A client is asking:
My 85-year-old dad has been healthy until now. He's beginning to shuffle which I know can be a sign of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. His younger brother has Alzheimer's and lives in a Memory Care Community. Dad hasn't been eating, he no longer drives and he lives in an isolated community near a mountain pass.
I want to know: What's the difference between assisted living and memory care?
In Washington State, assisted living communities, including memory care communities, are authorized by law to do heavier care than in most states. However, the level of care here varies. Here's what I mean:
Light to moderate care assisted living--These communities focus on activities and provide light care such as medication management, help with bathing and dressing, and cueing. Residents with dementia can live here as long as they have no behaviors which would potentially endanger themselves or others. No exit-seeking, wandering into other resident's apartments, or socially inappropriate behavior. In addition, these light to moderate care communities usually can't care for people who need a lot of help in the day or night. If a person has a diagnosis of dementia, they might need to move to memory care in another building later.
A building with both assisted living and memory care in the same building. This type of building has separate areas for assisted living and memory care. Alternately, there are two buildings--and two programs--side by side on the same property. The memory care residents have a program specially designed for their needs. It is a quieter setting with higher staffing than in assisted living. It is secure so residents can't leave the building. In memory care residents are able to receive care that includes feeding and behavior management. People often will move into the assisted living area and move to memory care when their dementia advances.
Stand-alone memory care communities--A resident in this type of community must have a dementia diagnosis. Generally residents have varying degrees of dementia. Some are pleasantly confused. Others have significant dementia. Like other memory communities, and many assisted living communities, residents can generally stay through end of life.
A little complicated? I sent this brief explanation with examples to my client so we can discuss which type of community he would prefer. Families have different priorities. Some absolutely don't want Dad to move twice. Others want a great fit now and if necessary will move Dad later. Touring several communities may help spotlight the one that works best.
What experience do you have with memory care? Has it been positive?