How Many Assisted Living Facilities Or Memory Care Facilities Should You Tour?

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Visiting assisted living facilities or memory care facilities is a must as you determine where your loved one feels comfortable and offers what s/he wants and needs. Even if the first one you visit feels like “The One,” having other facilities to weigh it against is extremely important.

Plus, we guarantee your experiences at each community will teach you something, or shed light on an unfamiliar idea you didn’t know before. This well-rounded base of information will be fruitful as your loved one begins the transition into their new community.

 Should We Visit Several Facilities?

touring memory care assisted livingIdeally, you would visit around three different communities before making a final decision.

Touring about three allows you to make some important comparisons between different facilities so you and your loved ones can compare and contrast them and should give you a good idea of what you are looking for.

Many people assume touring as many as possible is the best option, but trying to tour four, five, six or more is virtually impossible for most people, and can make the experience overwhelming. 

Even the best note taker finds it difficult to recall things from four or five visits ago especially if you are trying to visit as many as you can in one day. 

If you really want to tour a large number, we recommend you schedule them on different days and give yourself time in between tours so you aren’t rushing from one tour to the next.  Leaving a few hours, or even a day, between tours provides the time needed for you to think about the tour, what you liked or didn’t like, and even get in touch with the director to ask follow up questions.  This information will also help you as you move to tour the next facility.

However, do note that there is a difference between assisted living facilities and memory care centers. While the former may have a memory care wing or department, the latter is entirely focused on dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

If you’re deciding between the two options, you may need to visit a few in each category since you’re making two separate decisions: 1) which type of care is the best one for my loved one, assisted living or memory care, and 2) when that decision is made, which assisted living/memory care facility do we like the best.

Preparing For Memory Care Center Visits & Tours

The better prepared you are before scheduling visits and tours, the better able you’ll be to take it all in with a discerning and expert eye. You’ll know what questions to ask, which areas you want to observe or check into, which activities you’d like to watch or participate in and so on.

Otherwise, it can go by so fast and you may become so overwhelmed that it all seems like a blur.

If the following recommendations are put into play ahead of time, you’ll find your visits feel more calm, intentional, and productive.

Make a short list of must-haves, wants and basic questions

This may be a bittersweet reminder of what it was like to search for a home, and that’s because it is just like that. The facility or community you choose will become home, neighborhood, community, and more for the resident who moves in.

For that reason, a list of “must-haves” and “wants” becomes helpful as it gives you a solid foundation to start as you determine where to tour. A quick list of general questions is also helpful if you’re narrowing the field between multiple options.

Your list and questions also ensure you’re comparing apples-to-apples when you sit down to discuss your observations, feelings, and findings with your spouse, family, and friends.

Establishing this list at the outset also saves time and energy. A quick conversation and run-down of the list with facility staff ahead of time may automatically rule some prospective assisted living or memory care facilities out before you tour them, allowing others to rise to the top.

Some of these align with specific questions you’ll ask while you’re visiting various communities (more on that below). Things to consider as you make your “must-haves” and “wants” list include:

  • Current health and present diagnoses
  • Level of medical care required
  • Type of care provided or not able to be provided
  • Type of supervision required
  • Activity offerings
  • Size and scope of the grounds
  • Security measures
  • Public transportation needs
  • Religious/spiritual service offerings
  • The living arrangements (apartments, studios, rooms, cottages)
  • Preferences regarding onsite and/or offsite activities and outings
  • Size and occupancy of rooms
  • Any other specific needs/wants to pertain to your loved one

Many of these items can be determined by visiting websites and reading promotional or marketing materials that can be downloaded or mailed to your home. Detailed reviews ahead of time save you from touring or visiting a place you wouldn’t have if you’d had more information beforehand.

Download a voice recording app or bring a mini-recorder

Ask ahead and verify if the entirety of your tour (or at the very least, the Q&A session) can be recorded by you. Hopefully, the answer is, “yes,” and this gives you the opportunity to relax that busy brain so you can soak it all up. You’ll leave knowing it can all be played back at home to catch anything you missed or review their answers to your questions.

Practice recording ahead of time, and check the recording frequently during the tour to make sure it started and that it isn’t accidentally turned off before you’re finished.

Consider this your opportunity to host an interview

Ultimately, these tours and visits are your opportunity to interview prospective communities, and this is done by asking questions about their administration, staff, and medical personnel. Don’t forget that your eyes, ears, nose, and intuition are also conducting an interview all the while…

Since it’s easy to go off on tangents and asides, we recommend printing a separate copy of your list of questions for each tour you attend so you can check each question/answer off as you go.

Take notes if you like, but your voice recording will be there for you to fall back on when you return home. The goal is to make sure each question is answered in full so you feel clear about your final decision.

Always trust your instincts

Most importantly, as you visit your three to six prospective assisted living or memory care centers, trust your instincts.

Sometimes, the place that looks the best on paper or that sounds the best via radio commercials or personal referrals doesn’t feel the best to you and the future resident. Honor these feelings. It means it’s not the right fit for you, and by crossing that prospect off your list you are one step closer to finding the right memory care center to call Home.

Choosing Memory Care For Your Loved One

While all the preparation in the world can give you a great deal of insight, going with your senses and intuition during tours it critical, and just as valuable as the best, most clear-cut answers you receive to your questions.

And, always keep in mind that the most important factor in this decision is which facility makes you and your loved one feel the safest, most comfortable, and secure.

