A smiling older adult couple stands outside and smile at the camera, their arms around each other.

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, they may currently live at home or in an assisted living community. As dementia progresses, it causes physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that may increase their care needs — a move to a dedicated memory care community could help your loved one live safely and receive the unique care they need. Here, you can learn the physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that may indicate your loved one’s needs can be met best at a memory care facility.

Physical issues that memory care facilities support

Some people with dementia suffer more from memory and judgment problems while maintaining physical function. But in most circumstances, someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will begin to struggle with the following physical changes, which can worsen over time:

  • Decreased mobility that can result in poor balance and falls.
  • Difficulty with dressing, bathing, and toileting.
  • Loss of appetite (often from forgetting to eat), which can cause weight loss and muscle tone loss. 
  • An increase in urinary tract infections, which can cause pain.
  • Eventual inability to walk without support.
  • Incontinence of bowel and bladder.

As physical changes worsen, caregiving duties increase, so the family can no longer provide enough assistance. Memory care communities employ staff members who can help residents perform physical movements safely — even fundamental activities of daily living, like getting dressed, which can become complex with decreased balance and muscle tone. Dietitians and nutritionists can help create a diet that best meets the residents’ needs to ensure they get proper nutrition and eat often enough.

Cognitive changes that memory care facilities support

Almost everyone with dementia experiences problems with cognition and memory, and other behavioral changes can be disturbing for families to experience. Memory care communities offer enhanced safety features and take measures to protect against the physical safety risks that arise when a person’s cognitive abilities are impaired.

These are some common cognition and memory problems that people with dementia face that pose a risk to themselves and that memory care communities can help with:

  • Memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion. People with dementia are at particular risk of exploitation. 
  • Difficulty speaking, understanding, and expressing thoughts.
  • Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood. Without a secure environment, someone with dementia can wander into the cold without proper clothing or get lost.
  • Decreased driving ability. They’re at risk of having an accident or getting lost.
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills. Someone else in the family may need to take over all financial transactions. 
  • Forgetting what happened minutes ago. Eventually, someone may forget who familiar family members are.
  • Taking longer to complete daily tasks.
  • Losing interest in normal daily activities or events.
  • Hallucinating or experiencing delusions or paranoia. Hallucinations and delusions can greatly upset those experiencing them and their family members.

Communities have trained staff experienced in helping residents during moments of confusion or agitation. The facilities are often equipped with safety features, like secured entrances and exits, hallway layouts that help prevent residents from getting lost if they wander, and outdoor areas that are gated courtyards with entrances that lead back into the building. Memory care communities can help meet the cognitive needs of their residents through a safe and secure environment and experienced staff members.

Emotional needs that memory care facilities meet

Social interaction and emotional well-being are important considerations of dementia. People with dementia often experience changes in their emotional stability and how they interact in social settings.

Some signs that your loved one’s social interaction and emotional well-being is being impacted might include

  • Withdrawal from others. They may not want to engage with friends or family members they had interacted with.
  • Increased agitation. They may demonstrate having less patience in conversations or interactions than they used to.
  • Increased anxiety. Your loved one’s behaviors may vary based on how they demonstrate their anxiety. They may appear nervous more often, cry, become emotional, or shut down.
  • Rapid mood changes.

These changes are often challenging, stressful, or unsafe for family caregivers to try managing at home. Without time and training on how to help an individual having these behaviors, they can worsen. The advantage of memory care is a ready-made social environment and specialized activities to stimulate and engage someone with interactions appropriate for their cognitive level.

What if your loved one is in assisted living or a nursing home?

While some assisted living communities and nursing homes can care for a person with dementia, specialized dementia programming is not always available. When their care needs increase beyond the services provided at the community, you may need to consider moving your loved one to a memory care community.

It is not unusual for families to consider assisted living or a nursing home for a loved one who is beginning to show signs of mild cognitive impairment. In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of nursing home residents have dementia. If you have a loved one in assisted living and their condition is worsening, talk with the staff about what behaviors would trigger a request to move to memory care. Examples of behaviors when assisted living or a nursing home may no longer be appropriate include

  • Verbally inappropriate outbursts.
  • Aggressive actions such as hitting or yelling.
  • Wandering outside the building.
  • Unable to eat independently.
  • Your loved one’s cognitive and emotional needs can’t be met through the community’s services.

Not everyone will choose a memory care facility for their loved one immediately, but this type of long-term care community can meet the unique needs of someone with dementia.