Within the next 20 years, there will be an increased need for memory care housing options as the Baby Boomers continue to age. In 2016 alone, more than 2.5 million Baby Boomers turned 70 years old, the youngest boomers hitting age 52. With advancing age comes an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. Recent estimates state that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease could potentially triple from the 5 million sufferers in 2013 to around 14 million by the year 2050. By the year 1976, Alzheimer's disease was officially identified as the most common cause of dementia. In most cases in the past, 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 dementia sufferers. GPS tracking devices for those who are at risk of wandering, emergency response devices to detect warning signs of illness or a fall, and the use tablets to play brain games or keep in touch with distant relatives, technology makes 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 a high level.
Unique Housing Designs
While many senior living communities have a special area designated for those living with Alzheimer's or 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 seniors are encouraged to engage in conversation and develop friendships.
Colors and Patterns
Because people see more yellow as they get older, gray was often chosen as the common denominator for institutional living. Instead, using green or yellow paint enhances colors as visualized by seniors. Coral blended with a bit of yellow makes a nice combination and engages the senses.
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 caregivers of those individuals.
It is important to note that some memory care facilities that offer services like those described above are strictly private pay, meaning the senior must have sufficient income to pay the $5,000 to $10,000 monthly cost. Since many people have insufficient income and assets to pay for that type of care, if one is planning ahead, it is prudent to consider hybrid or asset based long-term care insurance to help pay for such care. As an elder law attorney, I help seniors and their families combine estate and longevity planning with trusts and different types of insurance arrangements to help avoid the devastating financial effects of long-term care.