Prepare For Your Memory Care Facility Tour

 

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

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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.

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When Saying Goodbye To Your Loved One In Assisted Living Is Too Hard

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For some seniors, transitioning into assisted living or a memory care center is relatively smooth and even a welcome one as they enjoy the renewed ability to engage with the world around them.

Other times, the transition is very painful and much more challenging. As a family member – particularly a primary caregiver – watching a loved one struggle emotionally as they resist their new change, beg to be taken home, or react dramatically when you leave is absolutely devastating.

Often this can mean going through the emotional trauma of a crying or wailing loved one as you pry yourself away to return home after a visit, or perhaps you are the one crying and feeling guilty about leaving. In worst case scenarios, this can result in family members avoiding visits altogether as they struggle to say goodbye is simply too hard.

Easing The Transition Of Saying Goodbye When It’s Hard For A Loved One

Here are some tips and considerations to help you cope with the emotional struggle involved when your loved one cries, becomes angry or seems despondent when you say goodbye.

How long has it been since your loved one moved in?

Everyone adjusts differently to their transition into assisted living or memory care. For some, having lots of visits on a regular basis is very helpful. For others, constant visits make it harder for them to accept their new living situation and to willingly forge new relationships and routines in their community.

If the transition took place within the past few months, speak to the staff and see what they think. You may find that scaling back visits and leaving more time in between is the answer.

While difficult for you initially, allowing your loved one more time to completely settle in and find their place could make future visits and goodbyes more successful.

Read, How to Move a Parent with Dementia into Assisted Living. Even if you’ve already made the move – the information you find there can offer insight and recommendations you can put into place.

Seek assistance managing your own emotions

Those with dementia can be highly attuned to the stress levels and emotions of those around them. In some cases, verbal communication tools may no longer be available, and you may find someone with dementia more likely vent their emotions in other ways or become agitated very quickly.  

Next time you visit your loved one, pay close attention to your own emotional field. Are you angry? Do you feel sad? Are you feeling guilty? Are you anxious as you anticipate the potentially dramatic goodbye scene? Learning to manage your inner, emotional landscape can be very helpful in minimizing your loved one’s emotional response.

A professional therapist and/or a support group, as well as the assisted living facility staff, can help you here. By remaining calm yourself, and learning the best and most comfortable way to hug and say goodbye to your loved one, may greatly reduce or even eliminate their strong response.

Learn more about what happens after you go

It is not uncommon for those having a dramatic goodbye reaction to then quickly snap back to “center,” going normally about their day once their spouses or family members leave.

Again, remaining in communication with administration and staff is crucial in determining how much of a problem their tearful or emotional goodbye really is.

If it turns out your loved one continues his/her reactive response (crying and remaining agitated, etc.) for a long time after you leave, that’s one thing. If it turns out that you feel sadness and guilt for far longer than your loved one is sad – it may be time to re-frame the farewell story for yourself.

Work on learning how to be present with their very real sadness at your parting, but with the confidence and peace of mind that in a short while, they’ll be back to normal again. As we touch on below, you’ll feel a lot less guilty if you find out your loved one wipes his/her tears once you drive away and heads happily over to the community room for the piano player or singing hour.

Evaluate their room and make it as home-like as possible

At the Memory Care Center, we work closely with families to facilitate the transition into our center – and that includes recommendations on what to bring to their room and living space feels as personal and cozy as possible.

Take another look around their room and ask them about what items they might like to see added or swapped out. Having familiar textures, pictures, memory-keepers, scents, etc., in their room can work wonders for anchoring them between visits.

Depending on what the particular facility allows, “comfort items” typically include things like:

  • A favorite throw blanket/pillow
  • Personalized bedding
  • Photos of family and pets
  • Music player loaded with favorite songs/music
  • A stuffed animal or a doll to “love” if real pets aren’t allowed
  • Photo album with pictures from their childhood and life
  • A digital frame that keeps a running stream of photos going
  • Live plants or flowers

A simple conversation may enlighten you about things s/he wished had been brought, things s/he wishes were there, etc., and hopefully, you can find a way to accommodate their needs.

Work with staff to find the best time for visits/departures

Often, that tearful, fretful or even dramatic goodbye scene has more to do with your loved one’s daily rhythm than it does about your departure.

Check in with the staff to learn more about your loved one’s “best times of day” versus the times of day they struggle the most. Are there days of the week that are better than others?

Insight into those questions may help you find a better day of the week or better time of day, and that simple calendar shift could make a notable difference.

Another important question to ask if you haven’t done so already: what activities are your loved one’s favorite(s)?

You may find that timing your visit just ahead of their favorite activity (crafts, music time, the weekly movie date, etc.) means they’re ready for you to go so they can join their friends and stick to their routine. Then you can intentionally schedule your farewell to coincide with the start of Bingo or ballroom dancing class…

Seek a support group

Joining a support group can be instrumental in helping you facilitate the spectrum of emotions that arise when you have a spouse, parent or loved one in memory care. These support groups meet during a range of days and times, so hopefully, you can find a local support group in your area that works for your schedule.

No, the group can’t make the grief, sadness, and anguish go away altogether, but there is great comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Plus, sitting with a group of people who have been where you are means you have access to all kinds of “professional” tips, recommendations and ideas that may help you figure out the best way for bidding farewell to your loved one without absorbing the impact of their intense reaction.

Learning To Cope With Saying Goodbye To A Loved One In Assisted Living

It may take more time than is comfortable for you, but by considering the above ideas, you’ll find a way to navigate tearful goodbyes with less emotional angst.

