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Alzheimer's disease: finding the right care

  • Category: Personal Care
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  • Written By: Allied Services Integrated Health
Alzheimer's disease: finding the right care

A certain amount of memory loss is expected as we age. Even though we can't see them, our brains are aging right along with our hips, knees, and faces. Just as we might get a few more wrinkles around our eyes or lose a bit of hearing as we age, we also lose some of our mental abilities. It's natural. However, some people suffer from more extreme situations, beyond the standard memory loss associated with age.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. The destruction is caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins that form plaques and tangled bundles of fibers within the brain tissue. This, along with many other complex brain changes, play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. 

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and loss of behavioral abilities that interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. While there are many different types of dementia, the disease is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for help with basic activities of daily living.

When loved ones struggle to live safely and manage typical activities of daily living at home, long-term care is a common solution. The challenge becomes finding the right level of care, especially if your loved one is experiencing memory problems.

If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, life in some type of memory care home may eventually be the right choice for them. However, memory care isn’t always a standalone community. Often, assisted living or skilled nursing homes offer a separate memory care wing so that transitions to different levels of care as the disease progresses are easier on both the resident and the family.

Assisted living 

Assisted living is a level of care that allows seniors to be more independent while providing help with daily tasks. Assisted living residents often require personal care support, but they’re able to communicate their needs. Residents may receive help with taking medicine, transportation, or other activities of daily living (ADL).

“Someone who needs assistance with their ADL’s but still has their reasoning skills intact, is a great candidate for assisted living,” says Christine Ondish, LPN, PCHA administrator of Meade Street Residence, Wilkes-Barre.

“Residents can enjoy socialization, day trips, and other activities with people their age, which helps improve their quality of life, all while receiving some support from a care team.”

“As needs, abilities, and interests are changed by their condition, residents may forget how to do normal ADLs, such as brushing their teeth, eating, showering, and dressing. Some start to withdraw from social situations because their confusion and loss of memory can cause anxiety.”

“Wandering also becomes a serious concern, especially if your loved one is living at home. Wandering can be incredibly dangerous, and is often one of the concerns that weigh most heavily on caregivers and family members.”

Making decisions about care

While there’s no specific formula as to exactly when someone should be moved from home to assisted living, or from assisted living to memory care - those noticeable changes mentioned, or a decline in function, are a signal that another level of care is needed. Most families and caregivers site the top reason for moving a relative to a memory care unit as to preserve their safety.

Memory care facilities have mechanisms in place to prevent wandering, like wander devices (wearable trackers) or locked and alarmed doors. The units provide round-the-clock supervised care in a separate wing or floor of a facility that keeps residents safe and prevents them from getting lost. In some facilities, staff members receive specialized training and coordinate activities designed for those living with memory impairment issues.

“Secured units are not meant to lock residents away - they are meant to allow residents to live confidently in a more secure manner. Most memory care homes are designed to mimic life at home, only with the proper care to address their specific needs. Typically, memory care has a smaller staff-to-patient ratio because a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s has greater care needs,” says Ondish.

“Over the years, I have had many difficult conversations with families about transitioning their loved ones to memory care. Most families are very hesitant to make the transition because of the stereotypes dementia or memory care units have. However, once the transition is made most families see what a positive impact the advanced level of care can have and wish they had done it sooner.”

“Again, it’s about allowing residents to live more confidently in a low-stress environment that is built around their condition. Just because it is a secured level does not mean residents can’t leave. With more dedicated staff giving attention and care, residents in most memory care facilities enjoy the same day-to-day activities as those in assisted living. Memory care just creates an environment in which the resident and their family can be assured of their safety.”

Christine Ondish, LPN, PCHA, is Administrator of Allied Services Meade Street Residence in Wilkes-Barre.

Memory Care in Wilkes-Barre

Allied Services Meade Street Residence in Wilkes-Barre consists of studio or one bedroom apartments, tailored to those residents who still maintain a certain level of independence, but may need some assistance with activities of daily living. This warm and friendly living community offers the finest personal care accommodations and services in a secure neighborhood. Our specialized memory care program is located at Allied Services Meade Street Residence, and provides a compassionate, caring and secure home-like setting for those with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and other related dementia. Learn more here.