When loved ones can no longer comfortably or safely live independently, they may need professional, long-term care. However, it can be difficult to choose which type of facility will be the best fit, especially for patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Assisted Living vs. Memory Care
One option is an assisted living facility, where residents typically live somewhat independently in a private studio, private apartment, or shared apartment. Staff is on-call 24/7 to lend a helping hand with daily activities, such as transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, medication management, or personal tasks like bathing and dressing. Assisted living facilities also usually offer opportunities to socialize and stay active in a dining room, arts and crafts room, fitness center, game room, and other common spaces.
Memory care facilities offer more specialized care. Staff are trained to not only assist with daily tasks, but to understand, communicate with, and respond appropriately to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The facilities are designed to prevent the wandering commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients through measures like heightened security, frequent safety checks, and tracking bracelets, and to foster a comforting atmosphere through calming décor and rigid scheduling. To reduce stress and protect residents, memory care facilities typically do not have individual kitchens for residents. Instead, the facility provides meals that may be specially designed to address the loss of appetite common in patients with dementia.
When to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care
While an assisted living facility may be the right place for a loved one in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, there may come a point at which that level of independence is no longer safe for them. Wandering off alone, leaving the stove unattended, and suffering unexplained injuries can all be warning signs that the protection offered by an assisted living facility is no longer sufficient. Other red flags include becoming afraid to visit new (or even old) places, losing track of finances, and a decline in weight, hygiene, or mobility.
When you and/or assisted living staff notice these signs, it’s likely time to discuss enhanced care options — whether it’s moving into a memory care wing of the same facility or exploring off-site options.
Making the Transition to Memory Care
Once you’ve decided that Memory Care is the right move for your loved one, it’s important to prepare properly –which means with as little stress and anxiety to the patient as possible. Minimizing stress can mean different things depending on your loved one’s condition and preferences. In some cases, it will be easier on everyone not to mention the move ahead of time. In others, you will want to make the patient an active participant in preparing for the transition. Your unique knowledge of the patient will guide the path you choose.
As you begin planning the physical transition, make sure you pack light and schedule moving services and transportation for early in the day. Memory care apartments are typically small to provide patients with cozy, simple surroundings. Trying to cram too many belongings into them will often lead the space to feel crammed and overwhelm your loved one. Stick to essentials, like comfortable clothing, personal hygiene items, and a few personal mementos when packing.
Everything should be moved and the patient should be settled into their new residence by the early afternoon. Physical exhaustion can make situations a lot more stressful for people with Alzheimer’s, so a relatively early end-time will help ensure a smoother transition. It will also allow the patient to get a chance to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings before nightfall.
Finding a Financial Resource for Memory Care
While transitioning from assisted living to memory care may be the right decision, it can also be a costly one. In the U.S., the average amount paid for assisted living care in 2017 was $3,750 per month, with memory care costing about an additional $1,200 per month.
Despite the costs, maintaining your loved one’s safety is paramount, meaning it’s essential to explore all funding options when planning the transition. Since 2007, Fifth Season’s Funds for Living Program has helped people leverage their life insurance policies into funds they can use for end-of-life care and other costs. Unlike a traditional viatical or life settlement, the Funds For Living Program allows you to obtain the funds you need today while maintaining ownership of your life insurance policy and preserving funds for your beneficiaries in the future.
If Fifth Season Financial can help your family cover the costs of assisted living or memory care, contact us today or call 866-459-1271.