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How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

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Moving a parent or senior loved one with dementia into an assisted living or memory care community is a major transition. It’s an emotional journey and there are bound to be upsets and logistical challenges along the way.

Understanding How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Having a go-to list of tips and suggestions can help you and your family better prepare to move a parent with dementia to assisted living while ensuring s/he receives impeccable care.

Start A Conversation Early (depending on the stage of memory loss)

If possible, begin making the long-term care plan as early as possible after the dementia diagnosis.

If your parent or loved one is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, looking ahead to find the right community allows them to be a part of the process, which can make for a smoother transition when moving day arrives.

Ideally, the time to move to a community is when s/he is no longer able to live safely and independently at home or when the level of care required becomes more than what you and/or other caregivers are able to provide from a time and safety perspective.

On the flip side, if your loved one is in mid-to later-stages of the disease, it can be upsetting to engage him/her in selecting a community and planning moving day.  In some cases, it is better to wait until the change is eminent to announce the move, and enlist the help of family and friends for decision-making, sorting, and packing.

Visit our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care for more insight into this topic.

Choose A Community Specializing In Memory Care

Not all assisted living communities are created equal, and many of them aren’t equipped to adequately care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Moving is challenging enough, and the last thing you want to do is have to move your parent a second time unless you absolutely must, so it is important to select the right community specializing in memory care.

Use these Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities to help you select the best new home for your loved one.

Consider Visiting The New Assisted Living Community Together Before Moving Day

Familiarity is key to feeling safe.

Once a community is selected, some people find visiting the community a few times before moving day helps ease the transition. You and your loved one may consider attending and participating in activities and events, meeting other residents with similar interests and interacting with staff.  

Each of these visits proactively builds layers of familiarity.

Schedule The Move For Their “Best Time Of The Day”

Typically, late mornings and early afternoons are a dementia patient’s “best time of the day.” Early mornings and evenings may be more difficult.

The transition from one home to the next will be less stressful when your parent is most likely to be calm, allowing more time to settle in before s/he becomes fatigued or agitated.

Bring A Simple Collection Of Favorite Things

Odds are their new room is smaller than their current home, and clutter is a recipe for confusion and trip hazards.

If you haven’t received information from the assisted living community director or staff about what to bring from home, give them a call to find out how much is “just enough” to bring.

In some communities, rooms come furnished, but you should still be able to bring touches from home such as a favorite chair, wall art, personalized bedding, a CD player or iPod/docking station to play his/her favorite music.

At The Memory Center, our rooms are unfurnished to allow residents and their families to more closely recreate a space that looks and feels like home.

Having familiar pieces from home helps new residents settle in more quickly. And again, be careful about asking your parent “which item(s) do you want to take with you…,” as these types of decisions can be agitating in later stages of the disease.

We recommend reading Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home for more information on this important topic.

Take Advantage Of Counseling Services & Transition Programs

This is a major physical transition, to be sure, but it’s also a major emotional transition for everyone involved.

Often, spouses and family members are the most dramatically affected as they watch their loved one settle seamlessly into place while the rest of the family is experiencing a sense of grief. If your parent opts to move into assisted living in the earlier stages of dementia, you may find support from a counselor valuable who can help you or your family process the complex array of emotions the transition elicits.

If you’ve been an integral part of your parent’s dementia care, we suggest reading, Adjusting to Life…After Being a Caregiver, which offers nourishing tips on how to handle your next steps.

Communicate With The New Caregiving Staff

First and foremost, the staff want to get to know new residents. The more they know about your parent, the easier it is to spark conversations and connect with him/her as s/he settles in.

Additionally, it’s helpful to lean on the staff and allow them to explain the new transition and to support your parent during the move. Again, choosing a memory care-specific community means the administration and staff are well-versed experts and will know exactly what to say without causing further confusion or upset for your parent.

Carefully Deciding How to Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

As with all life transitions, mindful and methodical preparation is the key to minimizing mental and emotional stress. Selecting an assisted living center that specializes in memory care will provide the support you need throughout the move.

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Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home

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No matter how much a memory care center does to create a warm, homey and comfortable ambiance – it isn’t possible to satisfy the personal tastes of every resident who call the community “home.”

At The Memory Center (TMC), we’ve developed a Town Center experience for the overarching design, using iconic stimuli from the past and including amenities such as a movie theater, pub, hair salon, general store, and more.

Our common spaces are filled with natural light and style and our landscapes are beautifully designed.  We also recognize residents and their families want spaces to feel like home and familiar.  This is especially true in resident bedrooms.  That’s why we heartily encourage residents and their families to think of our beautiful space as a backdrop to create the bedroom space representing what home feels like to you.

Tips To Make A Senior At Home In A New Environment

If you have visited loved ones in senior living facilities, or even toured some, you may have noticed sleeping areas resembling a hospital or rehab setting vs. an inviting and comfortable space.  When it comes to individual rooms at TMC, we intentionally create light filled spaces with neutral color palettes, and without standard furnishings. This way, each resident has the opportunity to add his/her personal furnishings and touches from home. We encourage families to bring familiar artwork, furniture and bedding that express individual style and a lifetime of memories. 

Below are some of tips to make a new room in a senior community feel like home.

Re-Create An At Home Space With Familiar Furniture Pieces

To help your family member settle into the new space and re-create their comfortable bedroom from home, bring pieces that are familiar and reflect their design style – such as their favorite chair, side table and small dresser.  Just make sure to leave family heirlooms at home. 

