem-solving, and making decisions
  • Recalling words/language
  • Geographic orientation and navigation
  • Visual perception (distance, depth perception, etc.)
  • Mood or behavior

 

Memory Function/Ability Normal Aging Dementia
Short-term memory/learning something new May occasionally forget an appointment, name, or a specific date but recover it later.

Forget something you were told, and memory may or may not be jogged when reminded.

Can misplace keys, glasses, remote, etc., but can usually retrace steps and find it–or come across it later and think, “Oh, that’s right…I remember putting it there when….”

Cannot keep track of appointments and often forget the names of close friends or family members, even if with them that day. 

Repeatedly asking the same question, often with only minutes or less than an hour between questions. 

Misplaced items are frequently found in strange locations, such as a remote control in the bathroom medicine cabinet and reading glasses in the pantry or fridge. 

Organizing/problem-solving/decision-making It can take a little longer to organize things or think things through, but the process still has a clear start, middle, and logical finish.

It’s more difficult to multitask, but tasks can be completed one at a time.

Occasionally make a poor decision.

Make occasional math mistakes with finances but they can be easily traced and corrected.

Planning and organizing lead to confusion and do not often result in a final answer or finished product.

Difficulty remaining focused or concentrated on a single task.

Increased bad or irresponsible decisions, especially around finances.

No longer able to keep track of and pay monthly bills on time–or at all.

Language recall Sometimes cannot find the right word, or it takes longer to rise to the surface, but usually find it or it comes later.

It can take more concentration to follow conversations, especially with a fast talker or with more than one person speaking at the same time.

Easily lose a conversation thread if distracted or multiple people speak at once.

Frequently can’t find the right word and begin speaking about “that person,” or “that thing,” without memory recall happening at all.

Struggle to maintain a conversation or to follow and join an existing conversation.

Consistently lose the thread of what someone is saying.

Geographic/time orientation and navigation May sometimes forget the day of the week or date (especially after retirement) but can figure it out and can use tools to find it.

Occasionally walk into a room and forget why you’re there or what you wanted.

Can’t keep days and dates straight anymore, even with reminders.

Often wander around the house without remembering purpose or intent.

Getting lost on routine walking routes or while running errands in familiar places. 

Get confused about times of day or seasons, no rhythm around the passage of time.

Visual perception (distance, depth perception, etc.) Any vision- or perception-related changes are related to cataracts or vision problems diagnosable by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Spatial intelligence falters without any changes in physical vision. More prone to tripping, misjudging distance, and misinterpreting reflections or patterns.
Mood or behavior Can feel a bit low or anxious, but it ebbs and flows.

May feel uneasy about attending social engagements or large gatherings.

Become set in behavior ways and can be irritated when there’s a change or disruption in “the routine.”

More complete withdrawal and lack of interest in social gatherings and events.

Can become increasingly anxious, afraid, or depressed/angry and may also show a decline in self-confidence.

Becomes usually irritated at home, with friends/family, or in normally comfortable situations. This may increase around sunset or in the evening (sometimes referred to as Sundowner’s Syndrome).

 

If you notice increases in the “normal age-related memory loss column,” it is still worth scheduling an appointment with a general physician to check-in. A simple screening can help determine whether further analysis is required.

If you do move forward with a comprehensive assessment and receive a dementia diagnosis, it’s time to begin planning the next steps forward. 

Age-Related Memory Loss vs. Dementia: We Are Here to Help

While an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is devastating, research shows most adults with dementia live for another 20 years on average. There is still plenty of time for your loved one to enjoy a high quality of life by enlisting the support of memory care experts.

The Memory Center can help with all aspects of care planning, such as remaining in touch with the latest news regarding medications, diet, and lifestyle changes that slow down the progression of dementia, information on caregiver support, and how to cover the costs of long-term dementia care.

Paying for long-term dementia care can be a particular challenge. Click below to learn how to address finances when providing for a loved one.

How to Pay for Dementia Care

What To Do When You Get An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Getting an official diagnosis that memory lapses are the result of Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-altering. If you or your loved one still function “normally” in day-to-day life, it can be tempting to go into denial and pretend as if everything’s just fine until there are more obvious or alarming signs that compromise the quality of life.

The truth is, however, that fast-action is the key to creating both short- and long-term care plans. There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, and it is considered a progressive disease. The rate at which it progresses varies for each person, but it can happen more rapidly than expected, and this places the person with Alzheimer’s, his/her spouse, and loved ones in a crisis state.

