Memory Care – Assisted Living for Seniors with Dementia
A special type of Assisted Living supports seniors with dementia. These communities, variously called Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care, and Dementia Care, support the special needs of those who have cognitive deficits – specifically problems with memory and problems processing information. On Long Island and in Queens, there are about 40 Assisted Living communities (facilities) in which people with Dementia can be safe and supported.
“Dementia” describes a condition – fundamentally it starts as a problem with short term memory, plus problems processing new information. It can progress, in a typical 10–15-year course, to a near complete shutdown of the ability to think, speak, and interact. It also can cause various physical problems, including losing the ability to walk and generally move under control. Dementia has several causes. The most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease. This is a degenerative disease – it causes slow, significant damage to the brain and eventually the body. Parkinson’s Disease is also associated with dementia, and in some cases the dementia most associated with Parkinson’s, which is called Lewy Body disease, can progress in a relatively rapid and unpredictable manner. In addition, when the brain becomes damaged by a disease process like Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, ambulation, speech, continence, and other daily functions are often affected. Keeping this eventuality in mind, most Memory units also spend a great deal of time on physical needs. The mind controls the central nervous system and hence the body, and Memory units typically assume that residents with dementia will eventually need a full and intense range of personal care services, too.
There are other types of dementia including Frontotemporal, Vascular, and Mixed Dementia. While there is no cure for dementia and these underlying conditions, there are drugs that, for some people, can slow progression. Lifestyle changes can also be supportive for some individuals.
Assisted Living and Dementia
As stated above, while we see the first changes in memory for a person with Dementia, the brain damage inherent in the process affects the body, too. Seniors with dementia need help, eventually, with most of the Activities of Daily Living, including walking, showering, and eating. Because Assisted Living communities are set up to help with these ADLs, they are a logical and supportive place to help people with Dementia. Many Long Island Assisted Living communities have special sections for people with Dementia, in fact. The communities care for the physical needs of people with Dementia, and they provide this care in a special, secured section of the Assisted community. The staff in these “Memory” areas of the building receive special training to support and comfort those with Dementia, while also meeting their ADLs. There are also several free-standing Dementia Assisted Living communities, including those managed by Artis Senior Living, The Bristal, and The W Group’s Harbor House.
Memory Care communities, whether free standing or part of a larger Assisted Living building, provide 24-hour supervision to those who need frequent redirecting or who may wander (leave the building looking for a place or person in their imagination). The professional caregivers are specially trained to deal with issues related to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The physical layout of the dementia unit or building is typically quite simple, allowing the person with dementia to walk about freely between activities if they wish. In dementia care, the goal of each day is quite straightforwardx – a peaceful, happy day. Activities are simple and are designed for the resident with dementia to be successful. They are encouraged to interact with the staff and each other, and residents are helped to reminisce, to find pleasant memories to call upon and enjoy.
Medicaid Funded Assisted Living for Dementia
New York Medicaid does not pay for Memory Care within the Medicaid funded Assisted Living communities, although seniors who are relatively early in the Dementia process can sometimes live, for a time, in a Medicaid funded Assisted Living community.
Private Pay Memory Care on Long Island
Supportive care for a senior with Dementia involves care for their physical needs, plus interacting with them in a specific and supportive manner appropriate to the disease. The cost in a private pay Long Island or Queens Assisted Living community for Dementia Care averages $9,000-$10,000 per month. Some communities charge an All-Inclusive fee for seniors with Dementia, while others charge on a “Rent + Care” basis. There are a couple less expensive options (facilities) appropriate for some seniors.
Homecare and Long-Term Care Options
Other options for seniors with Dementia include supportive care at home – commonly called homecare – and Long-Term Care in a Nursing Facility.
Homecare includes light housekeeping, medication administration, and personal care like bathing and dressing. On Long Island, homecare is $322-$38/hour. Multiplying out just 8 hours of care for 7 days a week, this comes up to about $100,000/year. Around the clock and Live-In aides are priced differently, but the cost would be more than $100,000 per year. Medicaid can provide some payment for homecare, although in New York it’s rare to receive approval for 24-hour care.
Long Term Care (Nursing Homes) on Long Island cost $15-$18,000 a month. Medicaid does pay for LTC facilities when the senior qualifies both medically and financially.
When Assisted Living Makes Sense for Seniors with Dementia
For most families facing a future with a senior living with Dementia realize that they are facing a long-term situation. Although everyone is different, people who develop Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can plan on a 10–15-year course, while those who develop other types of Dementia, like Lewy Body and Frontotemporal, will typically see a slightly shorter course. Of course, these time estimates are general, and some people progress more or less quickly. People with Alzheimer’s typically have a relatively orderly, steady decline, both physically and from a cognitive standpoint, while those with Lewy Body and Frontotemporal have a less predictable decline that might be described as a series of stairsteps. Most families turn to Assisted Living later in the disease when options for care in the home have been exhausted. At some point, a senior with Dementia and its often-associated physical problems will be just too much for many families to safely manage in the home. A very wise and experienced Dementia practitioner once commented that while Dementia is a terrible disease for the senior, it can also impact the lives of one or even two generations beyond the person experiencing the disease. Many families choose to ask an Assisted Living community to take on the physical and social care needed for their senior with Dementia, allowing them to visit and focus on simply interacting with their loved one.