When deciding what to bring, look around your loved one’s current bedroom and take notes. Is there a nightstand on the right or left hand side of the bed and what do they keep on the nightstand?  Which side of the bed are they used to getting out of in the morning?  Do they keep a robe and slippers on a hook nearby?  With planning you can provide the small touches of home they are used to.

If bringing existing furniture isn’t possible, we can provide suggestions on where other families found home-like furnishings that work well in the space and we can provide guidance on how to prepare a comfortable room.  We will even help with furniture placement.

Use Favorite Colors, Bedding, Throw Pillows & Blankets

Decorative bedding, throw pillows and blankets help meet your loved one’s preferred comfort needs but also provide a simple way to add color, pattern, and personal style to the new living space.

Do keep in mind we don’t encourage you to bring expensive or cherished items.  Family heirloom quilts or expensive bedding is best preserved by other family members to keep them safe and sound.

Bring Favorite Artwork & Photographs

Think about which pieces of art are favorites for your loved one?

Bedrooms at The Memory Center have enough wall space to accommodate a few favorite pieces of art or bulletin board of family photos and notes.  Looking up to see a favorite work of art or framed photos of the family and pets creates an immediate sense of familiarity and can be essential for new residents as they settle in and begin creating a community of their own.

While rooms at The Memory Center are spacious, there simply isn’t enough room for every favorite photograph to be on display. Thus, we encourage families to assemble photo albums, curating photographs through the ages. A small, portable album – with an easy-to-clean cover – will be well-appreciated as our residents often enjoy carrying albums around to share stories and “introduce” family to their new acquaintances and friends.

Incorporate Potted Plants Or Ready-To-Fill Vases

Was your loved one an avid gardener? Did s/he grow fresh herbs or look forward to a fresh flower arrangement on the dining room table or buffet? Consider an easy potted plant and/or a vase that’s ready to accommodate flowers. If fresh flowers are important, consider a seasonal bouquet subscription which can be delivered regularly. Our staff will ensure plants are watered as needed and we can switch out fresh flowers when they arrive.

TMC’s extensive and beautifully landscaped grounds will also provide a connection to Mother Nature and growing things.  Our residents love to spend time in our sunny patio and garden.  If your loved one is an avid gardener, we’ll make sure s/he can help point out favorite flowers in the garden or along our secure walking trails so s/he continues an activity that is familiar and productive.

Personalize Your Frame

Each room at The Memory Center has a frame next to the door ready to be customized by, and for, the resident.

Fill this space with a background color or pattern (wallpaper works well) that suits the resident’s style. Then add things like a favorite photo of themselves and family and/or a pet, or a picture of him/her doing something s/he loves.

In addition to personalizing the space, they’re helpful reminders for new residents so they can easily tell which room is theirs. Decorated frames also help new residents get to know neighbors, staff and passing guests, often providing a perfect segue to begin a conversation.

The more personalized the framed board the more special the space will feel and the sooner your loved one will sense a connection to their new home.

Don’t Forget Music

Did you know music is proven to reduce anxiety and helps those with dementia to recall more memories?

Feel free to bring a pre-loaded iPod/docking station or a CD player and CDs. Nothing says, “I’m home…” as the ability to switch on a music player to hear your favorite songs. We’ll make sure we know which radio stations are their favorites as well so staff can turn the radio on/off occasionally when residents want to hear something different.

Personalizing Your Loved One’s New Living Space

The more personalized a room is decorated, the more at ease a new resident will feel.

Have questions about what does work – or doesn’t work well – to personalize your new living space? All you have to do is ask. Our administrators and staff are always happy to answer questions and brainstorm ideas to help new residents settle in peacefully so they feel at home in their new space.

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What Makes The Memory Center Different?

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What Makes The Memory Center Different?

Choosing the right memory care community is essential to your loved one’s well-being, as well as the well-being of your family.

You want to select a place that is as dedicated to your loved one’s mental and physical well-being, as much as to their emotional comfort and security. This is where The Memory Center excels.

We also recommend reading, How to Compare Assisted Living Communities, which outlines features, benefits and care specific to memory care.

Memory Care Dedicated to Physical, Mental and Emotional Well-Being of Residents

The Memory Center is primarily established to support the physical health of our residents, emphasizing the most current and relevant science around Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions. However, we also know 100% that our residents fare best when their environment is conducive to a life well-lived.

To that end, our memory care center differs from many of the surrounding options, particularly in regards to the following six features:

1. On-site medical director visits

As you know, transitions become increasingly difficult for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. At the same time, those with dementia often have existing medical conditions or may develop other age-related conditions during their time here.

As a result, we have an on-site medical director who is available on a daily basis to confer with our staff nurses (who are on-site 24-hours a day) to address any issues that arise.

Our medical director is a fellowship-trained geriatrician who, in addition to being available to our nurses, also schedules assessments with each of our patients on a weekly basis.

The medical director coordinates home health services for physical, occupational, speech, and psychiatric therapies as needed, ensuring our patients rarely need to leave the premises for routine appointments and specialist visits.

Whether you choose one of our Memory Care Centers or not, we highly recommend narrowing your memory care choices to those with on-site medical staff to reduce the number of off-site appointments or lab work that can agitate residents and cause unnecessary stress.

what makes the memory center different2. Normalcy in a safe, secure environment

Routine and normalcy is a key component in mitigating the side effects of dementia-related conditions, and it is also shown to slow down their progression. This is why The Memory Center establishes normal, safe, and reliable daily rhythms.  