Taking Timely, Methodical Actions After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

The more you learn about Alzheimer’s, and Alzheimer’s resources in your area, the faster you’ll be able to establish a personalized plan of action.

The goal is to give the person with Alzheimer’s ability to make some decisions for him/herself whenever possible. This becomes challenging – and then impossible – as the condition progresses because transitions are detrimental if you wait too long.

Learn about the disease and current treatment options

Hopefully, your medical team, including the neurologist, have provided you with lots of information about Alzheimer’s, all together it’s progression, and the known medications, lifestyle changes and treatment options that support a patient’s wellbeing.

Other helpful resources for learning about Alzheimer’s include:

Don’t hesitate to call or email your primary physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, so you can ask questions and listen to the answers you may not have been able to take in during the immediate consultation after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Start the conversation regarding memory care options

Memory care will play a role at some point, and the quality of this care – and its ability to improve the quality of life for your loved one – is 100% related to how soon s/he transitions into the right community. This will probably require multiple conversations as you weigh the pros and cons of various options, and tour facilities and communities.

While the idea of staying home is preferred by many, caregiving for a middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s patient is a full-time job. 

Unfortunately, contrary to the original plan, many spouses or close family members realize too late that they aren’t capable of providing the level of care required, 24/7. That results in a very traumatic transition into memory care, assisted living or nursing home care – and it may mean having to give up your first-choice if they don’t have space when you finally make a decision.

Tour your options as soon as you can

It’s helpful for prospective residents to tour memory care options themselves so they have some autonomy in the decision. However, we understand that this can be scary and nerve-wracking for many – and that some simply refuse to do it all together.

If your loved one is resistant to touring options with you, we recommend inviting a close family member or friend to accompany and support you. You might find starting the process solo – bringing back information and ideas – will motivate your spouse or loved one to accompany you the next time.

Read,Questions to Ask When Touring Memory Care Facilities, so you get the information and details you need to make a good decision.

Start to plan for the financial side of things

Memory care is an expense – whether you’re hiring full-time caregivers in your home or you transition into a memory care center. Unless your financial plan already accommodated for extended, long-term care of some kind – you’ll need to start preparing your finances.

Read,Affording Alzheimer’s Care, for some helpful ideas and tips for funding high-quality memory care.

There are situations where Medicare and Medicaid can subsidize expenses, but they rarely pay for the entirety of the costs associated with memory care. After establishing memory care options in your area, their administration and staff will help you review the realm of financial and payment choices available to you.

Keep your loved one as engaged and active as possible

Studies show over and over again that early action in terms of diet, lifestyle habits, social engagement, and mental stimulation are all key to slowing down and decreasing the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Often, the shock or embarrassment of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, combined with the complications associated with fading memory and social situations, leads to social isolation. This is a worst-case scenario because mental and social stimulation keeps those neural pathways open and firing.

Try to find daily activities, outings, and social settings that inspire feelings of connections, safety, and security for your loved one. This could also include taking advantage of adult day care options at a prospective memory care center as part of the transition into becoming a resident.

Establish your support network

Being a spouse, partner, or primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is a challenging job. You are going to need a range of support to help along the way.

Ideas include:

  • Learning about Alzheimer’s resources and support in your community
  • Working with a therapist or counselor to help you cope with the range of emotions that come up along the journey
  • Joining an Alzheimer’s support group
  • Ensuring you have respite care available to provide regular, much-needed breaks
  • Eating well, exercising, and maintaining social networks to prevent caregiver burnout

It takes a village to care for both those with Alzheimer’s as well as their spouses, family members, and loved ones. Establishing your support network while you have the time and space to do so allows you to activate support options as needed down the road.

Handling A Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Remember: there is never a need to go it alone. 

After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, enlist the support of family and friends to help you move forward – step-by-step.

Learn more about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and find support in these articles: 

Activities

 

We help our residents maintain a high quality of life through activities that benefit mind and body.

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Morning Activities

Morning activities may include:

  • Exercise (aerobics, yoga stretches/meditation)
  • Trivia games
  • Music and singing

Afternoon Activities

Other afternoon activities include:

  • Creative and artistic classes (painting, molding clay, or creating decorations for their suite)
  • Walks, bird watching, or gardening in our beautifully landscaped gardens and paths

Evening Activities

After dinner, they can join games or other social activities in their neighborhood or head to our Theater for a musical, comedy or classic movie.

