How do you know when it’s time for memory Care?

January 4, 2024
How do you know when it’s time for memory Care?

“I worry about Mom when I’m not around. She’s letting bills and mail pile up unopened when she used to be so conscientious about it. Sometimes I notice that she wears the same clothes for days in a row.”

“Dad’s Alzheimer’s has gotten pretty bad lately. I’ve accident-proofed the house as best as I can, but I don’t know if it’s enough. It’s been stressful. I wish I could be his daughter again instead of his nurse.”

“Mom loves her house and would never want to leave, but either she stays in her chair or bed all the time or I can’t get her to sit still. I’ve had her neighbors call and tell me she’s walking around outside in a nightgown at all hours of the day. Thank goodness they all know her and help out, but I don’t know what to do.”

The decision to move your loved one to Memory Care can be a difficult one. It can be challenging to tell the difference between what’s just average forgetfulness and what are more serious signs. On top of that, we can get the inner debate and stress of making such important, life-changing caregiver decisions.

“What if I’m doing it too early? Mom might never forgive me. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.”

“Dad always said he hated homes and never wanted to go to one, but I don’t know what to do. I can’t care for him 24/7.”

It would be much easier to have a checklist and be able to tick boxes to let you know when it’s time to move to Memory Care. But Alzheimer’s affects people in a myriad of different ways so that there isn’t a cut-and-dry way to know. People can have good days and bad days.

We’ve put together some things for you to consider and watch for as you decide when it might be time to make the move to Memory Care. Keep in mind, this is not a checklist. Just one or two of the signs below might signify that a move is appropriate. Use your best judgment to make your decision based on your loved one’s unique situation. One thing we often hear after a move is made is “I wish I had done this sooner.” If you have questions, feel free to reach out to us via our contact form.

Alzheimer’s or dementia-related diagnosis
Most of us can recall a time when we’ve misplaced a set of keys. However, someone with a memory condition may begin putting things in inappropriate places. So, we might find keys in the oven or a dishwasher.

If your loved one is forgetting important things or you notice a loved one putting items in inappropriate places, consider making an appointment for a memory assessment. Getting a diagnosis and more information is a good first step to ensuring the best quality of life for your loved one. Once you can give a name to it, healthy and productive conversations can happen.

Even if your loved one is in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s a good idea to begin touring and exploring options for memory care down the road. It makes for an easier transition when it’s time and gives Mom or Dad a say in their future. Adjusting to change is a little bit easier when there is plenty of time to make sure the area is familiar and to build relationships with staff and other residents. It is much more stressful in a time of crisis.

Behavioral changes
Sometimes dementia can trigger a sudden change in behavior. An outgoing person might become withdrawn or anxious in social situations. Someone who prides themselves on their appearance might start to forget basic hygiene or to style their hair. A person who normally loves to exercise or get outside might become lethargic overnight and refuse to leave their bed. Someone who is normally very organized might begin to have difficulty planning or maintaining their organization.

You know your loved one best. Sometimes a change in behavior might be waved away as a natural part of aging, but if it seems odd to you that Mom stops her makeup routine or Dad can’t be bothered to water the flowers in the front garden, you might want to begin researching options. The earlier you begin looking, the easier the transition is.

A decline in health
We often think of dementia synonymously with memory. However, it affects more than just the memory in the brain. Some symptoms of dementia are not memory-related. The effect of Alzheimer’s on the brain can contribute to physical symptoms as well. Those physical signs can include:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • An empty refrigerator or cabinets, signifying that they might no longer be able to grocery shop
  • Medication not taken, or medication being overtaken
  • A decrease in basic hygiene
  • A hunched posture
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Unexplained bruises, skin tears, or other injuries
  • Missed appointments, unpaid bills, etc.
  • A decrease in health or worsening of non-Alzheimer’s diseases or illnesses

If you’re constantly worried about your loved one’s health or find yourself needing to increase the amount of time you spend caregiving over time, moving to an Assisted Living or Memory Care community can bring you peace of mind. Not needing to worry about the day-to-day stuff like food, medication, or bathing can help you to focus on cherishing the time you spend with your loved one, rather than stressing about what other caregiving tasks you need to accomplish.