Our center is designed to be attractive and includes the comforts of home and community, all within an extremely safe and secure environment. Our center was built with complete respect for the primary environmental objectives recommended by The Alzheimer’s Association.

We’ve gone above and beyond to include a town-center concept with safe and highly-secure outdoor areas, including courtyards and walking paths.

3. Individualized care and programming

Sure, there are multiple similarities in terms of how dementia and Alzheimer’s show up, and what that means for those who are diagnosed. That being said, we also recognize that each of our residents is a unique individual,so we provide tailored care for each and every one.

This includes things like:

  • Specialized meal plans. All of the foods and treats available via our cafeteria, meal plans and the town center’s cafes and pub are made with respect to a healthy diet. We can create meal plans specific to a resident’s existing medical restrictions and/or sensitivities.
  • Individual health care plans. As mentioned above, our dedicated on-site medical director, nurses and care providers are well-versed on each of our resident’s specific care plans and needs.
  • Social events and programming. Our diverse array of classes, entertainment, social offerings, and classes are so compelling that we often hear quips from residents’ family and friends that they are ready to move in. These events are key to honoring the individual and creating a healthy, stimulating, and social environment that engages residents on a daily basis.

4. The inclusion of residents in every aspect of the day

While we do respect a resident’s choice to spend a day to themselves once in a while, we also provide the opportunity to participate in every aspect of the day. This is done via routine check-ins, conversations, and walks with staff.

Our activities and entertainment coordinators thoughtfully create the weekly and monthly itineraries in a way that allows every resident to participate in the activities they enjoy on a regular basis.

5. Programs designed for those with dementia are not restricted in any way

Often, well-meaning assisted living facilities offer programs designed for those with dementia but then simplify them unnecessarily. This results in classes that are better suited for young children, rather than independent adults.

At The Memory Care Centers, we do prioritize programs that are both beneficial for those with dementia and to complement our residents’ innate talents and interests, but they are not simplified.

Teachers, instructors, and presenters put together engaging, stimulating, and even challenging curricula and only amend these if a resident needs it, or to accommodate an existing disability. This enables our residents to embrace their interests and enjoy their faculties to the absolute fullest.

6. Carefully thought out design to trigger reminiscing and participation

Humans are social creatures, so social bonds, daily interaction and human-to-human connections are key to a lively, active and engaged mind and body.

To this effort, every aspect of the outdoor and interior designs are dedicated to triggering reminiscences, participation, and socialization.

This includes things such as:

  • Warm colors and comfortable, homey furnishings
  • Classic interior designs that are contemporary but include historical and traditional architectural accents
  • Ample daylighting and lighting plans that encourage a healthy circadian rhythm
  • Communal areas and gathering spaces
  • Delicious food options
  • Our incredible Town Center concept
  • Plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy Mother Nature

Innovative Memory Care Differentiators

Our intentional respect to these six memory care differentiators make The Memory Center unique amongst the area’s memory care and assisted living facility options.

Learn more

 

Taking Care Of Yourself & Managing Time After Being A Caregiver

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As a caregiver, you invested countless hours meeting your loved one’s needs. Now that your season of caregiving has ended, you may feel uncertain about what to do next.

12 Tips For Adjusting To Life After Being A Caregiver

Consider these tips that help you care for yourself and manage your time.

tips for grieving caregivers1. Give yourself permission and time to grieve

After any loss, you will need time to grieve.

The commonly held stages of grief include:   

  • Denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, and/or isolation   
  • Anger   
  • Bargaining   
  • Despair and/or depression   
  • Acceptance   

Instead of hiding or feeling ashamed or guilty, give yourself permission to experience the grieving process. Realize that everyone grieves differently, and you may progress through the grief stages methodically or swing back and forth.

Likewise, you may experience intense emotions or a quiet sadness. No matter what you feel, understand that your grief is normal and that you have the right and need to experience grief in your way.

2. Use healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms

Grief can last months or even years, and you may wonder if you’ll ever return to normal. To cope, you may turn to drugs, alcohol, food, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

While you will never forget your loved one, we promise that the pain will eventually subside. Stuffing your emotions or drowning your feelings will only hurt you now and into the future. In fact, unhealthy and inappropriate coping can cause physical pain, emotional illnesses or long-term negative reactions.

Choose to exercise, talk, journal, or embrace other positive and healthy coping mechanisms as you grieve and protect yourself.

3. Ask for and accept help

In your caregiver role, you were the one who gave all the help. Caregiving depletes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual resources, and now you’re the one in need of assistance.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help as needed. Consider writing a list of tasks others can do for you or call friends who will listen and offer support.

By asking for and accepting help, you receive support and allow others to show you love.

4. Take care of your health

Visiting a doctor may be the last thing on your mind, especially if you spent a lot of time in a hospital with your loved one. You deserve to care for yourself, though, as you respect and energize your body during the grieving process.

Apply your caregiving duties to yourself and insist on a healthy daily regimen. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and visit your doctor for scheduled checkups.

Prioritizing your health equips and strengthens you for your grief journey.

5. Join a support group

Talking about your caregiving and grief experiences may scare you. It’s also hard to be vulnerable and continue to rehash the events surrounding your loved one’s passing.