Activities for a Better Quality of Life

A typical day at The Memory Center is filled with activities designed to inspire purpose, validate actions, and invigorate, while providing the highest quality of life for residents. Functional and fun are key components of our activities.

Our multi-sensory activities program increases communication, socialization, physical movement and motor abilities. The program also provides visual, tactile, auditory, and olfactory stimulation.

Our activities program is grounded in the Montessori-based principles of respect, dignity, independence, and choice. All activities are designed with three A’s in mind to ensure they are:

  • Available across all levels and forms of dementia
  • Accessed and easily implemented by all staff
  • Adaptable to fit the resident’s age, interest or other abilities

Morning Activities

A day at The Memory Center starts with a hot cup of coffee and greetings from our Morning Welcome Crew who announce all the exciting activities planned for the day.

They carry colorful signs showing upcoming special events such as an entertainer or pet visits.

  • Singing
  • Art
  • Balloon volleyball in the Town Center
  • Bingo
  • Flower arranging
  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Reading

Afternoon Activities

After lunch, residents meet in Town Center for our daily ice cream social.

On warm days we may sit outside on the patio or on a bench in the gardens to chat.

Evening Activities

In the evening, residents can gather in our Tavern for happy hour.

  • Social activities
  • Music
  • Games
  • Storytelling
  • Movies

Sample Activity Schedule

8:00 am Coffee and Overview with Morning Welcome Crew

9:00 am – 11:15 Morning Activities

11:30 am – 1:00pm Lunch

1:15 pm Ice Cream Social

2:00 – 4:30 pm Afternoon Activities

5:00 pm – 7:30 pm Dinner

7:45 – Evening Activities

Special Activities

Activities at The Memory Center include:

Music

Dancing, playing instruments or listening to music while holding objects such as flags, director batons, maracas, drums, bells, tambourines to encourage motion. Lyrics are projected on our movie screen with pictures or icons to help with memory, and we may feature entertainers representing various types of music.

We also encourage families to provide an iPod or CD with their family member or loved one’s favorite songs.

Poetry & Games

We utilize poetry, trivia, board games, reading, writing or storytelling to promote and encourage memory.

Art

Projects are designed to encourage memory. Projects are meaningful to the resident and use items he or she was exposed to in their past.

Hobby Activities

All hobbies are designed to give purpose and meaning to the activity. Favorite activities include sewing and wreath making. These activities include specific steps to encourage memory.

To encourage motion we incorporate activities of daily living such as setting the table, cleaning, laundry, folding or sorting. Other motion activities include rolling yarn, puzzles or card matching.

Cooking

Projects encourage memory by including simple steps. Using recipes and the act of stirring, pouring, measuring, rolling, tasting, smelling, encourages motion and/or stimulates memories.

Sports & Physical Activities

Physical Activities are designed to encourage motion and memory including sports that residents are familiar with such as baseball, tennis, and horseshoes. Our sports programs utilize adapted equipment that residents can safely use.

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A Long Track Record for Helping

 

★★★★★“I highly recommend The Memory Center and cannot say enough about the staff and employees who interact daily with the residents. The residents are encouraged to participate in various daily events and there are plenty of assistants to help them enjoy the activities.

The residents experience music, dancing, laughter, socializing, nature and a general feeling of contentment in a secure and happy environment.

The entire staff, from the director to the housekeepers can be found interacting with the residents. We are very pleased with the care our mother receives at The Memory Center.”

Kathy J.

 

Activities FAQ

Memory Center locations maintain an ABC license.

Residents who would like a drink or a glass of wine, if we have secured a prescription from their physician, can enjoy their favorite beverages during Happy Hour.

Our facilities are committed to keeping consumption to appropriate levels. Non-alcoholic beverages are also provided.

Residents at Memory Center care communities can socialize at The Tavern, as well as at other festive events, such as holiday celebrations, as well as sporting events, which we show on The Tavern’s wide-screen televisions.

Our Activities Director plans a variety of activities in each neighborhood every evening designed to promote motion as well as memory. Staff engages with the residents in both individual settings and small groups.

An aging brain presents challenges that we believe should be met with a caring, interactive community approach.

The dementia care at The Memory Center is designed around the individual. Our Town Center and Neighborhood are part of a unique model that has been designed specifically to assist residents living with memory challenges and memory loss. They are intended to reduce the frustration and agitation that can accompany memory problems and loss.

