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Alzheimer’s Care (or Dementia Care)

Memory Care Overview

When a family member receives the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia or memory loss, the entire family is impacted. It is an emotionally and physically challenging disease for the senior and those who love them.

In the earliest stages of the illness, an older adult might be able to remain in their own home or move in with a loved one who acts as a caregiver. As the conditions progress, however, safety, security, and quality of life might decline. Families often lack the time, skills, and knowledge to manage all the unique needs Alzheimer disease or dementia creates.

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The senior’s neurologist or primary care physician might suggest a family investigate Alzheimer’s care options. This type of housing is typically referred to as memory care programs, these housing communities are designed to meet the challenges a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s often faces.

We know spouses and adult children might be unfamiliar with this type of senior care and how memory care facilities differ from a traditional assisted living or nursing care community. This overview is designed to provide you with a solid understanding of this type of memory care assisted living, including how it helps improve the quality of life for an adult with dementia.

What Is Memory Care?

In broad terms, memory care is a special type of senior housing designed to meet the unique needs of adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. Most memory care programs are attached to an assisted living community or a nursing care community.

The focus of memory care programs is on improving quality of life for people with dementia, while also keeping them safe and secure.

These dedicated memory care living units offer residents a secure, thoughtfully designed environment that helps reduce the risk that an adult with Alzheimer’s will wander away. But the benefits don’t end there. Memory care programs, or an Alzheimer’s care facility, offer many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.

The Benefits of Memory Care Programs

When an adult with dementia moves to a memory care program, they benefit from a variety of dedicated services. Each is designed to help residents live their best quality of life despite their disease. Memory care benefits include:

  • Dedicated dining:

    Adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often struggle to manipulate utensils and eat independently. Memory care dining staff creates healthy menus that work around these types of challenges. Healthy finger foods and smoothies, for example, allow residents to feel successful at meal time while also getting the nutrition their bodies require. Adaptive utensils and dinnerware also help, as does a dining room that is calm and free from distractions.
  • Life enrichment:

    A quality memory care unit also caters to the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of residents. Instead of focusing on the limitations caused by the disease, activities are designed to promote and support remaining abilities. Music therapy and art therapy are staples you will find on most memory care activity calendars because they allow for self-expression and joy. Low-impact fitness programs such as gentle stretching from a seated position or chair yoga are popular. Many memory care units have dedicated outdoor areas to allow for activities such as nature strolls and raised bed gardening.
  • Dedicated caregivers:

    Alzheimer and dementia care facilities typically assign the same caregivers to work with residents each day. This allows residents and staff to get to know one another in more meaningful ways. Caregivers receive dementia-specific training to help them learn how to provide the right amount of assistance to keep a resident safe while allowing them to feel independent. Training programs also include how to communicate with residents who have memory loss and may have limited verbal skills.
  • Family support:

    Because this disease is so difficult on families and caregivers, most memory care programs host support group meetings. These are often held monthly and provide help to residents’ families with a chance to express their sadness, guilt, fears, and frustration in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Let Us Help You Find Quality Memory Care for a Loved One

If you are struggling to keep a loved one who has dementia safe at home, it might be time to consider a move to memory care. One of our experienced senior care advisors can help you explore nearby options.

Our advice and guidance are always free for senior citizens and their families. Please call us at (888) 514-6461 help making a thoughtful, informed decision

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Alzheimer's FAQ and Statistics

We know older adults and their loved ones have many questions about Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s care options, and memory care programs. From costs to symptoms, we think you will find the answers you are seeking here.

Q: Is there a difference between dementia and Alzheimer's?

A: It’s easy to see why older adults and their families find these two terms so confusing! Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably but are not always the same condition. Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms related to impaired thinking and memory loss, often related to cognitive decline from aging. Common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease. Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia; however it is by far the most common form. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for as much as 80% of all cases of dementia.* Although similar, Alzheimer’s disease does have specific symptoms that are not present with all other types of dementia.

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Q: What are the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

A: The earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease* are mild memory loss and confusion. Both are often overlooked or attributed to normal aging.

As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s symptoms include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Trouble with problem solving
  • Difficulty managing finances
  • Confusion about time or place
  • Communication struggles
  • Problems completing familiar everyday tasks

Q: What are the care options for people with Alzheimer's disease?