Other caregivers and professional therapists or grief counselors understand what you’ve gone through. You can share your experiences and discuss your feelings and concerns in a support group. Here, you’ll gain practical advice and emotional support that sustains you as you adjust to life after caregiving.

Talking and sharing can also help others find healing, too.

6. Delay major decisions

The act of caregiving and managing grief takes a toll on your body, mind, and emotions. You need time to find a new normal.

Give yourself at least a year or as much time as you need before you make any major decisions, such as moving, growing your family, changing jobs, or entering a romantic relationship.

This cushion of time prevents you from making an emotional decision you later regret and helps you rediscover yourself.

7. Embrace new routines

Much of your daily routine used to revolve around caring for your loved one. Now, you may miss your caregiving responsibilities and struggle with the significant changes in your daily routine.

Rest assured that in time you can and will develop a new routine that becomes familiar, comfortable, and fulfilling. Start by deciding what will fulfill you each day. Remember to eat, exercise, and spend time doing things that fulfill you, too.

These steps lead you to embrace a new and positive routine.

8. Reevaluate your relationships

Loss affects everyone differently. Some people in your life may step up and offer additional support while others step away and distance themselves.

This relationship ebb and flow after a loss is normal, and you will eventually rediscover a strong and healthy support system.

For now, try to accept inevitable relationship changes. You can reduce stress when you bless and release people who withdraw and show gratitude for people who choose to stay.

9. Carefully choose new responsibilities

Without your caregiving duties, you may have fewer or even no responsibilities. You may find yourself bored, frustrated, or angry and be tempted to over-function and jump right into another caregiving relationship.

Consider giving yourself an extended time off from helping others. Work instead on the hard job of grieving.

You will also benefit from rediscovering the activities, interests, and duties that are important and fulfilling for you. Then carefully choose the new responsibilities you want to embrace as you fill your time.

10. Find fulfilling activities and interests

Caregiving takes time and energy. Instead of enjoying activities and investing in interests that used to be important, you may have put yourself on the back burner.

Now’s a great time to return to the activities and interests that mattered before you took on your caregiving role. You may even develop new hobbies.

Whichever experiences you choose to embrace, know that it’s healthy to fill some of your time with activities and interests that fulfill you and make you happy and content.

11. Discover new priorities and goals

Your role as a caregiver revolved around meeting your loved one’s needs and putting their priorities and goals above your own. Through that process, you may have given up your dreams.

Take time now to think about your future and what you want your life to look like. Then decide your priorities and set goals that propel you to make your dreams come true.

12. Help others

As an experienced caregiver, you have developed dozens of skills. You also understand the hard work caregiving takes, and you know about the grieving process firsthand.

Consider using your experience to help others. You could offer encouraging and beneficial support to other caregivers and make a difference in their lives.

By giving back, you gain an outlet for your energy and may even ease some of your grief symptoms.

Rebuilding Life When Caregiving Ends

Your role as a caregiver for your loved one may be over, but you can now embrace a new season of life.

Consider implementing these tips. With them, you find fulfillment and meaning as you care for yourself and manage your time.

You may also find caregiving support in these related articles:

 

 

 

Atlanta Resource Guide For Alzheimer’s Care And Support

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An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is life changing, and it is also a call-to-action.

The sooner you can breathe through the initial shock and adjustment period, the better able you’ll be to create a long-term care plan that involves the input, opinions, and preferences of your loved one.

Quick action also optimizes the time available to research and learn more about the Alzheimer’s journey before it progresses to mid- or later-stages.

This gives you a more spacious ability to explore local options for the following:

  • Adult day care
  • Home care
  • Memory care

It also enables you to thoughtfully develop and assemble a financial plan that supports your loved one’s long-term care goals.

Top Online Resources to Learn About Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s Care

There is only so much you can take in at a doctor’s appointment, especially in the wake of a confirmed Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The odds are that in addition to visiting your general practitioner, you’ll be referred to a neurologist.

Hopefully, your healthcare team will provide plenty of information about Alzheimer’s via pamphlets, and allow ample time for your questions and answers. We recommend recording appointments (with the doctor’s permission), so you can listen back afterward.

There are a wide range of reputable, online resources for learning about Alzheimer’s disease, keeping up on the latest research regarding medications and/or lifestyle changes that slow its progression, as well as information about the type of long-term care that’s most successful for those with mid- to late-stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The following are the most well-respected and current websites available.

The National Institute of Aging Alzheimer’s Page

The US Department of Health and Human Services underwrites an organization called the National Institute of Health (NIH). Under this umbrella also lives the National Institute on Aging (NIA), which hosts an Alzheimer’s Disease page.

This is a solid place to start when you want to learn everything you can about Alzheimer’s, including general descriptions of the disease, information about caregiving needs and options as well as up-to-date facts about current Alzheimer’s research.

Another exciting thing about the NIA’s page is that it provides information about upcoming and existing clinical trials in which consenting adults can participate.

Additionally, there is a wealth of educational resources about diet and lifestyle changes that help to prevent Alzheimer’s, slow down its progression and to improve the outcome for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a leading voluntary health association dedicated to supporting Alzheimer’s research, providing information about Alzheimer’s and memory care, and connecting others with Alzheimer’s support in the Atlanta area and online.

The Alzheimer’s Association was founded more than 30 years ago when a group of families and caregivers joined together to create an organization that would unite caregivers, provide support to those facing Alzheimer’s and advance research into the disease.

