What Is Dementia Care?

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Female dementia care provider working on a puzzle with a senior client.Dementia care, also called memory care, is a unique senior care services niche. While it may encompass many of the same tenets of senior care—such as companion services, meal preparation, medication reminders, or transportation services—dementia care is specific to seniors experiencing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and progressive memory loss.

Dementia care providers are specifically educated and trained in slowing down the progression of dementia-related conditions, as well as helping clients and their families celebrate life and find purpose in each day. Their approach is rooted in research-driven information and recommendations. 

Memory Care Offers Personalized Support

While dementia care provides customized care for the clients, it also supports spouses and family members by providing peace of mind. When you know your loved one is being looked after by experienced and compassionate professionals, you can have the confidence to unwind, take some time away from your senior loved one, and engage in your own social activities.

Some of the most common memory care services go above and beyond standard senior care options because people with memory issues need extra support. Below is a list that shows how dementia care is especially unique, and why you might consider it for your loved one.

1. Full-spectrum safety and security

We can never predict the moment a loved one goes from early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia. But for most, safety issues like nighttime wandering, getting lost on routine walks, inability to remember the home address, sundowning, or escalating agitation are red flags that drive to the next stages of the care plan.

Experienced memory care providers know that the best dementia care plans are proactive rather than reactive, and thereby prevent the most common risks. This includes things like:

  • Removing trip hazards and fall risks and installing fall sensors
  • Clearly labeling rooms, cupboards, drawers, etc.
  • Decluttering to keep rooms simple and streamlined
  • Installing locks or deadbolts above eye level and keeping doors locked at all times to prevent wandering
  • Removing locks from interior doors so loved ones can’t lock themselves in
  • Implementing alarms to sound when exterior doors or windows are opened or closed
  • Keeping interior and exterior areas well-lit
  • Designing attractive and pleasant outdoor areas secured by locked fences and gates

Our expert memory care providers adhere to The Alzheimer’s Association guidelines, by creating “an indoor space that allows for freedom of movement and promotes independence” while offering “safe and secure outdoor areas.”

2. Diet plans focused on brain-healthy foods

Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging spend millions of dollars researching dementia prevention and treatments. In addition to genetic predispositions, research indicates a strong relationship between diet and other lifestyle habits with the onset and progression of age and dementia-related memory loss. 

Because diet is an essential foundation for brain health and memory, our providers create delicious and nutritious meal and snack plans that emphasize brain-healthy foods while eliminating those that increase inflammation and diminish brain health. We follow research-driven dementia diet guidelines that help keep our clients as physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy as possible.

3. Medication reminders

After a dementia diagnosis, most adults begin taking prescription medications such as Donepezil, Galantamine, or Rivastigmine. In many cases, these medications are an addition to existing ones.

Missing even a single medication dose, or taking more medication than prescribed, can significantly disrupt a person’s wellbeing. Therefore, medication management and reminders are essential. Memory care providers ensure that each dose is taken on time and in the proper quantity, to ensure your loved one is as healthy and clear-headed as possible.

4. Lifestyle changes supporting healthy sleep/wake patterns

Anyone caring for a loved one with dementia knows how a slight disruption in routine or sleep/wake cycles can lead to major shifts in mood and wellbeing. Called “circadian rhythm,” the natural sleep/wake cycle supports healthy hormone balance, detoxing, memory retention, energy levels, and metabolism, to name a few. Research has proven the link between disrupted circadian rhythm and memory loss progression. 

Lifestyle habits supporting healthy sleep/wake patterns include observing a nutritious diet, getting plenty of daily exercise and movement, ample access to activities that stimulate the brain, and varied social engagement/connections. Getting outside each day and ensuring that interior lighting respects the natural rhythm of sunrise and sunset also help support the brain’s sleep physiology. 

5. Personal care and housekeeping

As memory loss progresses, adults lose touch with daily routines. For example, they may struggle to get out of bed in the morning, forget to bathe, remain in the same clothes for days, or lose the ability to stay focused during routine chores.

Memory care providers facilitate these tasks to ensure clients are fresh, clean, and ready to greet each day. We help with physical hygiene including bathing, toileting or incontinence care, daily dressing, and maintaining tidy living spaces, which includes doing the laundry and providing fresh linens each week. 

