When a senior has memory loss caused by dementia, families have many questions. We answer some of the most common ones here.
An adult child may find their role in an aging parent’s life is changing. A once-independent parent might be struggling to maintain their home or pay their bills. Other signs of memory loss may be causing them to be anxious and fearful. While memory problems can be caused by a reversible condition, such as a thyroid disorder or a vitamin deficiency, forgetfulness that disrupts daily life can also be an early warning sign of dementia.
Many people associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss. The truth is it’s just one of many forms of dementia. If you are concerned a senior loved one’s forgetfulness is impacting their safety and quality of life, here are the answers to questions families often ask about dementia.
What to Know about Dementia
Q: Are dementia and Alzheimer’s the same condition?
A: Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association says Alzheimer’s disease accounts for as much as 80 percent of all cases of dementia.
Q: What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
A: The first signs of Alzheimer’s disease most families notice in a senior loved one are mild memory loss and confusion. Because they are often associated with the aging process, they are frequently overlooked. As the disease progresses, additional symptoms begin to appear. Common ones include making mistakes with personal finances, having difficulty problem solving, getting lost in familiar places, and struggling with written and verbal communication.
Q: What types of care are available for people with Alzheimer’s?
A: Fortunately, there are a variety of options available for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. In the earlier stages of the disease, a senior may only need a combination of in-home caregiving and family support. A GPS tracking device might provide an added level of security in case they wander from home.
In the middle to late stages, it often becomes difficult to safely care for a family member at home. Wandering and agitation may become more common for many with the disease. At this point, a memory care program in an assisted living community or nursing home may keep the older adult safer while also offering a better quality of life.
Q: Why are memory care programs beneficial?
A: Seniors who have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia have unique needs regarding safety, nutrition, and meaningful activity. Memory care programs are designed to accommodate those needs and allow an older adult with dementia to enjoy their best quality of life. A few benefits of memory care for people with dementia are:
- Dedicated dining: When you visit a memory care community, you’ll notice specialized dining is a standard feature. Most offer nutritious meals adapted for dementia residents who might struggle with concentrating or manipulating utensils. Finger foods, such as chicken tenders and sandwiches, as well as smoothies are easier for people with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia to eat independently. Adaptive utensils and dinnerware are also utilized to promote eating.
- Productive activity: Daily schedules and activities in a memory care program are designed to work with a resident’s remaining abilities and around any physical and cognitive difficulties they may have. This allows them to feel empowered, productive, and successful. That helps protect self-esteem. Music, art, gardening, and gentle fitness activities are utilized often.
- Secure, positive environment: Individual apartments and suites in memory care are equipped with safety features and visual cues that make it easier for residents to recognize and navigate their space. The apartments often have a personalized memory box outside their door to help seniors identify their home. It contains items familiar to the senior at that particular stage of their disease.
Q: How much does memory care cost?
A: The cost of memory care varies widely depending upon the location and whether care is provided in an assisted living community or a nursing home. How much care the senior requires also plays a role in determining price, as does the size of their apartment, suite, or room. In general, memory care costs 20 to 30 percent more than a traditional assisted living apartment or nursing home room. In 2020, that translated to $5,000 to $7,000 a month.
Q: Does Medicare or insurance cover Alzheimer’s care?
A: Unfortunately, Medicare plays a limited role in providing care for a senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia. If they are hospitalized or need short-term rehab, their Medicare or health care insurance usually pays for some or all of these expenses. The same is true for physician appointments, lab services, and physical therapy.
Medicare and most types of health insurance do not offer financial assistance for personal care and the tasks of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and medication reminders. That is because these types of care are considered custodial in nature and not medical.
Care for a Senior with Dementia in Saratoga Springs
If a senior in your family needs memory care in the Saratoga Springs, New York, area, we invite you to consider The Wesley Community. Our dedicated unit offers therapeutic programming designed to help residents live purposeful days. Call (518) 587-3600 to learn more!