We offer a variety of daily activities tailored to the needs of an aging brain. The Memory Center and its locations boast low staff turnover and the reassurance of the highest quality of care. Our residents have the chance to live well with Alzheimer’s and dementia while their families enjoy the support and peace of mind.

 

More Resources

Amenities

Our community design features four neighborhoods that surround a Town Center. Each residence has their own quiet and relaxing living room, dining room and full kitchen.

Amenities

Dining

Our approach to nutrition is research-based, adhering largely to the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean Diet.

Our emphasis is on nutrient-dense whole foods, which means plenty of fresh produce, lean proteins, and fewer refined and processed foods.

Learn more about each Memory Center location and their approach to dining.

Dining

Pricing

An individual’s needs can change by the day. The Memory Center staff provides necessary daily assistance without burdening you with monthly bill changes.

Our all-inclusive pricing can simplify your budget planning and finances.

Pricing

The Latest Alzheimer’s Facts, Figures & Stats [2020]

Medicine’s understanding of Alzheimer’s, and its effects on the human brain, is still in the pioneering phases. While we learn more all the time about how genetics, life events, and lifestyle components are involved in catalyzing the initial signs and progression of Alzheimer’s, the cure remains elusive.

With respect to the ever-emerging science pertaining to the causes, treatments, and potential for Alzheimer’s disease, we update our Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet regularly to reflect the current research.

Accurate Facts, Figures, & Stats Improve Alzheimer’s Quality of Life

The more you remain up to date on the current research and studies’ findings, including Alzheimer’s facts, figures, and stats, the better you can improve the quality of life for yourself and the ones you love.

First, we’ll begin with some basic, bullet-point facts about Alzheimer’s disease (AD), followed by more detailed information to support the care and support provided for those with AD. The following facts are derived from two helpful AD resources: The NIH’s page on Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Alzinfo.org.

Visit our Resource Guide for Alzheimer’s Care & Support for more helpful AD websites.

  • AD is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States
  • Most people with late-onset AD exhibit signs and symptoms as early as their 60s, even if the diagnosis doesn’t happen until much later (more on that below).
  • Experts believe that AD-related changes in the brain may actually start as much as ten years before the beginning symptoms are detectable.
  • Early-onset AD comprises about 10% of the Alzheimer’s population and is typically noticed/diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Someone is diagnosed with AD about every 65 seconds.
  • Doctors predict as many as 14 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s by the year 2050.
  • One-third of all seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia-related condition
  • It costs about 350K per person to support the long-term health and wellbeing of an AD patient (read, Is Medicare/Medicaid an Option… for information about financing the care you need).
  • There are multiple forms of AD and dementia – early-onset, late-onset, Lewy Body, Parkinson’s-related, etc. Care and treatment plans may vary depending on the type.
  • Alzheimer’s genes (and other biomarkers) are identified, but they are not the sole cause of AD, nor does the presence of the genes mean an individual will get AD. 
  • There is no specific treatment for AD or dementia, although some drug treatment protocols slow its progression.
  • Certain lifestyle changes have been shown to slow down the progression of AD.

Those last two points are part of what makes living with Alzheimer’s so challenging. There are not always clear reasons why a person has the disease, and there is no tried-and-true treatment for AD at this time.

This is why ongoing research around Alzheimer’s potential causes and treatment methods is so important. The more we learn about the brain and how it is affected by Alzheimer’s-related proteins, amyloid plaques, and tau tangles, the closer we get to a potential cure. 

Early Diagnosis is Key

Because Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at the beginning of the middle-stage, when cognitive impairment is too dramatic to ignore, patients, families, and caregivers miss the opportunity to make decisions before things are chaotic and stressful. By diagnosing AD in the early stages, you have time to:

  • Learn all you can and make a long-term AD care plan that involves the individuals’ wishes, desires, and goals
  • Make smart decisions about caregivers or facilities
  • Tour memory care centers
  • Implement diet and lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation and support a healthier mind and body.

Read What to Do About an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis to learn more about the first, critical items to consider in the wake of an official diagnosis.

Re-Evaluate Diet & Make Anti-inflammatory Shifts

Recent studies have shown that high-fat, high-sugar diets “prime the brain” for AD. Diets that are higher in fats, sugars, and processed foods contribute to inflammation in both the hippocampus and the frontal lobe of the brain, two areas that experience AD decline. 

