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How Do Assisted Living and Memory Care Differ from Other Levels of Support?

Active adults have a number of living options to choose from as they age, including places that offer added support to empower their day-to-day life. There are communities that specialize in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care, all with different approaches to daily support, staff, activities, services and overall environment. This can create some confusion when looking for the long-term solution that’s best for your needs. Understanding the differences between assisted living, memory care and other community care options can help make the choice easier.

About Assisted Living

Residents of assisted living communities enjoy largely independent lifestyles, but receive help with the daily living activities that have become difficult for them. The amount of assistance varies from person to person, depending on the individual’s needs. One resident might need a hand with meal preparation, transportation and medication, for example, while another might need assistance with mobility and bathing.

A person might be ready for assisted living if it has become difficult or dangerous for them to live independently. For instance, assisted living may be the right choice for someone who has trouble navigating the stairs at home or is no longer comfortable driving.

Assisted living typically takes place in a residential-style neighborhood. The highest quality assisted living communities have beautifully manicured grounds and garden rooms with enclosed courtyards. Apartment-style suites include helpful design elements, such as private baths and walk-in showers, that offer privacy, comfort, convenience and safety. Some assisted living communities even allow pets and provide laundry services for residents, although this may come at an additional cost.

About Memory Care

Residents of memory care communities have memory impairments that prevent them from living independently. The most well-known memory impairment is dementia, which has a variety of forms, including Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care communities are often ideal for those living with dementia because they provide expert support, encouragement and amenities that make life active and enjoyable for residents regardless of their challenges.

For example, people with memory issues may not remember who they are from day to day – or even from hour to hour. This can cause familiar faces and places to become unfamiliar, which can cause fear, confusion, frustration and even aggression. Some people with memory problems are prone to wandering, which poses a danger to the individual and to others, particularly if they have a tendency to become frustrated or aggressive when lost. Memory problems also make it difficult to use everyday objects, which can be frustrating and confusing too.

Certain features of a living environment can lead to a variety of difficult and dangerous situations for those who live independently. Locked doors can cause frustration and trigger wandering. Many memory care communities reduce the number of doors, simplify pathways and use circular walkways to reduce confusion and wandering. Memory care communities offer this in addition to the amenities and programs they provide to engage residents and create a positive, enjoyable environment.

Similarities and Differences between Assisted Living and Memory Care

Assisted living and memory care are similar in that they each provide quality care, but the two types of residential care are different in a number of ways.

Trained staff

Nurses, nursing assistants, administrators, housekeepers and other professionals work at both assisted living communities and memory care communities. These staff members also share a goal of providing exceptional care for those who cannot live alone. The type of care they provide, however, is quite different.

Healthcare workers in assisted living communities provide a little extra help with everyday activities. Nurses and nursing assistants stop in on a regular basis to help with meal preparation, bathing, medication and other care. Those working in memory care provide 24-hour supervision and offer care specifically designed for people with memory issues.

The nurses, nursing assistants and other health professionals working in memory care environments also undergo special training to best understand the nuances of memory care. Specialized training gives staff members the skills they need to help people with memory issues remain as active and engaged with their environment as possible.

Training classes cover a variety of topics, such as the science of memory issues, how to interact with people who have memory problems and the best ways to provide care for residents of a memory care community. Some training sessions include empathy activities that demonstrate what it is like to live with memory problems. This training allows staff members to provide the highest level of care for the residents they serve.

Personalized Activities

Assisted living communities frequently offer a calendar of enjoyable activities that focus on fun, social interaction, education, spirituality, or fitness.

In addition to regularly scheduled fun and wellness-centered activities, memory care communities offer a highly structured daily routine filled with activities that keep residents calm, happy, stimulated and connected. Memory issues can cause considerable anxiety, and people with memory problems frequently exhibit expressive behaviors when they are anxious. Properly timed activities can help prevent and reduce expressions of anxiety by keeping individuals busy and involved with their environment.

For example, Spring Creek offers Valeo™ Signature Programs for those with memory impairments. Valeo Signature Programs are based on the science behind memory care, providing relaxing activities such as art, music and supervised travel to help memory care residents engage and enjoy the day to day.

Tailored Dining

Assisted living communities offer three meals per day in community dining rooms, where residents can choose from a number of delicious, freshly prepared meals with onsite staff for a greater degree of support.

Memory issues can complicate mealtime and can even prevent someone from getting the nutrition he or she needs for optimal health and wellness. Memory care communities offer specialized menus with food selections that help residents get the nutrients they need in ways that best suit their preferences. Dietary specialists serve meals in an environment that is less distracting than most community dining rooms. Many memory care communities offer adaptive plates or utensils that make it easier for residents to feed themselves, which promotes independence and dignity.

Custom Environment

Both assisted living and memory care communities provide an environment specifically suited to the needs of the individuals who live there. Assisted living communities often allow residents to choose from private or shared apartments, depending on their support needs and independence.

Memory care offers a higher level of safety through measures such as door alarms and motion-sensor lighting, which prevents wandering and other dangerous behaviors. Memory care communities often install advanced features, such as one-touch sinks, which allows for maximum independence for their residents.

Specialized Services

Assisted living and memory care communities offer a variety of amenities and services designed to elevate residents’ lifestyles. Services may include scheduled transportation, group activities or events, fitness programs and outdoor spaces for walking.

Memory care communities offer advanced nursing options, dieticians, additional housekeeping services and social work services to improve the quality of life for residents with memory issues. These services are also beneficial to residents’ families, who may participate in family-resident events designed to encourage meaningful connections that transcend Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory problems.

How Assisted Living and Memory Care Differ from Other Support Types

Compared to other types of support, assisted living and memory care are both specialized options. For instance, independent living provides a lower level of support than either assisted living or memory care. With independent living, residents are healthy and highly active. They don’t need support with daily activities, but want access to the engaging amenities of a community.

Skilled nursing, on the other hand, could be placed at a level between assisted living and memory care. Skilled nursing communities provide expert support and are staffed by licensed medical professionals that can help with needs such as wound care and rehabilitation. They do not, however, have the specially trained staff that is required to provide a positive environment for those with memory impairments.

For more information about the different levels of care available to mature adults, including assisted living and memory care communities, contact the caring professionals at Spring Creek. Spring Creek is a senior living community in Plano, Texas, that specializes in assisted living and memory care support. We can help you better understand the differences between various types of living communities so you can choose the right option for your needs.

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