Since these chores can become challenging for the spouse or family members, our ability to take over these tasks opens the way to get back to the joy of relating to your loved one in personal, rather than task-based, ways.

6. Regular introductions of caregivers and other personnel

In the beginning, adults with dementia remember the names of family, friends, and those who are prominent in their daily lives. As dementia progresses, names begin to disappear, which can make a person with dementia feel embarrassed, frustrated, or even scared. 

Since our professionals are trained in memory care, we honor the importance of calmly and warmly introducing ourselves to clients and residents every day, so that they feel competent, safe, and familiar with their caregiving team.

Expert Dementia Care Supports Spouses & Families

While dementia care supports the safety and well-being of those with dementia, we’re also here to support spouses and family members. Our services make sure primary caregivers have plenty of time to rest, rejuvenate, and engage in what brings them joy—which can go a long way toward preventing fatigue and burnout.  

Understanding and Managing Dementia Caregiver Burnout

How to Create a Memory Box for Seniors With Dementia

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A senior with dementia peruses letters from his memory box.

The Memory Center works closely with spouses and families to transition their loved ones into our memory care community. It is not always an easy transition but we are committed to providing the extra level of care to make it as smooth as possible.

One of the ways you as a caregiver can mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for this giant leap is by creating a memory box together with our soon-to-be or new resident.

Memory boxes are small enough to be held comfortably in the lap but large enough to store photos, special clippings, and other mementos with a powerful emotional tie to the resident. When they open the boxes, your loved one is instantly engaged in the remembering process, recalling the sights and smells that help make their lives feel meaningful and filled with love.

Heal & Help With a Dementia Memory Box

Creating a memory box is a special activity you can do as a family or in tandem with your loved one, producing a tangible “treasure box” that keeps them connected to their most precious memories and relationships.

In addition to soothing and supporting memory care residents, memory boxes also serve as a form of reminiscence therapy, providing opportunities for seniors to talk and share meaningful memories. Talking about happy memories from the past offers a sense of joy, which can help cope with stress, reduce boredom and depression, and make life seem a little sunnier.

Residents who have memory boxes cherish them and love to share their contents and associated stories with their friends and our employees. These boxes also offer a way to make their new space feel more like home

It goes without saying that creating a memory box is cathartic for you as well. You’ll be able to laugh, cry, grieve, and express your full-spectrum of feelings while reliving the memories and feelings those sacred items conjure for you and your loved one.

Choose or Make the Right Box

This box is going to be well-used and a continuous source of comfort. However, it also needs to fit on a lap and be easy to store in the resident’s room. A sturdy shoe box can do the trick, as can small plastic totes with snap-on lids. If there is a woodworker in the family, a memory box is a beautiful project that they can pour their love into as they work.

Regardless of which type of box you choose, consider letting children, grandchildren, and other close family and friends decorate the exterior. This is a sweet way to bring the community into the transition process and adds an extra layer of memories and connections for your loved one. 

If and when dementia progresses to the point your loved one can’t read, our staff is more than happy to read those sweet messages and signatures to them. 

The box should meet your loved one’s current and projected dexterity. Simple boxes that easily open and close are preferable to boxes with locks or harder-to-manage opening mechanisms. We also see clients struggle to access items (or put away items) in boxes with compartments. Boxes with a single, spacious interior tend to work best.

Decide on the Contents

This is the most challenging part of the process as you’ll find there are way too many things you want to put in than the memory box – more than the box’s size allows! But there are some tried-and-true memory box treasures.

Photos

Not surprisingly, photos of family, friends and meaningful moments in their lives are at the top of the list. Because space is limited, try to find photos that encompass a special moment. Also, take advantage of group shots! That way, just two or three photos may be all that is required to inspire a wide range of memories, connections, and stories.

We also recommend putting in their favorite photo of themselves. This may become one of their favorite things to look at on a hard day because our staff can redirect their anxiety, sadness, or stress. We can say, “Look! That’s you! That’s who you are.” We can then reintroduce them to the calming contents.