A: It depends upon what stage of the disease an older adult is in. Early stage Alzheimer’s disease might be safely managed at home with family support and/or the assistance of an inhome caregiver. Families often utilize GPS tracking devices and systems as an added safety feature.

As the disease progresses to the advanced or final stages of dementia, the struggle to provide safe dementia home care for a loved one intensifies. Wandering and agitation are two challenges families have difficulty managing. This is when an assisted living community or a dedicated memory care program can offer a better quality of life for the senior and their family

Q: What are Alzheimer's care facilities?

A: There are two primary types of care that fall under this category: memory care in an assisted living community and memory care in a nursing home. What both types of care typically have in common are dedicated Alzheimer’s caregivers, a secure environment, and life enrichment activities designed for adults with memory loss. Most Alzheimer’s care facilities also offer a dining room.

Q: How do memory care programs support adults with dementia?

A: People living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have unique needs concerning safety, nutrition, and meaningful activity. Memory care programs are designed to meet those needs and give residents opportunities to live empowered, engaged lives.

  • Dedicated dining programs:

    Memory care dining rooms feature nutritious finger foods and smoothies that are easier for residents with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia to eat independently. Adaptive utensils and dinnerware are also utilized as needed.
  • Life enrichment activities:

    Programs and activities that work around physical and cognitive losses and utilize residents’ remaining abilities allow them to feel empowered and successful. Music, art, and physical fitness activities are common in memory care programs.
  • Safe environment:

    Individual apartments and suites feature safety programs and visual cues to make navigating the space easier for people with memory loss.

Q: How much does memory care cost?

A: The cost of Alzheimer’s care varies greatly depending upon the city and state the older adult resides in and whether care is provided in an assisted living setting or a nursing home.

In 2017, the national median cost† for a traditional assisted living community was $3,750 a month. If the senior lives in a dedicated memory care section of the community, the costs are typically higher.

Q: How long can people with Alzheimer’s disease live safely at home?

A: The answer to this question largely depends on the senior’s symptoms and their family support system. Many adult children have demanding careers and children of their own still living at home. Juggling these responsibilities can make it difficult for them to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

If a family member doesn’t work and is able to assist in caregiving, families are sometimes successful in managing a loved one’s care by moving the senior in with the family. Together, they may be able to keep an adult with memory loss at home as the disease progresses.

Others find the demands of caring for an adult with Alzheimer’s disease, or caring for someone with dementia, too great of a challenge to manage at home. This is especially true if the senior loved one is prone to wandering, or if there are other safety issues.

Q: Is a memory care community/facility tax deductible?

A: Discuss this issue with an experienced tax advisor or financial planner. While memory care expenses often fall into a category of care considered to be custodial, a portion of monthly expenses might meet the medical expense criteria. In some cases, the senior or a family member who helps finance care might be eligible for a tax deduction.

Q: How much does Medicare cover for Alzheimer’s care?

A: Unfortunately, Medicare plays a limited role in Alzheimer’s care. If a senior with the disease is hospitalized or needs short-term rehab, their Medicare will usually help pay for some of these expenses. The same is true for physician appointments, lab services, and physical therapy.

Medicare does not provide support for assistance with personal care and daily living, such as help with bathing, dressing, and medication reminders. These types of care are considered custodial and not medical.

Q: Where can Alzheimer's caregivers go for support?

A: Creating a support network is a must when you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related type of dementia. Talking with peers in a support group setting is one way to do that. Local churches, senior centers, and assisted living communities often host monthly support group meetings. Some people prefer to join an online caregiver support group. The Alzheimer’s Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance both host online support groups and chat rooms.

Alzheimer’s caregivers should also explore nearby assisted living communities that offer respite care services. This short-term care solution gives caregivers an opportunity to take a break. Respite guests can usually stay at an assisted living community for up to one month.

If you have any questions about memory care or Alzheimer’s care facilities, one of our senior care advisors will be happy to help. Please call us at (888) 514-6461. Our support and guidance are always free!

Sources:

* “What Is Alzheimer’s?,” Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers

† “Compare Long Term Care Costs Across the United States,” Genworth Financial, https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html

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Financing Alzheimer's Care

If you are exploring Alzheimer’s care options on behalf of a senior in your life, two questions that probably top your list are how much Alzheimer’s care will cost and how you will pay for it. It can be confusing to figure out the cost of monthly fees and accepted types of payment.

