Friday, May 14, 2021

Memory Care Communities: Part of Retirement Planning



One of the biggest concerns many Baby-Boomers have is what to do if they or their spouse begins to lose their memory as they age. Many things can cause dementia ... Alzheimer's Disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson's Disease, strokes, and even some medications. Whatever the cause, the longer we live, the greater our risk of suffering from memory loss.


Some people have found practical ways to slow down the process of moving from mild cognitive decline into serious dementia by reading books such as "The Alzheimer's Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life." (Ad). If, however, the memory of you or a loved one continues to decline, despite your best efforts, then you will want to read this month's guest post, shown below, on how to make a memory care community a part of your retirement planning:


Planning for Memory Care Communities as Part of Retirement


One of the realities in life is that, as we age, we may experience a variety of health difficulties. One of the most serious conditions we may face is Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. During 2020, researchers estimate there were more than 5.8 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s in the United States. This number is expected to triple by the year 2050, as our population ages. 


Unfortunately, many families cannot provide the appropriate level of care needed for someone who is suffering from severe dementia. The lack of adequate care can potentially worsen the declining cognitive ability of the person who has begun to experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia.  It may be very difficult for family members to provide for all the safety and physical needs of the patient, while also providing them with a mentally stimulating environment.


Basics of Memory Care


Memory care facilities are an option which families may consider for their older family members who are showing advanced symptoms of dementia. Of course, the safety and comfort of someone who needs this specialized care is of utmost importance, and a memory care home is designed to provide that level of care. Memory care facilities are established to provide a residential community for seniors who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. They only accept clients or residents who have advanced symptoms and who are experiencing serious mental impairment. 


The basic personal care assistance which is provided in a memory care facility is at least as good as that provided in a normal assisted living facility. However, the activities in memory care are all designed to slow down the continued cognitive impairment and may even allow for some improvement in the cognitive condition of the residents. These facilities have a staff which is specially trained to deal with people who are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Families should verify that the credentials and experience of the staff are suitable to meet the needs of the residents. 


Is a Memory Care Home the Right Thing to Do?


If you are looking for the best senior living facility for a family member, you will first want to ask yourself if memory care is the best place for your older family member. The answer to this question depends on the condition of the patient and your ability to manage their healthcare. If you believe there is a need for some interventions for cognitive care which can only be provided by a facility, then the facility will begin by performing an assessment to determine if the patient is experiencing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, since treatment, medications and health management may vary, depending on the patient's diagnosis. This analysis will also help the family members be confident that the patient is getting the appropriate care he or she needs. 


Innovative Therapies Offered by Some Communities


Since the main goal of memory care homes is to enhance the cognitive ability of the residents, they provide innovative therapies. Here are some of the therapeutic activities which you might expect:


  • Music Therapy – Music plays an important role in enhancing memory, lessening the level of stress, and improving cognitive skills. People often remember old, favorite songs long after they have forgotten other things.

  • Mental Stimulation Therapy – The main point of this therapy is to combat anxiety, boredom, and restlessness. This may include puzzles and/or friendly competitions which involve brain games. It can also include something as simple as a conversation intended to draw out any memories the patient still has.

  • Art Therapy – Many residents love to draw, paint, or work on some craft, not only to express their feelings, but also to enhance their creativity.  These activities may also bring back memories of crafts they did in the past, even during childhood, and can have a soothing effect on some agitated patients.

  • Occupational Therapy -- The facility may work with your loved one to help them retain any skills they still have. This could include helping them remember how to dress themselves, groom themselves, feed themselves, pick out their favorite foods in an on-site store or restaurant, etc. Some memory care facilities have little shops, banks, and restaurants where residents can purchase a few items, or go to the "bank" or a restaurant, all designed to give them a sense of normalcy. This helps alleviate the feeling of being in an institution, and may help them feel more comfortable if, for example, a family member asks to take them out to dinner or to go shopping.