Things that Represent Their Passions

We’ve seen all kinds of fun things in our residents’ memory boxes, including well-worn and filthy gardening gloves, an autographed baseball, a favorite dog’s collar, a cherished stirring spoon or potholder, etc. We’ve seen beautiful shells for clients who loved the ocean and pine cones for those who loved camping in forests.

Families have included newspaper clippings featuring their accomplishments and recipe cards, letters/postcards, or art from grandchildren. Whichever items you choose, they help your loved one remain in touch with their identity so be sure to select things that represent their passions.

Small Family Heirlooms

Choose a family heirloom connecting them to their roots and lineage. That said, make sure it isn’t so valuable that it would be devastating if the item were broken or lost. Examples include needlepoint samplers made by a mother or grandmother, an old magnifying glass or small, collectible pillbox, or a favorite broach or set of cufflinks.

Trip Souvenirs

Trip souvenirs are a perfect item to include. They mean the most to the one who purchased them, and they’re often fun-but-kitschy. Trip souvenirs will bring smiles all around and often connect residents with fellow, former world travelers, initiating conversations that forge new friendships.

Something Soft With a Familiar Smell

What did your spouse or parent keep in their own real-life keepsake box? Odds are there is some type of blanket, handkerchief, item of clothing, or something with a familiar smell. These are ideal items to add to their memory box.

Keep Safety in Mind

Finally, remember that the boxes should mainly, if not exclusively, focus on positive memories. In addition, contents need to be safe so leave out anything with sharp edges or that is too heavy and can drop on tender legs or toes.

Memory Boxes Are Treasures for Seniors With Dementia

Use this creative experience to pour your love and good wishes, and to process your feelings about the experience. Being a caregiver isn’t easy and you hold so much in the work you do day in and day out. Creating a memory box for your loved one can help you transition into this next phase, knowing they have everything they need to feel comfortable and safe in their new space.

The Memory Center can provide resources for caregivers as well. Learn more about caregiver burnout and how to identify the signs. We are here for you and your loved one.

Understanding and Managing Dementia Caregiver Burnout

Memory Games for Seniors With Dementia

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A group of seniors play a game of cards and benefit from the cognitive exercises and the social interaction.

There was a time when researchers believed brains were more like concrete than elastic. That has changed as the result of enhanced brain imaging, proving an active brain is a healthier brain. Thus, it’s important to prioritize cognitive exercises and memory games for seniors with dementia. 

Games and activities that promote an active brain always yield positive benefits. While studies on Alzheimer’s games and their effects are inconclusive, researchers have proven mentally stimulating activities are linked to lower-risk or the delay of age-related memory loss – including Alzheimer’s.

Keep reading for some game ideas for seniors with dementia.

Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are a favorite for the young and older alike. Reverse engineering clever meanings or plays on words back to their origin word requires a range of different cognitive functions. 

In addition to improving vocabulary, crossword puzzles often rely on a user’s long-term experience with regards to movies, music, politics, and a lifetime of pop culture references that spark memories. 

Number Puzzles

Number puzzles, such as Sudoku, are for numbers what crossword puzzles are for words. They play on the brain’s memory and pattern recognition to solve challenges at varying levels. And, like crossword puzzles, sudoku grids and other number games are often found in daily newspapers and online.

You can also purchase books with memory games tailored to a user’s level. So as your loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, you can get simpler versions that continue to support brain activity without becoming so frustrating that the games are defeating.

Interactive Games

Interactive games are a double-whammy when it comes to supporting age-related and diagnoses-based memory loss. Brain stimulation is essential, but social engagement and connection are even more important. Gathering with others to play cards, trivia games, or board games can check all the boxes.

Kimberly D. Mueller, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in communication sciences and disorders at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She was recently quoted by the Kansas Medical Center, saying, “We know that cognitive activity is good for the brain, social activity is good for the brain and for well-being, so pairing the two makes excellent sense.”

This is one of the reasons adults with dementia fare better in group settings than at home. The continual social interaction and daily activities – all of which focus on memory care – keep residents’ brains firing and connecting in ways they never would while living at home alone or with limited social networking.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Many brain games or memory exercises cited to support seniors are primarily devoted to the right brain, which uses linear, logical thinking. However, the left brain is equally important, connecting us to creative, big picture, and problem-solving outside of the box. Jigsaw puzzles are powerful memory tools because they support both right and left brain function.