Today, the AA has connected with and provided support to millions of people affected by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and their website continues to be a premier resource for all aspects of Alzheimer’s information.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Similar to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) was founded by individuals who are personally affected by Alzheimer’s.

One of their most helpful resources is a national toll-free hotline, (866-232-8484), that is staffed entirely by licensed clinical social workers specializing in Alzheimer’s care, treatment and support.

Like other non-profits, the AFA funds research and does everything possible to provide caregiver support and educate the public about Alzheimer’s, including information about confidential memory screening services available in Atlanta and elsewhere. Memory screenings are funded by generous donors and grantors and have been used to screen more than four million people nationwide.

Alzheimer’s Support From Family & Friends

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis spreads ripples far beyond the lives of the patient, most powerfully impacting their spouse, immediate family and the next ring of family members and close friends.

Having conversations with these individuals early establishes your first rungs of support. Often, individuals are reticent to share this information and may want to keep it a secret out of fear, feelings of embarrassment and shame, etc.

While a short period of private adjustment is understandable, the sooner you feel comfortable having deep conversations with family and close friends, the better you’ll navigate a long-term care plan that makes sense for you and loved ones.

Read, Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care, which also outlines how to bring close friends and family into the conversation.

Learn About Memory Care Options

One of the first items of business is creating a memory care plan; again, this is one of the reasons early action is so critical.

While it’s true people with early stages of Alzheimer’s can do fine for a bit by implementing in-home caregiving support, it’s also true that caregiving becomes quickly overwhelming for spouse caregivers. Thus, it makes sense to learn all you can about the full spectrum of options to add to your Alzheimer’s support and care kit.

In almost all cases, those with Alzheimer’s fare best when they move to memory care communities earlier, rather than later, so individuals have time to feel at home and adjust to their new environment while they are still able to make decisions and be more fully present in their day-to-day lives.

Once mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s sets in, significant transitions are highly stressful for both patient and spouse. And, sadly, in the attempt to “preserve the status-quo” for as long as possible, the resulting stress and strain of the move can exacerbate their symptoms.

Respite Care

In the beginning, while your loved one lives at home, you’ll need respite care. This invaluable service provides a break for primary caregivers.

While respite care can be brought in, or offered by a local senior center, we recommend using respite care options offered by the assisted living or memory care centers you’re currently researching. It’s an opportunity to familiarize yourself with their grounds, services, programs, and staff and ask important questions to learn more about the community.

Assisted Living Options

Until recently, those with later-stage Alzheimer’s moved into assisted living and/or nursing home facilities. These are still options, but we recommend only considering facilities offering dedicated memory care services since the needs and care required for those with Alzheimer’s are different from that of the general assisted living population.

Read, How to Compare Assisted Living Facilities, for more information.

Memory Care Centers

Dedicated Memory Care Centers are the best way to ensure patients live in supportive, stimulating and caring environments specifically designed and dedicated to those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

In addition to exemplary, round-the-clock care, high-quality memory care centers have on-site doctors, nurses, dental care, pharmacies, etc., to ease the transition for residents who are ill or require routine, managed care for existing medical conditions.

Similarly, things like Town Center models, art and music facilities, classes and other amenities provide a sense of “normal life” and make it a pleasure for spouses, friends and family members to visit.

Ultimately, memory care centers adhere to the Alzheimer Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, focused on tenets like person-centered care, on-site medical staff and supportive and therapeutic environments. All are proven to improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Care And Support in Atlanta

Challenging conditions of an aging brain should be met with a supportive well-rounded community carefully planned for the individual.

This not only includes access to all of the necessary resources for a high quality of life today but one that can adapt to who they are tomorrow.

Learn more about memory care in Atlanta

How Dementia Affects the Younger Population

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Dementia is any condition that includes degeneration of the brain tissue. It can impair neurological functions such as reasoning, memory and communication. The symptoms of dementia also include emotional characteristics such as behavior, mood and personality. Each case of dementia is unique due to the brain’s complexity, especially its condition.

Most people consider dementia to be the inflection of old age as it generally becomes more likely as we get older. However, a significant number of dementia patients are also younger. Young onset dementia (YOD) is any type of dementia that affects someone under 65 years of age.

The significance of this age is primarily social, rather than biological because it’s the traditional age of retirement. Social changes during the past few decades have largely erased this distinction, making a designation of YOD generally irrelevant to treatment.

…Read More

Alzheimer’s In-Home Care vs. Memory Care Facilities

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“There’s no place like home…” is certainly true. This can feel especially poignant for those with Alzheimer’s, who are reluctant to leave a beloved spouse, pets, and the familiar comforts of home.

It’s also true that as Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions progress, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a loved one well cared for, even with full-time home care in place.

Differences in Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facility

There is no single answer to this question because every situation is different. However, we can shed some light on the differences between the two.

Patients with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s typically do best in a memory care facility. This is the case unless the family has taken great strides to provide a long-term care plan, to include 24/7 coverage of the following:

  • Regular in-home care
  • Skilled home health care
  • Specific nutrition guidelines
  • Ideal memory care-themed activities

Because most families are unable to accommodate that level of care, many Alzheimer’s patients end up in-home care settings that unknowingly hinder, rather than promote, their well-being.

Eventually, they’re transitioned into a memory care facility in crisis, creating a more traumatic experience for everyone involved.

Care Models for Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facilities

Consider the different levels of care offered in Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities.