They’re isolated
With Alzheimer’s and dementia, the world around becomes confusing and scary. The simple act of going outside can become daunting or cause anxiety. Additionally, someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia might believe that they just had lunch with their friends last week when it was in fact last month or last year.

The mental effects of dementia make it seem simpler to retreat inwards and gravitate towards familiarity and safety of home. It becomes a circular cycle and can even worsen the effects of the disease.

A good Memory Care community builds into their care plan socialization, structure, routines, and therapeutic stimulating activities like music, dancing, puzzles, games, and success-oriented activities. Memory Care communities are specifically designed to reduce stress and increase the quality of life for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms.

An unsafe home environment
There are many reasons it might not be safe at home for a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Perhaps they live alone and are no longer able to maintain their home like they used to, and the structure itself might fall into disrepair. The layout of the home could be complex or confusing. The stairs might be too steep or unsafe to navigate in some other way. The carpet might be shaggy or high and cause them to trip and fall often.

Sequencing, or the basic process of understanding the order in which things should be done becomes difficult for someone with memory issues. An example of this is the process of brushing teeth – retrieving the toothbrush, turning on the tap, wetting the toothbrush, locating toothpaste, applying toothpaste, etc., becomes a confusing and frustrating process. For most people, all the little steps are almost automatic. For a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it can be overwhelmingly complex and some steps might be missed or done out of order.

Even with modifications made to the home for safety purposes, someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia might not be able to care for themselves appropriately. They might have a caregiver spouse who cannot keep up with the myriad of tasks – grooming, dressing, cleaning, assisting with heavy lifting tasks, keeping track of medication, etc.

In some cases, caregivers can get burned out and let some things slip despite their best efforts to care for their loved one. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can feel like caring for a young child and can be frustrating or tedious. Additionally, someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can become violent or combative, which is extremely difficult to deal with as a spouse or adult child caregiver.

Perhaps you live a significant distance away and can’t get there to help as often as your loved one needs, so are unable to provide the increasing assistance required as the disease progresses.

For whatever reason, if your loved one is not safe at home anymore it is time to look into Memory Care options. These communities are specifically designed for the safety of their residents with low-nap carpet, railings on walls for balance, and even lighting that creates a soothing environment.

As a child or spouse caregiver, when your loved one has incontinence it can become a big problem. Apart from the physical demands of cleaning, changing, and assisting someone who does not have control over their bodily functions, it can be mentally exhausting and overwhelming. It’s a lot to handle.

Another aspect of incontinence is that it can be embarrassing for your loved one to admit they need help. They might even feel guilt or shame that their spouse or child needs to assist with it. It’s easier for them (and for you) to let a trained professional handle this aspect of Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms.

Consider – If you were incontinent, would you feel more comfortable with your spouse/child/sibling or with a professional caregiver?

Caregiver stress or burnout
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is difficult. As the disease progresses it can become a full-time job, and as a caregiver, it can be hard to hide your stress from your loved one. Even if you think you’re doing a good job keeping up a good face, stress creeps through and affects the people we love in negative ways.

If you’re feeling stressed, or having trouble caring for yourself, or if it’s affecting your other relationships, your sleep, or other important factors in your life, it’s time to think about Memory Care.

You feel it instinctively
Many of the families that come through our door tell us that the move was triggered by a “feeling” that it was time. Some of those families have even told us that they wished they had trusted their instincts long before they started looking for Memory Care because it could have saved them time, stress, and even possibly prevented a fall or some other unfortunate incident.

Moving a loved one to Memory Care is an emotional decision to make. There is no need to feel guilty or shame for getting assistance with caring for someone who suffers from dementia. If you’ve got a feeling that Memory Care might be the best place for your loved one to live, trust your gut. It’s probably right.

If you need help or more information about Memory Care or Assisted Living, or you have questions and want to speak to one of our caring staff members, please feel free to contact us.

By choosing to make a move to a Memory Care community, you are giving your loved one the opportunity to enjoy quality time with you – rather than time spent on care needs. What a gift to give your loved one and yourself!