Another bonus of jigsaw puzzles is that they can be worked on little by little over time You can also invite others into the mix adding a social aspect bonus! Place a puzzle on a table in a social hub or open area of any building and watch the people who come by to spend five to ten minutes – or longer – working to fit in a few pieces.

Video Games

Did you think video games were a kid thing? Think again! More and more seniors are finding joy in playing games that keep them thinking and provide entertainment to boot. Video games are especially beneficial for those who live alone or are limited in their ability to get around. 

Introducing stimuli-enriching video games to seniors is also a great way to support the connection between seniors and their younger family members. Instead of restricting a grandchild’s video game time, why not suggest a visit to Grandma or Grandpa to teach a favorite game and spend quality bonding time?  

Lumosity

Online brain games and exercises are also available online. Lumosity is one of the most time-tested and popular “brain game” websites and is backed by more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in academic journals. 

Lumosity’s games are intentionally designed by translating cognitive science into brain training games that support brain health for all ages. There are 60+ games designed to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem-solving. The program is accessible on computers and across the device spectrum, including senior-friendly tablets and phones.

Crafts and Artistic Endeavors

Like jigsaw puzzles, crafts, and other artistic endeavors (including musical pursuits) stimulate both hemispheres of the brain. A study published in the April 2015 edition of Neurology found that adults who pursue artistic, crafty, and social activities may stay mentally sharp longer. 

The Memory Center makes a conscientious effort to weave arts, crafts, and other right-brained (creative) activities into our daily calendar. Creating art fires neurons that may sit idle in the reading and writing centers of the brain, allowing seniors with dementia to connect with their peers and family members in ways they may not be able to otherwise.

Caregiver Relief: An Unseen Benefit of Memory Games for Seniors With Dementia 

One of the mostly-unspoken benefits of playing memory games for seniors with dementia is the joy and fun they bring to the table. Playing games with your aging spouse, parent, or grandparent alleviates caregiving pressures and allows you to connect and engage with your loved one on a different level. This can help you destress and enjoy a better quality of life.

Looking for a place where you can visit your loved ones and enjoy memory-focused activities? Or, would you like to find respite care that gives you the break you need while your loved one is well cared for and has access to activities that keep memory care at the forefront?

Connect with The Memory Center to learn more about what we have to offer. In addition to providing a high quality of life for adults with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions, we do all we can to minimize stress and burnout for their family caregivers. 

Learn more ways that, as a caregiver, you can take care of yourself!

Understanding and Managing Dementia Caregiver Burnout

Early Signs of Dementia

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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

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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

Understanding and Managing Dementia Caregiver Burnout

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A female caregiver walks with a senior woman, allowing her family members to take a break to avoid dementia caregiver burnout.

Every caregiver is at risk for burnout. However, those caring for loved ones with dementia are particularly susceptible.

Most of the time, dementia caregiver burnout is a slow progression, easily missed in real-time. Without adequate support and dedication to a self-care routine, it’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience serious illness, physical decline, or injuries or to become overwhelmed by depression and feelings of hopelessness.

If you take care of someone with dementia, make sure to prioritize self-care, stress management, and your mental and emotional wellbeing. Keep reading to learn about dementia caregiver burnout.

Signs of Caregiver Fatigue Leading to Burnout

The following are some of the “red flags” that can indicate dementia caregiver fatigue. If any of them resonate with you, it’s a sign that it’s time to enlist memory care support.

1. Your Life Lacks Joy

When the overwhelm of caregiving is greater than the joy you find in day-to-day life, it’s a sign you need help. 

Caregivers often believe their feelings of depression or hopelessness are primarily due to experiencing their loved one’s mental and physical decline. While this is undoubtedly true, it’s easy to miss the fact that your exhaustion, mental fatigue, and the physical demands of caregiving may also be causing you to experience depression.

If you wake up with more dread or anxiety than joy in your heart, begin exploring support options.