You can be best informed on these differences if you have a clear understanding of the following:

  • Fact-based understandings of Alzheimer’s disease and how it progresses.
  • A realistic awareness of the quantity and quality of care required, which exponentially increases over time.
  • An assessment of current health conditions (if any) and those likely to develop with age, personal/family medical history, and/or in response to dementia-related side effects.
  • The big financial picture
  • Awareness that home-based care plans require some form of respite care from caregivers who are trained in memory care.
  • Transitions significantly diminish the well-being of those with mid- to later stages of Alzheimer’s, including big moves and even the ins-and-outs of getting to/from various medical appointments, etc.

In almost all cases, the ideal memory care model is one that provides the required level of support and care in the home, if desired, during the early stages of the disease.

Transitions from Alzheimer’s in-home care to memory care facility should take place while your loved one has some level of authority regarding decisions and timelines.

Considerations When Researching Alzheimer’s In-Home Care and Memory Care Facilities  

Just this year, the Alzheimer’s Association posted an incredible document titled, Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, published as a supplemental issue of The Gerontologist.

This includes some of the most up-to-date research findings, which support the following comparisons and recommendations about Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities, and at what point a transition is best.

When considering your options of Alzheimer’s in-home care and memory care facilities, it’s important to have a solid understanding of several factors, including:

  • Importance of pre-planning care decisions
  • Challenges posed by different care options
  • Activity and social-based needs of your loved one
  • Medical support needs of your loved one
  • Difficulty in waiting to transition from home care to memory facility

at home alzheimer's care atlantaEarly decisions about long-term memory care are ideal

After the shock of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis wears off, it’s no time to pretend “business as usual.” It’s time to rally the troops, ensuring everyone understands what this diagnosis means in a relevant timeline specific to the age/medical condition of your loved one.  

The earlier the diagnosis the better because an early diagnosis allows the individual to have more autonomy and empowerment in expressing ideas, opinions, and desires.

A family meeting about Alzheimer’s care should address:

  • The collective feelings, fears, anger, grief, etc. about the situation.
  • Appreciation for the reality that we’re better informed and better equipped than ever to provide healthy, active and as-independent-as-possible lifestyles for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • The importance of being proactive about researching all long-term care options.
  • Dementia is a progressive disease, almost without exception; some changes happen unpredictably and seemingly overnight, so preparation is everything.
  • Prospective timelines for the transition from Alzheimer’s in-home care to memory care facility.
  • Researching respite care options, knowing respite caregivers need to be well-versed in memory care in the more challenging stages, times of day, etc.

Feeling nervous about the conversation? Read, our Guide for Talking For Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care.

Understand the Challenges Around the Perks of Home Care

While home care does have it’s perks, particularly around the initial diagnosis phase, there are serious challenges when it comes to providing exceptional memory care for your loved one as well as providing the medical care s/he requires now and in the future.

All this must be done while simultaneously creating a “new reality” around the following:

  • Social interactions
  • Relationship adjustments
  • Providing well-rounded activity opportunities
  • Taking time for thoughtful outings that are not too taxing
  • Nighttime/full-time care requirements

It is critical to consider the challenges inherent in a long-term Alzheimer’s in-home care plan.

Consider the social and activity-based needs

If your loved one lives alone, there is almost no circumstance where home care trumps memory care.

The research is very clear that personalized, social engagements are not only good for those with Alzheimer’s, they actually slow down the disease’s progression.

The social sphere of someone with dementia shrinks considerably as the disease progresses; if that person lives alone, interactions with a handful of rotating caregivers, is simply not enough.

Even an individual who lives with a spouse or family members nearby cannot derive the same level of social interactions – let alone art classes, music exposure, gardening, etc. that takes place via direction or facilitation of a memory care expert.

Available on-site medical support

Any medical change, emergency, illness, medication reaction etc. requires transport from home to the doctor, hospital, urgent care, etc., and these disruptions to the norm are very disturbing to the Alzheimer’s patient.

The more memory and medical care are provided via long-term continuums, the better the overall outcome is for Alzheimer’s patients.

High-quality memory care facilities have nurses on-site, available around the clock, and the large majority of residents’ medical conditions and pharmacy needs are managed onsite. This enables a more relaxing, consistent routine for residents, all provided by familiar faces.

Inevitable transitions become increasingly difficult over time

If you decide to care for a loved one at home until you can no longer manage, you’re in a precarious position.

Waiting until later-stage Alzheimer’s has set in puts you and your loved one at risk for the following scenarios:

  • The inevitable transition from your home into memory care may be extremely difficult for the one with Alzheimer’s and much more traumatic for you.
  • You may put yourself and key family members at risk for burnout, continually avoiding the transition until your/their health and well-being are compromised.
  • Your loved one’s Alzheimer’s may, ironically, become “worse” or more progressed by not having skilled memory care in place earlier on.

Read, When to Move to a Memory Care Facility, and learn about the signs indicating when moving to a memory care facility is the right move.

Research Memory Care Facilities Now

It’s never too early to explore memory care facility options. In fact, touring them early is not only helpful for narrowing down prospects, it’s a tremendous resource during your overall adjustment phase.

Through these tours and interviews with memory care experts you and loved ones have access to expert information, education, recommendations, etc., to help you acclimate to your new situation.

Instead of thinking of memory care facility tours as a, “we always said we’d never…” scenario, think of them as an empowering way to learn all you can about memory care and your options without any obligation.

This checklist, Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities, provides a helpful framework for your conversations with memory care administrators and staff.

Contact The Memory Center to learn more about your options.

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