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What’s Right For Mom? Assited Living vs Assisted Memory Care Communities

movingdayI’m excited, overwhelmed and hopeful that we will be able to move my mom who has dementia from her Assisted Living community to a community dedicated to Memory Care. My mom is in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). My parents bought in back in 1998 and had an apartment in Independent Living until two years ago when the community terminated their Independent Living agreement which forced them to move into Assisted Living. It was stressful but resulted in my parents being in the community better suited to their care needs. We had tried to get them to accept help so they could stay in their Independent Living apartment, but they refused and Assisted Living was the only safe option.

After my dad died, my mom became very combative and disruptive. Whether this was the disease process or how her grief presented, I’m not sure. However, last winter we were told that if my mom’s behavior didn’t improve, we would be getting a 30-day move out notice. To help keep her and the other residents safe, we were required to hire personal daily assistants (pda’s). My mom still would not accept help from others and the people following her around usually just frightened her and made her angry. I got several calls from lifelong friends in the community that my mom was really struggling with the people who were “following her” around.

We went through several pda’s, but one of them has been with my mom now for a year. She was able to gain my moms confidence by being patient and positive. While my mom still doesn’t know her name, she willingly allows her to help now. My mom ended up in a wheelchair after her steep decline. She just lost the strength/confidence she could walk. The wheelchair has forced my mom to accept help from others and most days she is gracious and accepting of the help to dress and toilet.

My mom has always been active and needs more stimulation. After I got the “move warning”, I started the search for a new community. I quickly realized that a place set up to help a variety of individuals with the activities of daily life (ADL) was not best-suited to serve someone with dementia.

The things I realized were different included:

  1. Menus – In an Assisted Living community, my mom is presented with a menu and asked to choose her meals. The act of choice was overwhelming for my mom so I have the pda’s select her foods based on her preferences and food is just offered to her.
  2. Personal Care – I have had to intervene to get my mom showered, her hair done as well as clean and clip her nails. These things are scheduled and occur on a regular basis so mom will be better “kempt.”
  3. Activities – The variety and regularity of activities are endless in a community dedicated to memory care. My mom’s community implemented a program from 9 a.m .until 3 p.m. that worked for a while, but as soon as 3:10 arrived, mom was bored and wondered what she should be doing.
  4. Acceptance – My mom will now be with other’s that are in a similar situation and she won’t feel the looks, hear the whispers or feel the judgement from those that don’t understand dementia.

There are quite a few other differences, but until I started looking, I didn’t realize how all of these small things would really help my mom continue to feel connected and useful. I recognize it now, and am looking forward to completing this move. Anticipated. 

3 comments on “What’s Right For Mom? Assited Living vs Assisted Memory Care Communities

  1. This type of a move is an adjustment for everyone: family and the family member moving into assisted/memory care. I sincerely hope your mother finds her new routine a comforting one as time goes by.

  2. My mother is also showing early signs of dementia and it is definitely a scary thing. I have been putting off considering assisted living facilities because I didn’t think that I would ever have to. I think it is the best thing though, putting her into the hands of people that know how to take care of her better than you can. I dread the day that I have to move my mom, but I know that it is the right thing to do. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • It’s tough. You may feel guilty but I hope you will also recognize that it’s a big job and getting help early will benefit you both. Setting up routines early can help mom keep her indepenedence and find meaning and purpose in her new community.

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