When to Transition Mom from Assisted Living to Memory Care

May 2, 2015

“I’m just having a senior moment” – most of us have heard mom or dad make that joke occasionally. But there’s a big difference between mom forgetting to add salt to a familiar recipe versus her not being able to follow the recipe sequence. When is a senior moment actually the sign of something more serious? And when is it time to consider that mom or dad may need to transition out of independent or assisted living and into a memory care community?

First, it’s helpful to revisit what defines memory care versus other residential programs. A memory care unit offers an individualized approach to dementia care that caters to the specific needs of each resident – sometimes within its own facility but often as part of a larger community setting – and one that provides a safe, structured environment staffed by those specifically trained in memory impairment. Memory care units offer residents help with bathing, grooming, and other daily tasks, as well as secured areas that allow safe movement without the risk of wandering off, and activity areas that are purposefully calming and uncluttered.

When considering the move to memory care, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is Dad safe where he’s living? If he has wandered off alone, left the stove unattended, suffered unexplained injuries – these are all potential red flags.
  • Is Mom’s world shrinking? Does she seem irritable and lonely at home, and yet acts erratically and when you try taking her out? Has she become fearful of driving to places she always enjoyed?
  • Is her physical condition worsening? Inexplicable weight gain or loss, mussed hair, difficulty moving around, body odor, ripped or soiled clothes – all of these are signs that need attention.
  • Do you see unopened bills, or even collection notices piling up? Losing track of finances is a classic sign of dementia for many seniors, as is being preyed upon by unscrupulous solicitors. Along with potentially relocating your parent, you should take an immediate look at recent bank statements if you suspect irregular payments or duplicate donations are being made.
  • Are you finding lots of duplicate items where they live? 5 bottles of dish soap or 3 bags of potatoes might indicate that Dad stocked up at the market, forget what he purchased, and headed out again. Worse, he may be developing the impulse to hoard items like old newspapers or plastic bags. An unwillingness to throw things away is also a common sign of dementia that should not be ignored.

If your parent is already in assisted living and you notice these signs, it’s almost certain that staff are already aware, and possibly considering more enhanced care options. Get with them right away, to hear their feedback and make a plan that insures mom or dad is safe and getting the proper care.

Want more information to help with your decision? Head to the Alzheimer’s Association website for a thorough look at memory care versus other residential options.