Patients who have AD and who maintain their high-fat/sugar diets tend to progress more rapidly through the disease’s stages and have lower life expectancies. Making the switch to an inflammatory diet is a powerful one. The Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research writes, “Older men and women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet showed less shrinkage of the brain than their peers who did not eat foods typical of the Mediterranean region.”

Click here to read more about anti-inflammatory, Alzheimer’s-oriented diet recommendations.

Establish a Healthy Circadian Rhythm

You may have heard about sundowner’s syndrome, or you may have personal experience with it if you’re currently an AD caregiver. The more we learn about the body’s need for natural daylight and dark to maintain essential biochemical balance in the brain, the more there is a need to establish a healthy circadian rhythm in the home.

Alz.org’s page on Sleep Issues & Sundowning offers tips for how to establish healthy daily and nighttime rhythms to prevent these issues and support brain health. When you begin looking for long-term care options, make sure to ask about how they help to prevent and support sundowning for their residents.

Social Engagement & Activities Are Essential

The NIH states in addition to healthy diet and lifestyle practices, “… social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits…might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.” 

If your loved one tends to retreat into depressed, anxious, or embarrassed seclusion, get in touch with Alzheimer’s support groups in your area, and learn how to keep AD patients socially stimulated and engaged to boost morale and their quality of life. 

Your busy calendar doesn’t have to be put on hold. Contact Adult Day Care or Respite Care options in your area to keep your loved one safe and ensure s/he remains social, participating in activities s/he enjoys to promote overall well being.

Click the links below for more helpful information on memory care and supporting your loved one through their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. 

Investment Basics, It’s Never Too Late To Plan For The Future WILL RESCHEDULE

RESCHEDULED FOR A LATER DATE

Investment and retirement planning can be a confusing topic. The Memory Center Virginia Beach is hosting a free session to help answer common questions and make sure you are making the most of your money. 

Join Penny Sanchez, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones as she presents “Investment Basics” April 7th, 2020 from 9:00am – 10:00am.

There is no charge for this event and it is open to the public. 

RSVP using the form below or by contacting Roberta Gilbert at RobertaG@thememorycenter.com or by calling (757) 412-1180. 

memory center events

Download A Flyer

 

Alzheimer’s and Dementia 101, 1st Session

Join The Memory Center Richmond and the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond for an important educational event.

In this three part series you will learn  how to keep your brain healthy, how to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and how to have some difficult, yet important conversations.

This event is free of charge and open to the public, but space is limited. 

Note:  This event is held at The Dominion Club 6000 Dominion Club Drive, Glen Allen, VA

Registration for this event is now closed, however there is still space in the second and third session should you wish to register. 

Is Medicare/Medicaid An Option For To Pay For Memory Center/Assisted Living?

Financing a residency at a memory care center or assisted living facility can seem overwhelming at first. 

If that’s the case for you, know that most residents and their families take a multi-faceted approach to finance long-term care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Many people ask if funding from Medicare or Medicaid is an option, but the answer can be complicated.

In the case of Medicare, these are some funding allotments are available intermittently, but only covering specific medical events or situations. For this reason, Medicare is not usually viewed as a consistent or foundational source of funding for Alzheimer’s or dementia care, which is also the case at The Memory Center communities. 

If financing the cost of your preferred memory care center without Medicare or Medicaid  is a factor for you, read our post, Affording Alzheimer’s Care, for more information.

How To Finance Memory Care & Assisted Living Without Medicaid or Medicare

Most individuals who transfer from home-based care into memory care or assisted living use a combination of financing sources. This includes financial support from:

  • Retirement investments/savings
  • Social Security or another pension(s)
  • The sale of a home or property
  • Taking a reverse mortgage out on a home
  • Financial support from family members
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Private health insurance
  • Medicare/Medicaid for specific or qualifying events
  • Veteran’s benefits

When touring prospective communities or facilities, make sure to ask about monthly fees and exactly what they cover, learn more about their recommendations. If you are relying on Medicare/Medicaid coverage you will want to find out what, if anything, is covered in a community up front and also speak to your benefits coordinator.

When Are Medicare & Medicaid Are Viable Options For Qualifying Individuals?

In most cases, Medicare or Medicaid covers a portion of care costs for qualifying patients. 

The term “qualifying” is the key here. Both programs are forms of federal assistance, but they differ in terms of benefits qualifications.

Seeking Financial Assistance From Medicare

Medicare is available to seniors 65-years and older OR individuals younger than 65-years who have qualified for Social Security benefits for at least 24-months prior. 