2. You’re Tired All the Time

Family caregivers often work 24/7, with few or no chances to take a break. And, to make matters worse, the combinations of sundowning, a loved one’s insomnia or nighttime wakefulness, and fear for the safety of your spouse or family member make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleeplessness and constant fatigue are clear signs more support is needed.

3. Lack of Appetite, Overeating, or Poor Eating Habits

Caring for a loved one with dementia can cause you to lose track of time making it difficult to adhere to a daily schedule. And your diet can be impacted.

When providing care, it can be easy to skip meals or just snack on processed food that lacks nourishment. Furthermore, the stress and anxiety inherent in dementia caregiving can diminish the appetite, further depleting access to much-needed nourishment. 

If you don’t have time to shop, cook, or prepare meals, connect with family, friends, a religious or spiritual community, etc., and ask for support. Dropping off meals, running errands, or sending gift cards to be used for to-go orders and deliveries is an easy way for those who love you to support the cause. 

Professional caregiving agencies also offer grocery shopping, meal preparation, and other services that alleviate your need to complete daily tasks.

4. Difficulty Concentrating or Perpetual Mental Fogginess

Have you reached a point where your thought processes aren’t what they used to be? Are you having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or keeping the days, dates, and times straight? Has your loved one missed a medication dose or a necessary appointment because your mental fog got in the way? 

This is another all-too-common sign of being overwhelmed. Your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your loved one depends on your ability to nourish your body, mind, and spirit so that you can rejuvenate and reclaim your former clarity. 

5. Quick to Anger or Feeling Frustrated or Irritated

Does your fuse seem significantly shorter than usual? That’s normal. You’re under a tremendous amount of stress, and when you look at all caregivers handle daily, it’s no wonder you’re quick to anger or feel frustrated or irritated.

Unfortunately, left unaddressed, these pent-up feelings can mean you experience verbal outbursts directed at the one you love, and this creates a bleak cycle of regret, shame, and self-judgment. It also means your loved one suffers unintentionally.

While occasional anger, frustration, irritation, or feelings of resentment are not necessarily a sign of burnout, they shouldn’t become the standard. If these feelings have become a regular part of your emotional landscape, you’re at the end of your dementia caregiver burnout rope. It’s time to take a much-deserved break.

Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress & Burnout

Serving as a caregiver doesn’t mean you stop caring for yourself! Here are some tips for managing stress and avoiding dementia caregiver burnout.

  • Connect with dementia-related resources and support groups.
  • Reach out to trusted neighbors, friends, family members, etc., to provide regular respite care so you can take care of yourself.
  • Keep the house stocked with healthy foods and snacks, so everything you eat nourishes and supports your physical wellbeing.
  • Locate adult daycare and professional respite care options in your area.
  • Learn more about the cost of memory care and how to pay for it to create a long-term plan that encompasses your needs as well as the needs of your loved one.

Most importantly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Sometimes asking is all it takes.

Manage Dementia Caregiver Burnout With the Memory Center

Dementia caregiving is a journey, but you don’t have to go it alone. 

Please schedule an appointment with The Memory Center to learn more about our daytime and residential memory care options, in addition to other essential community resources to prevent caregiver dementia burnout. 

As a caregiver, you may also be worrying about finances. There are payment options to help you cover the cost of dementia care. Learn more by clicking below.

How to Pay for Dementia Care

How to Pay for Dementia Care

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a woman talks at home with her parents about paying for dementia care

Every long-term care plan should consider how to pay for dementia care. The Alzheimer’s Association cites that one-in-nine people over the age of 65 live with dementia, and that figure increases to two-in-ten by ages 71-79. So, planning to pay for memory care is a wise move, and there are plenty of creative ways to go about it.

There are several things that support dementia care planning:

  • Have a long-term care plan in place before you need it or as soon as you find out you have a progressive/terminal prognosis
  • Early diagnosis
  • Meet with a financial advisor before retirement to create a multifaceted plan that accommodates several different scenarios

7 Tips to Paying for Dementia Care

There isn’t “one way” to pay for dementia care. If savings or retirement accounts don’t cover the total expenses, there are other ways to finance the costs.

1. Home care that graduates to residential memory care

The research shows that early transition into full-time memory care is better than later admissions when it comes to mitigating stress and improving the quality of life for the resident. 