Average Cost of Memory Care

Memory care, as Alzheimer’s care programs are often called, is usually part of an assisted living community or a nursing home. Because this is a specialized type of care, you should expect to spend 20% to 30% more than the monthly fee for a traditional assisted living community or a nursing home.*

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In 2016, the national average cost for memory care in an assisted living community was $3,600 per month. That compares to $2,452 for traditional assisted living. Memory care for a shared room in a nursing home averaged $220 per day or $6,600 per month. Costs for a private room in a nursing home are typically 10% to 20% higher.

Keep in mind, however, that these are average costs. In some cities and states, memory care expenses can be significantly higher. It’s also important to understand what is included in the standard monthly fee and what additional expenses you are likely to incur.

The True Cost of Memory Care

Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you compare memory care communities:

  • Base fee versus cost of care:

    Be certain you have a thorough understanding of all the costs you are likely to incur each month. In some communities, a standard base fee includes room rental, meals, housekeeping, utilities, and transportation. Care charges are assessed on an individual basis and added to the base fee. Other memory care communities utilize a flat fee structure where all services are bundled into one flat fee. Make sure you ask each community you are considering what is included in the monthly fee and how much you should expect to incur in additional fees.
  • Rate increases:

    As is true for any business, the costs of operating a memory care program typically increase each year. As a result, monthly resident fees also increase. Ask staff how often and by how much rates typically increase. Also inquire about how much notice families are given before rate increases go into effect.
  • Changing care needs:

    Because your loved one’s care needs might change, you should also investigate the costs associated with higher levels of care. When your loved one needs additional care and services, how much will the rate increase? Will that still be a financially feasible solution for your family? It’s important to be able to answer “yes” to that question so your family member won’t have to move again.

Options for Financing Memory Care

Depending on where the memory care program is located, either in an assisted living community or in a nursing home, the options for financing care will be different.

  • For families who are considering memory care in an assisted living community, the primary source of funding is the older adult’s personal funds. Personal savings and money from selling a home and liquidating investments usually comprise the bulk of financing.
  • By contrast, memory care in a nursing home is often financed through a state’s Medicaid program. This financing is for low-income seniors and younger people with disabilities.

There are other financing options for memory care that families should explore. They include:

  • Long-term care insurance:

    If the senior has long-term care insurance, it might help finance memory care in an assisted living community and not just a nursing home. These policies typically provide a daily or monthly stipend to help with memory care expenses. If your family member purchased a policy, be sure to review it carefully or call to clarify what levels of care the policy applies to.
  • Life settlement funding:

    Some families have found life settlement companies to be another avenue for covering memory care expenses. When a senior has a life insurance policy they no longer need, a life settlement company will buy the policy from them. In return, the older adult receives a lump sum payment. While they won’t receive the full face value of the policy, life settlement companies typically pay more than the surrender value. Seniors usually receive 50% to 75% of the policy’s face value.
  • Bridge loans:

    For most seniors, their home is their greatest investment and asset. Proceeds from the sale of the house are needed to finance the older adult’s move to memory care. Other seniors have investments that they want to use to finance memory care but liquidating those assets will take time. Bridge loans can help fill the gap between when a senior moves and when the house is sold or investments are liquidated.
  • Aid & Attendance benefit:

    The Aid & Attendance benefit is designed to help qualifying veterans and surviving spouses finance a variety of senior care options. The current qualifications require a veteran to have served at least 90 days of active duty, at least one day of which was during a recognized period of war or conflict. The veteran’s medical condition doesn’t need to be service related, but there is a medical qualification threshold that must be met. Veterans and surviving spouses with dementia may qualify for financial assistance through this program. Financial assistance can range from $1,153 for a surviving spouse to $2,127 per month for married veterans. †
  • Medicaid:

    While Medicaid will help finance memory care in a nursing home, not all states have Medicaid programs to help with memory care in an assisted living community. Your local agency on aging can likely help you determine if your state has a Medicaid waiver program for assisted living.

Talk With a Senior Care Advisor for Free

If you have questions about memory care or how to find a memory care program that will be a good fit for a senior loved one, we can help. Call us at (888) 514-6461 to talk with an experienced senior care advisor for free!

Sources:

* “Payment Options & Financial Assistance for Alzheimer's / Dementia Care,” Paying for Senior Care, updated May 2016, https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/alzheimers/financial-assistance.html

† “Veterans Pension Rate Tables,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/current_rates_veteran_pen.asp

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