In most cases pertaining to adults younger than 65, this comes by way of disability benefits.

If your loved one is showing signs or has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, speak to your doctor and schedule an appointment with your local Social Security Administration to learn more about what’s required to qualify for disability benefits. The combination of disability benefits and Medicare can considerably reduce your out-of-pocket care costs.

If you or your loved one are 65-years of age and you qualify to receive social security benefits, you are eligible for Medicare. You should have received ample notification to enroll in Medicare roughly three months before your 65th birthday. If not, enroll ASAP to avoid potential penalties.

All of the costs covered by Medicare can be applied to memory care centers or assisted living facilities who are willing to accept and work with Medicare billing. It’s important to note that in almost all cases, individuals have to be in the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s before Medicare coverage is available for anything other than medical appointments and treatments and not all communities work with Medicare benefits.

Typical Costs Covered by Medicare

Medicare is most likely to cover the following costs:

  • Inpatient hospital fees, doctor’s visits, and some medical items for residents 65-years and older. If you have a Medicare Part D plan, prescriptions may also be covered.
  • In limited circumstances, Medicare pays for up to 100 days of skilled nursing home care, following a hospital stay, although it does not cover long-term nursing home care.
  • Hospice services, including when they take place at a nursing home or inpatient hospice center when patients are determined to have six months or less to live.

We recommend visiting Medicare’s webpage regarding Alzheimer’s coverage for more specific information about what is and isn’t covered. As this page so aptly puts it:

“Despite its shortcomings, Medicare, when used fully – and especially when augmented with Medicare Supplemental Insurance – can make a significant contribution towards the expense of caring for a loved with Alzheimer’s. Readers may want to explore this article which discusses other Medicaid and Veterans’ benefits for Alzheimer’s.”

Seeking Financial Assistance From Medicaid

Medicaid is jointly funded by both the federal government and the individual’s state of residence. It uses an asset/income-based qualification system that is quite strict in its qualification. Only those with very low asset/income levels or who have no financial resources are eligible for Medicaid. 

In order to protect the system from abuse, there are extremely stringent laws preventing individuals from transferring property, assets or wealth to other family members ahead of time in order to qualify for assistance.

Those who legitimately qualify for Medicaid can expect all or a portion of their medical expenses to be covered, including nursing home or residential skilled nursing care. 

However, be aware that not all nursing homes, assisted living facilities or memory care centers take Medicaid. In almost all cases, those who qualify for Medicaid must move or transfer to a state home- or community-based healthcare option to receive the benefits.

Early Planning Is Key To Securing Financing Before A Move Is Necessary

We can’t emphasize enough how much proactive research and planning ease the financial path toward memory care and assisted living. 

By methodically going through the options, you’ll piece together a plan that works for your household budget. Giving yourself extra time means more opportunities to secure financing sources you may not think about or remember in knee-jerk crisis mode.

We also recommend utilizing local Alzheimer’s and dementia support groups, as well as online support groups and discussion forums. The individuals and facilitators in those groups have years of experience and wisdom behind them. You may learn about creative patch-working of financing opportunities you wouldn’t hear or read about otherwise.

And, of course, the staff at your prospective memory care centers or assisted living facilities should be informative on the topic of Medicare/Medicaid financing as well. Their willingness to walk you through some basics, sharing their information and advice, can be viewed as part of the interview process and shed light into the heart and soul of the center’s administration and staff.

Learn more about selecting and financing memory care in these related articles:

How To Find Affordable Memory Care & Assisted Living

The first priority in locating quality memory care or assisted living options is finding a place that you trust and that is known for its high-quality care.

The second priority is finding a place you can afford.

Factors To Evaluate When Searching For Affordable Memory Care

It’s important to perform thorough due-diligence when comparing the costs of various memory care and assisted living facilities.

Unfortunately, many facilities hide “extra costs” when advertising their per/month rates, and that can become detrimental if your loved one has moved in and you find the monthly charge is notably more than you estimated.

Moving into an assisted living facility can be hard, and it can be even more so if you have to move your loved one to yet another facility as the result of hidden fees or unexpected costs.

Similarly, the very act of terminating the contract at one facility and establishing a new one can cost you thousands of wasted dollars. This is because, in addition to losing the remaining balance on the existing contract, odds are you’ll have another deposit and other associated fees attached to the new contract.

