Awakening the senses to help retrieve memories
Forgetfulness is very common. Who among us has not forgotten his or her car keys, entered a room only to forget what we went in for, or dialed a phone only to forget for the moment who we were calling?
It was also once thought that progressive memory loss was a “normal” sign of growing old – aging baby boomers have even come up with the catch phrase "senior moment." But memory loss is no laughing matter, nor is significant memory loss a normal sign of aging. In fact there are actually very few cognitive changes that accompany aging. As we age the speed at which we process information may slow, making it take a little more time to recall dates, places, names etc., however when no major diseases are present, memory and cognitive function may actually improve as we age. Progressive memory loss therefore could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or other forms of senior dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a condition of growing older; in fact the risk of developing AD actually goes down after the age of 90. AD currently affects more than 4 million Americans. Risk factors include age, heredity, gender, ethnicity and poor intellectual ability and difficulty with complex thinking. Women in general are at greater risk than men of developing AD.
Again, significant memory loss is not a normal sign of aging. If there is one cardinal rule when it comes to memory problems, if you (or a loved one) feel there is a problem – you need to be evaluated by your health care provider, sooner rather than later.
Memory care is the term for a long-term care option for patients who have been diagnosed with such conditions or have problems with at least two areas of daily living (ADLs). A memory care environment is designed for persons with a level of impairment making it unsafe for him or her to continue to stay at home, but who does not require the intensive care of a skilled nursing facility. Memory care allows a person experiencing memory loss to maintain a level of independence while relying on the safety and security of being in a residential facility with a professional staff.
Lory Bright-Long, MD, CMD, with the American Medical Directors Association said at its recent meeting, “There are only maybe five medications that have currently shown some promise of stemming memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. These people must maintain their activity, walking, interacting with music, art. We have to awaken the senses so that the memory can have a hook. This is accomplished in the memory care setting.”
Memory care communities are often incorporated as separate care units of assisted living communities. In memory care, memory-impaired residents have access to 24-hour support and programs that ensure their safety and quality of life. Typically, the residents live in private or semi-private units and have scheduled activities and programs designed to enhance memory, supervised by trained staff members. The residences are 100% secure with alarmed or locked areas to ensure no one wanders off. Usually within these secured areas, residents can enjoy indoor walking paths, or outdoor paths or gardens.
In memory care facilities common spaces are provided for socialization, meals and activities. The decor of memory care facilities varies, but most endeavor to achieve a home-like setting.