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Adding Memory Care to Your Healthcare Center

If you are thinking of expanding your healthcare center’s services to include a memory care facility, here are a few things to know.

Nearly 70% of adults will require some form of long-term care during their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your facility may already offer different types of assisted living care, but memory care is an area that’s constantly expanding. 


Roughly 5.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number climbs even higher when we add in those living with additional forms of dementia. Caregivers are looking for top-notch facilities like yours to assist them in caring for their family members stricken by these disorders.


Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

Assisted Living Facilities can offer residents a lot of choice, including varying levels of assistance or independence. But Assisted Living and memory care are not interchangeable. A common misconception about assisted living facilities is that they all house some residents suffering from these illnesses, or that they are all equipped to deal with memory loss. Senior care facility owners may want to consider making the switch from solely assisted living, to assisted living facilities with memory care.

Adding a memory care facility or unit can be a great comfort to family members looking for care for a loved one.

Photo “guzman23foundation serves seniors at retirement home” courtesy of Ralph Zuranski.

For the most part, only healthcare centers that are equipped to deal with patients who are affected by memory loss have Special Memory Care Units, or are considered Memory Care Facilities. These Memory Care Facilities or Units are devoted to specifically caring for afflicted residents. They are staffed with long-term, skilled nurses who are highly trained to provide care to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other forms of memory loss. These units are often 24-hour supervised care within a separate wing or floor of a facility. If you are underutilizing your facility space, a Special Care Unit might be an excellent way to bring in new residents.

Memory care providers assist with managing medications and other treatments. It’s easy enough to forget a pill during the day, but patients suffering from this disease can have fatal lapses of memory if they don’t take pills for other life-threatening illnesses.

A Memory Care Facility can also provide structure for the day for residents dealing with dementia. Having a routine down can ease the symptoms of the disease and well as keep the resident calm should they suddenly lose focus on where they are and what they are doing. Memory care is more intensive than what your facility may already provide, but it can be a godsend to families struggling to provide care on their own.


What Do I Need For A Memory Care Facility or Special Unit?

A dining room in a memory care facility or unit should offer room for wheelchairs.

Photo “Balboa Bay Club 9” courtesy of Wikimedia user Don Logan.

Licensure varies from state to state, but 28 states require a specialized license to operate a memory care facility. According to The Joint Commission, a nonprofit entity that certifies almost 2100 healthcare facilities nationwide, there are 5 main criteria required for Memory Care accreditation. They are:

  • Care Coordination
  • Staff Knowledge and Competency
  • Activity Programming Based on Abilities
  • Behavior Management
  • Safe and Supportive Physical Environment

Getting your healthcare facility ready may require some changes in your building. Special Care Units should be separated from the rest of your residents, either in a different wing or floor. Hallways should be designed to protect against residents from accidentally walking into sensitive areas or getting free of the facility. You may also want to consider specialized areas for residents that display aggressive or disruptive behaviors.

You’ll need comfortable private or semi-private rooms for residents. They will also need daily meals provided on site. A housekeeping and full service laundry department will be necessary to help keep the residents clean. Medication management lets residents stay on the medications provides by their doctors. Exercise and physical therapy programs get the body active which stimulated the mind. Social programs and activities serve a similar function.

One of the biggest challenges (and biggest costs) for a memory care unit is 24-hour monitoring. These residents require a lot more personal assistance because of their condition. Families seeking this level of care will want to know how your facility transfers their loved one from their current level of care to higher levels. Staff not only needs to be properly trained and licensed but also be able to connect with residents and their families. Residents might not be able to communicate their needs, so staff might have to reach out to the family to provide assistance. These fees and the additional costs of providing care mean that memory care is more expensive than a similar level of care.


How Can I Make My Memory Care Facility Stand Out?

Keeping your support staff on the cutting edge of caregiver technology can also make families more likely to choose your memory care facility. Using technology that helps staff to be mindful of residents’ conditions allow your staff to respond more quickly to issues that may arise. Placing trackers on wheelchairs and other mobility devices alert you to residents that get too close to the exits. Applying modern tracking technology to your residents can keep them safe and secure.

Matching residents with appropriate technology in your memory care facility can stimulate cognition and increase stimulation for people suffering from memory loss.

Photo “Tablet-PC Parkwohnstift” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User Sigismund von Dobschütz.

Matching up residents and technology can prove challenging, but tablets and touch screens bridge the gap for many seniors. Memory care often means engaging in stimulating activities, many of which are just an app away. Clevermind, for example, was specifically designed for victims of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to keep them stimulated through treatment tips, games and social media. Memory games also work wonders to keep a resident’s mind engaged, whether it be match-two style or even hidden-picture games. Even common apps like YouTube can be used to stimulate brains by playing music, movie clips or cat videos. If it can get a response from a resident, it’s something you might want to add to an iPad in your memory care facility. 

Upgrading your facility to offer assisted living with memory care is a big step, but one that make your facility look much more attractive. With 1 in 3 seniors affected by dementia today, there’s no doubt that a large portion of people who move into assisted living will eventually need memory care. A Memory Care Unit puts you at the forefront of the minds of families that need specialized care for their loved ones. Managing your residents’ health is a burden many families seek to have relieved.

You’ll need to ensure your facility is properly licensed and staffed with individuals that put the care of residents at the top of their priority list. If you’re looking to renovate your facility already, reworking part of it for memory care can increase the safety for all your residents and staff. Provide staff with modern techniques and they’ll reward you by working harder and working better. Engaging the patients entrusted in your care goes a long way to help them live fulfilling lives.

Image courtesy Flickr user jurvetson licensed under CC by 2.0.
All other images licensed under CC Public Domain License.

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