senior woman with adult daughter

A major concern for adult children is whether they will recognize that their parent needs specialized memory care support. Most adults over a certain age will eventually suffer from some mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but how will you know when it has become problematic to the point of jeopardizing their safety?

Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment

First, it’s helpful to know that there are two major types of MCI.  Amnestic MCI is memory-specific and is marked by signs like forgetting conversations and misplacing items. Non-amnestic MCI involves changes in other brain activities regardless of whether you have memory loss. It may show up as problems with language (you lose your train of thought during a conversation), attention (you have a hard time accomplishing tasks like bill paying), or spatial sense (you can't find your way around a familiar place).

New MCI treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published online Dec. 27, 2017, by Neurology, note that MCI cases progress to full-blown dementia about 15% of the time among people 65 or older. However, today it is still more art than science trying to figure out whether, or when, MCI might progress to full-fledged dementia.

Understanding Dementia and Its Progression

Dementia is a condition of persistent impairment in brain activities — like thinking or speaking — that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. Medical conditions — such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, and strokes — are common causes of dementia. Symptoms can include forgetfulness, confusion, and the inability to solve routine problems. 

Professionals believe that healthy habits such as staying active, exercising regularly, eating right, and staying connected with other people may slow the progression of dementia, but also find it’s helpful to be engaging in mentally stimulating activities (particularly learning new things, like a new hobby or new language) and taking medications as prescribed. 

Individuals with dementia are often not safe to live independently but not all assisted living communities address the specialized needs of those whose cognitive impairment is progressing.

Finding the Best Memory Care for Your Parent

Memory care is a special form of long-term care designed to meet the specific needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other types of memory problems. Memory care is distinct from “regular” assisted living, and due to extensive specialized training to assist people with dementia or impaired cognition, costs are generally higher than for regular assisted living. Common memory care services include 24-hour supervised care, medical monitoring, and assistance with daily living tasks. 

14 Questions to Evaluate Specialized Memory Care Centers

  1. What type of specialized memory care training has the staff received and is that training extended beyond nursing to dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, and others who will have regular contact with my parent or loved one?
  2. What is the ratio of care staff to residents during the day/night?
  3. Is there always a nurse on-site, 24 hours a day, seven days per week?
  4. What level of care and personal assistance can be expected upon admission, and how often is the care plan evaluated? 
  5. Who is involved in creating the care plan?
  6. What is the policy for handling medical emergencies, and how does the care center communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?
  7. Is the care center more homelike, or more institutional and clinical?
  8. Is it aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, with spaces to wander safely, or to sit comfortably? 
  9. What programs (exercise, physical therapy, social and other activities) does the facility offer and are they individualized or all group activities?
  10. What about music therapy, aromatherapy, or other sensory stimulation?
  11. Are the rooms private or shared, including bathrooms?
  12.  What is the monthly rate for housing and care?
  13. What services does that rate include (how many meals, housekeeping, linens, laundry, furnishings, etc.)?
  14. If their needs change over time, will there be additional charges?

Asking simple questions such as these can guide you to a quality memory care community like Kendal at Granville.

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