Within the next 20 years, the need for memory care housing options will become more necessary than ever. Beginning in 2016 the youngest Baby Boomers began to turn 70 (2.5 million of them that year alone), and the youngest boomers are all over age 50. With advancing age comes an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Recent estimates state that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease, which is the most common form of dementia, could potentially triple from 5 million in 2013 to around 14 million by the year 2050. In the past, most people living with Alzheimer’s Disease would stay in a typical nursing home or assisted living community, receiving the same basic care as other residents. However, because so much more is being discovered about the disease in recent years, the way we think about caring for people with dementia is changing.
Some of the most recent innovations in memory care include:
Music, art, and even pet therapy are often provided to residents with dementia as a way to stimulate memory, cognitive skills, and communication. In addition, these therapies can help improve residents’ physical and social skills, as well as reduce their stress and ease aggressive behaviors.
Dementia staging refers to the ability to understand exactly what stage of the disease a person is in to help provide the correct level of care needed. This person-centered approach sees each individual as unique and focuses on what they can do, rather than what their limitations may be.
As smartphone and computer technology advances, so does technology for people with dementia. Devices such as GPS trackers for those who are at risk of wandering, emergency response units to detect warning signs of illness or a fall, and tablets to play brain games and keep in touch with distant relatives, make memory care today more efficient and streamlined. Technology is also beneficial for the person with memory care issues as it allows their cognitive abilities to continue functioning at the highest possible level.
Unique Housing Designs
While many senior living communities have a special area designated for those living with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, some communities today go above and beyond, providing just one floor to these residents. Intimate homes are offered that house up to 10 residents with a staff that specializes in memory care. These types of environments nurture a familial experience and build deep relationships between the residents and the caregiving team. The residents are allowed to maintain their own personal routines and are encouraged to continue to pursue their interests.
In a central dining area setting, everyone sits around a single table for meals. The elders are encouraged to engage in conversation and develop friendships.
Colors and Patterns
Colors can have an impact on mood, and improving mood is an important way of reducing dementia patients’ anxiety and difficult behavioral expressions. Creating environments with color palates that soothe or evoke feelings of warmth and happiness can improve quality of life. It’s important to note that sensitivity to different colors, especially pastels, diminishes with age, so care providers should take this into consideration when creating a colorful and welcoming environment.
Nostalgia-evoking displays throughout the halls, such as workbench stations or wooden coat racks draped with glamorous dresses from a distant era, are meant to stir residents’ memories. Personal touches like family photo cases near the entrances of their rooms brighten otherwise unremarkable hallways.
As research continues for this disease, more and more innovative ideas are uncovered that can help seniors with memory care issues and can help care givers of those individuals.