  • Physical Therapy -- Physical therapy is designed to help keep the patient from becoming bedridden too soon. They may spend time in various types of exercises to help them retain as much of their strength as possible. In addition, physical conditioning also seems to provide some mental stimulation and slows down cognitive decline.


Specialized Care Environments in Memory Care Homes


All the different services which are being offered in a memory care home are tailored to the specific needs of the residents. The staff in this type of community creates an environment which is as perfect as possible for the care they provide. In most cases, residents are encouraged to bring a few favorite items from home, so they have a sense of comfort and familiarity. They may have framed family photos, their own bedspread, a favorite chair and, of course, their own clothing and other personal items.


Staff is also aware that the residents may be experiencing different stages of memory loss and this is why the scope of the care provided may vary from person to person. Some of the specialized care services which you may expect from a memory care home may include:


  • Emergency monitoring (often including personal alert devices)

  • Specialized activities and programs

  • Assistance for personal care tasks

  • Transportation services to doctors and other necessary appointments

  • Maintenance, laundry and housekeeping services


The Facilities Master Plan Report


When your loved one moves into a memory care communityou may be interested to know that the facility had to go through extensive permitting and licensing requirements before the final facility master plan was made. Before the memory care facility was built, there were many steps which needed to be completed. 


First, an appropriately designed and sized structure had to be planned. After that, the property and the location were analyzed to make sure they would meet the needs of the residents. The whole process, including construction, may have taken a year or even much longer to be completed. 


Knowing about the facility master plan requirements will help you feel more confidant that memory care facilities have been designed to be as safe and comfortable as possible for every resident.


Costs Associated with Memory Care Homes


With specialized care, such as Alzheimer’s care, provided in a memory care home, it should be no surprise that these facilities are more expensive, compared to other senior living facilities. Aside from providing specialized assistance to their patients, the staff are also trained to ensure that the residents are safe and secure within the community. Because of this, it is important that the family discuss the cost at different facilities in their area. The fees may differ from state to state, and could also be affected by whether the facility is in an urban or rural area.


There are a number of options for handling the financial cost of memory care, and some of the more common ones are shown below:


Medicaid is a possibility for people who have limited income and assets. In fact, Medicaid covers the cost of memory care for about 24% of all patients in these facilities.


Some residents may have purchased long-term care insurance in the past, and their policy is now available to cover the cost of their memory care.


The cash value of some life insurance policies may also be used to pay for memory care while you are still alive, assuming you have a large cash value in your life insurance policy. Check with your life insurance provider to see if this is an option for you.


If the patient moved into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) before they developed dementia, the arrangement they have with their CCRC will usually include the cost of being moved into the memory care unit when they are no longer able to live in their original independent living apartment. Some people buy into these communities by selling their home and purchasing a condo in a CCRC. Other CCRC facilities have rental apartments, with the cost changing as their needs increase. Their monthly fees may be covered by their Social Security benefits and any other income sources they have.


Veterans may be able to move into a Veterans' home and receive whatever care they need for the remainder of their life, including memory care, or they may qualify for a small monthly payment which can be used towards the cost of a nursing home, memory care facility, or healthcare aide in a private home.


Families may supplement the cost of a memory care facility, over whatever income the patient already has from Social Security, pensions, and income from their retirement account or from the sale of the patient's home and other property. Remember that if the patient has a low income and few assets, the cost of their memory care will probably be covered by Medicaid. Make sure you investigate all your options.


Discuss all possible financial arrangements with the financial office at several different memory care facilities in your area. Your loved one may qualify for more financial assistance than you realize, but the sooner you make your plans, the easier the transition will be. 


Memory care facilities are a very important part of the community. The most important factor to consider is choosing one where the patient will be safe and comfortable. 


Before going to a memory care facility, however, you may wish to try reading "The Alzheimer's Prevention and Treatment Diet." (Ad) It could help you postpone the need for treatment as long as possible.


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Photo credit: Guest Author Holly Klamer

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