Identifying affordable assisted living or memory care options doesn’t have to be challenging. If numbers and details aren’t your forte, enlist the help of a family member, friend or your accountant to review paperwork with you and make sure you aren’t missing anything before making your final choice.

Ultimately, you want to choose a place that has the highest-quality care, meals, amenities and activities for the most affordable price.

Comparing Advertised Cost & Hidden Costs

One of the most important things to keep in mind when searching for affordable assisted living or memory care is the discrepancy between the “advertised cost” and the “hidden costs.”

When you’re making such an important choice, you need all of the facts at hand to make a well-informed decision, and this includes a complete and detailed list of all costs – not just the basic “room and board” fees.

Common Fees Included (but not always)

Here are some of the most common fees included in a general price estimate. Keep in mind that every facility is different, so you’ll want to confirm specific costs with each prospective facility you visit.

  • Rent
  • Meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Access to general exercise and activities

Those are just the basics, and you may be surprised to find that other services you “assumed” were included (often the services the facility promotes during your tour and visits) cost extra.

Ask About Hidden Fees

Some of the hidden fees that might surprise you include:

  • Certain occupational or physical therapies prescribed by medical staff
  • Periodic “assessment fees,” similar to HOA dues, that are bumped up over time
  • Hygiene costs, including dressing, bathing, incontinence care, and laundry
  • Medication management and medication distribution
  • The initial (and possibly subsequent) health screenings
  • On-site physician and pharmacy access
  • Treatment for temporary wounds, illnesses or injuries
  • General wellness monitoring, such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels
  • Escorts to activities or dining center(s)
  • Periodic wellness check-ins
  • Transportation to various events, outings, or off-site appointments
  • Extra fees for deep-cleaning of the bathroom or other areas
  • Moving costs
  • Telephone charges
  • Fees/charges for contracted- or atypical special events, classes or activities

While charging extra for non-contracted services and extras isn’t unethical, it’s imperative that you know exactly what is included – and what is not – so you can plan accordingly.

For example, your preferred memory care center may charge extra for off-site transportation, and that’s fine. By knowing that, you can get your preferences in writing, stating that your spouse or loved one is only budgeted to go on inclusive outings OR a stated number of charged outings per month.

Are Special Amenities & Services Worth The Extra Money?

When you’re touring various facilities, take a good, analytical look at their amenities, classes, and services. You may be surprised when you factor in your total budget and find that spending slightly more per month for a memory care center with superior amenities is well-worth it.

For one thing, you and your family members will save money each week if you’re able to join your spouse, parent or grandparent at the in-house Pub or Cafe, or to catch a movie at the on-site theater.

The water exercise, aerobics, yoga or dance classes offered as part of an all-inclusive assisted living facility may be more affordable than the gym membership and other extracurricular dues and fees your loved one insisted in keeping up, even after s/he couldn’t attend anymore.

Does All-Inclusive Affordable Memory Care Mean All-Inclusive?

When you keep the above “hidden charges” potential in mind, all-inclusive memory care centers begin to look more affordable. What used to seem like a notably higher per/month charge now starts to become more reasonable.

For example, The Memory Care Center is considered an all-inclusive community. We provide a detailed and itemized list of costs to any prospective and current residents and their families as requested.

Among the basic services, our monthly fees include services such as dressing/grooming and toileting, regular laundry and linen services, items “purchased” from visits to our General Store and any outings offered by our Activities Program and more.

Even so, there are a few things that aren’t included in that “all-inclusive” price.

For example, we charge residents for certain services or items such as:

  • Long-distance telephone calls
  • Incontinence supplies
  • Salon services
  • Transportation to off-site appointments

However, we are always happy to pre-arrange a budget or restrictions based on your wishes.

So, for example, if your mother enjoys her monthly salon appointment, we’ll keep that to once per month and gently remind her of her “upcoming appointment” if she tries to book an extra appointment. Honesty and clarity around charges are essential to making the right decision for your loved one.

Finding Affordable Memory Care & Assisted Living

Ultimately, your prospective memory care and assisted living facilities’ transparency around pricing is indicative of their ethics, integrity and the sincerity of their work.

Sometimes, paying a bit more each month – and knowing that’s all you’ll have to pay – is well worth peace of mind.

Learn about pricing

How Long Should You Wait Before Visiting Your Loved One In Memory Care?

Transitioning a senior loved one into memory care requires a delicate choreography and balance as you determine the “best way” to move into the new place, decide what should go and what should remain behind, and even how often you should wait – or not – before visiting.