However, many individuals and clients choose to remain at home using in-home care providers to assist with general support and then make a plan to transition into residential memory care when a certain set of criteria are met (typically related to the progression from early dementia to mid-stage dementia symptoms).

This plan helps to buffer the coffers since home care is more affordable than residential care. Full-time in-home care from a licensed agency costs an average of about $4000 per month, while residential options cost between $4500 to $9000 per month – depending on the community. Saving at the front end using home care options can help you save for the residential care required down the road.

2. Medicare

Enrolling in Medicare three months before turning 65 is one of the most important steps you can take to cover care costs during your senior years. While Medicare doesn’t pay for things like room and board at a memory care center, it does typically pay for:

  • Medical-related expenses
  • Physician/specialist visits
  • Prescription
  • Necessary durable medical equipment
  • Hospice care

Implementing Medicare benefits helps to draw down the total monthly costs associated with dementia care. The modest, additional costs for Medicare Plan C and D can alleviate other costs associated with paying for dementia care.

3. Long-term care insurance

Some people don’t realize they ever enrolled in a long-term insurance plan because it came directly from a previous employer and is debited from pension funds or because their spouse/significant others handled “the business sides of things.” 

Comb through all of the financial documents, files, and retirement statements to see if there is an existing long-term care insurance plan you didn’t know about. If so, you may find that thousands of dollars per month are already accounted for.

The sooner you apply for long-term care, the more affordable it is. So, if you’ve arrived at this post while researching long-term care and dementia care options, this is a good time to contact an insurance representative to learn more about whether long-term care is a good option for you.

4. Veterans Administration (VA) benefits

Did you or your significant other serve in the U.S. military? VA benefits are available for a range of services supporting dementia care, including:

  • Home-based health and care support
  • Home caregivers or health aids
  • Respite care (to give a primary spouse or family caregivers regular breaks from the rigors of caregiving)
  • Adult daycare (just like its child-centric counterpart, most communities or memory care centers offer adult day care for seniors with dementia so spouses/caregivers can go to their day jobs or attend important activities, outings, and social activities)
  • Nursing homes or acute care facilities
  • Palliative and hospice care

Visit the VA’s page on Dementia Care to learn more about their services and contact specialists who can answer your questions.

5. Employee and retirement benefits

If the dementia diagnosis is given when you or your loved one are still working, schedule a meeting with the human resources (HR) or benefits department. The company and its employee benefits may offer support you aren’t aware of. This could include things like:

  • Better health insurance options
  • Paid sick leave
  • Short-term or long-term disability benefits

Most retirement plans offer penalty-free withdrawals for individuals younger than 59 and a half under qualifying circumstances. An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis is one of those qualifiers and may allow you to draw early (or more than usual) from the plan, sans penalties, if the total of your dementia care costs exceeds a certain percentage of your gross earnings. Meeting with HR or benefits representatives is essential to learn more about your options.

6. Liquidating properties and assets

Again, meeting with a financial advisor is the best way to understand where you are and your best plan forward. For some couples, this is a time to sell a piece of property or liquidate certain assets or valuables. 

For example, if moving a spouse into memory care means you plan to downsize, this might be a time to sell the house and roll part of the proceeds into the memory care fund.

7. Reverse mortgage options

If your home is paid off or almost paid off, you may qualify for a reverse mortgage. Many banks are willing to lend substantial sums of money using the house as collateral because of its real estate value. 

Reverse mortgages operate similarly to refinancing. They are available to qualifying homeowners 65 years or older to borrow against the home’s equity without risking their title or selling the home.

8. Personal loans or family contributions

Once you’ve processed the initial shock and adjustment period after an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, we recommend scheduling a family meeting. The need for dementia care is a matter of “when” rather than “if,” so everyone should have a voice in the plan. 

Some families divide care costs and make monthly payments to support their loved one’s care, while others take out a loan to front the costs and then share the monthly loan payment expenses.

Start Visiting Memory Care Centers to Learn More

Visiting different memory care communities is a smart way to learn about all the different ways their clients and families go about paying for dementia care. Make that one of your questions as you learn more about their communities and care costs. Our administrators have a wealth of information regarding funding and payment options.

Learn More About Our Communities

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