Memory Care Versus Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?
Memory care is a specialized, very important type of community that can be a separate “neighborhood” within an assisted living community or an entirely separate community of its own.
When a senior is ready to move into a senior living community, he or she may be familiar with the popular term “assisted living.” However, there is a range of senior living options, depending on someone’s degree of independence versus the level of care they may need.
Let’s define our terms.
Is Living Independently Still Safe?
Today, with rapid advances in health care, we’re often able to stave off even severe medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease for quite some time. As a result, people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before in history.
However, aging catches up to us all eventually. At some point, even if a senior doesn’t have any major health issues, they may start to need a little help managing the activities of daily life, such as shopping, meal preparation, and getting around.
With rare exceptions, it’s usually wise for seniors to relinquish the car keys along the way, as hearing, vision and reflexes diminish. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), seniors outlive their ability to drive safely by an average of 7 to 10 years.
Assisted Living Was Designed to Be Different
These are a few of the reasons assisted living communities have exploded in popularity over the last few decades.
Although it may seem as though assisted living has been around for a long time, Keren Brown Wilson only originated the concept in 1983, after her mother had a stroke. At just 55, Wilson’s mother didn’t want to be in a nursing home for the rest of her life, and urged her daughter to find another alternative.
There wasn’t one. So Wilson set out to create it, with a model known as Park Place in Portland, Oregon. She called this pilot project a “living center with assistance.”
Profiled in the bestseller Being Mortal, by Harvard Medical School professor and practicing surgeon Atul Gawande, Wilson’s initial concept did not resemble what we now term “assisted living”.
Her project was a 112-unit apartment building where tenants could lock their doors, use their own kitchens and bathrooms, and even keep pets. The only differences from a regular apartment complex were an onsite nurse, call buttons in each unit for emergencies, and help with all the basics: food, personal care, and medication.
Although opponents of Wilson’s idea attacked the project as dangerous, the assisted living experiment proved to be an unqualified success.
Five years after move-in, the residents of Park Place had maintained their health status. Physical and cognitive functioning actually improved, life satisfaction had increased, depression had declined — and the government-subsidized cost was 20 percent lower than it would have been in a nursing home.
True Aging in Place
Clearly, independence with support enables older adults — even those with serious disabilities — to enjoy the quality of life right to the very end. This is why aging in place, within a community, is an ideal model for creating a rewarding senior living opportunity.
At Kensington Place, we embrace Wilson’s vision. Our residents are welcome to stay with us for as long as they want or need. We offer enhanced assisted living, which means we can capably serve residents who:
- Are frail, and/or wheelchair bound
- Require 2- or 3-person assistance
- Use oxygen
- Need hospice care
- Require pureed meals and special diets
- Need diabetes management and injections
Memory Care: When the Familiar Recedes
With age, it does become more difficult to access that word on the tip of your tongue, or the name of the young server at the restaurant you frequent. It can be frustrating to forget an item on your shopping list when you left the list itself at home.
These are normal, age-related memory loss issues, and while they can be challenging, they do not necessarily signal an underlying cause for concern.
However, when someone develops dementia, memory loss becomes pronounced. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 5.7 million Americans are now living with Alzheimer’s disease, a figure that is projected to reach 14 million by 2050.
How do you know whether a loved one is ready for memory care? Consider these symptoms:
- Inattention: Do they forget to turn off the stove?
- Disorientation: Do they get lost in familiar places, or find it impossible to follow directions?
- Activities of Daily Living (ADL skills): How well does he/she handle eating, dressing, bathing?
- Personality: Is your loved one suspicious of others, fearful of taking medications, or of eating certain foods?
- Medication: Does your loved forget to take their medications on schedule, mix up the dosage, and/or refuse to use an organizer/reminder device?
- Lacking Social appropriateness: Do they speak or act in ways that show a lack of good judgment?
- Repetitive: Does he or she repeat the same stories in a single conversation, or frequently forget/garble words?
Our Memory Care community at The Kensington Redwood City is unmatched. In addition to having the best caregiver-to-resident ratio in the area, we offer two distinct neighborhoods, depending on the level of memory care a resident requires:
- Connections, which serves residents in early to mid-stage dementia.
- Haven, for those in middle to late stage dementia.
Just as the evolution of assisted living changed the face of senior living for those who were formerly relegated to a nursing home, our premier memory care neighborhoods are cozy environments in which compassionate professionals accommodate each resident’s needs as they progress.
We look forward to welcoming your loved one to The Kensington, where their beloved pets are also always welcome.