Let Your Loved One & Memory Care Staff Lead The Way

In most cases, your loved one’s level of comfort or agitation will determine how soon or how often you should visit.

Also, trained memory center staff have wonderful insight into whether your presence seems to soothe or unsettle their new resident, or what times of day seem best for him/her (which may vary in the new setting from what you were used to at home).

Feel free to check in with the staff to learn more about how your visits affect your spouse, parent or relative.

At first, more may be more

Often, visits from you and other loving, familiar faces help to ease the transition from home or an assisted living facility into a memory care community. In the beginning, these visits may need to be more regular to help the new resident settle in.

Regular visits from the ones they love assure new residents they are not being forgotten or abandoned. Your presence proves you meant it when you said, “we’ll visit you often,” and that can provide peace of mind.

Then again, sometimes less-is-more

There are exceptions, however, to the above. Some new residents have a harder time settling into their new home and need more time before they are ready for a visit.

When well-meaning visits immediately after a move cause more homesickness instead of less; or more agitation than calm, or emotional goodbyes, ask the staff if you should consider waiting before your next visit. This can lead to emotional and traumatic goodbyes.

If it seems early visits are detrimental to the resident’s ability to settle in, administration or staff will recommend a modified visiting schedule. It may be that remaining absent for a full week or two is enough for your loved one to “re-anchor,” after which regular visits are better appreciated.

NOTE: It can be heartbreaking if your loved one falls into the category of “less is more” on post-transition visits. Let’s be honest, while regular visits from loved ones can help your loved one with the change, those visits are just as likely to help you transition into a new life.

If it turns out you need to take a visiting break in order to facilitate the new resident’s transition, consider this your opportunity to adjust to your new life as yourself,rather than a full-time caregiver.

It may be all about timing

Often, residents settle in so well, and become so instantly engaged in the routine of routine, calendared social events, we realize that it wasn’t your visit that triggered the agitation, it was the fact that it coincided with a favorite music class or crafting activity they enjoy during that period.

Establishing the best days and times for visits, with respect to your loved one’s “optimal time of day” or the center’s activity calendar, could be the key to more satisfying visits.

Tips For Visiting A Loved One With Dementia

Depending on how your loved one’s dementia progresses, visits may increasingly become a challenge.

Prepare yourself and other family members for more successful visits by reviewing the following tips:

Only one or two at a time

The temptation to come in “reunion format,” especially when family is visiting from out-of-town is a natural one. However, this may be too overwhelming for someone with dementia.

Instead, plan for only one or two people to visit at a time, perhaps staggering visits over the course of the collective group’s visit. This keeps things simple and focused.

Do a photo album review

Hopefully, you put together or brought along some great photo albums to provide a comforting sense of “Home” in the new living space. Photo albums are a great way to spend quality time, reflecting on the past and hearing family stories you may not have heard before.

Learn to revel in the silence

Our culture is a busy – and talkative – one. We don’t always thrive in silence, hence the term awkward silence. However, as memories fade and those with dementia have a harder time finding the right words (aphasia), conversations get shorter and shorter – or more challenging to follow.

Use this opportunity to enjoy the sanctity of quiet and the simple, physical presence of someone you love. If the weather is nice, take a walk together or sit with a beautiful view and see if things like birds, trees or beautiful flowers elicit a notice or verbal acknowledgment. If not, the silence can become a welcome respite from the outside world.

Don’t expect recognition at every visit

Questions like, “Do you know who I am?” or trying to reinstate who you are can be very upsetting for those with dementia.

Be prepared for visits when they know you, and those when they don’t, for stories remembered and stories forgotten. Finding ways to connect positively where they are each day will lead to higher quality visits with your loved one.

Remain as positive as possible

There is no doubt that anger, frustration, resentment, etc. can be tangible at the unconscious level.

Try your best to remain as positive (or neutral) as possible during visits to prevent agitating your loved one. That being said, it’s also okay to cut a visit short if you need a break, and it’s also encouraged that you honor and be present with your loved one’s feelings when s/he expresses sadness, grief, frustration, etc.

Visiting Loved Ones In Memory Care

A transition into memory care is a big one for everyone involved, not just the new resident.

Be gentle and patient with yourself – and your loved ones – as you work to find the visiting routine that’s “just right” for the well-being of all involved.

You may also find interest in these articles:

 

 

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Beginning on Wednesday, March 9th, we will be opening up the building with no COVID restrictions.