Six Frequently Asked Questions about Memory Care, Answered by Our Experts

Six Frequently Asked Questions about Memory Care, Answered by Our Experts

April 21, 2015

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When a senior faces the challenges of memory loss, families often have questions about how to best care for their loved one. With 25 total years of experience, Becki Hoyt and Justin Ha have helped countless families through the process of finding memory care. Becki Hoyt, RN, is the Director of Heathcare Services at The Courtyard at Cristwood and has worked for CRISTA Senior Living for 17 years. Justin Ha, RN, is the Memory Care Supervisor of Poplar Place at The Courtyard. He has worked as an RN for 8 years, and for CRISTA Senior Living for 4 years.

For Becki and Justin, working at The Courtyard at Cristwood integrates their clinical expertise, their personal faith, and their desire to serve seniors and their families. Here, they answer the most frequently asked questions about memory care from family members.

What is Poplar Place like? What would living there be like for my mom?

Poplar Place is our assisted living memory care neighborhood, designed for mild to moderate memory care needs. It’s a small, homelike setting with 16 residents, featuring a semi-secured design for residents who wander. The focus on creating a strong sense of community helps establish friendships among the residents, as well as relationships with staff. The neighborhood really feels like family. Therapeutic baking, music, exercise, art and activities integrated with all of The Courtyard residents are part of living in Poplar Place. Most importantly, the interactions and activities are designed for those with memory care needs, so the expectations are comfortable for residents to thrive.

What’s the difference between wandering and exit seeking?

Those two terms come up frequently when people start researching memory care options. Wandering is unintentional; a senior may see a door and decide to go through it, or perhaps they wander outside simply because the sun is shining. Exit seeking is when memory loss causes an intentional effort to leave. A senior may think that they have to go to work, or not recognize their surroundings and think that they need to find “home”. Poplar Place is designed for residents who wander, but as memory loss progresses, a fully secure memory care neighborhood is also available at Cristwood Rehabilitation & Skilled Care.

My dad is becoming forgetful, but I’m not sure if he needs memory care. How do I figure out what would be best for him?

When looking at options for memory care, get to know the caregiving staff. Ask them your questions, and do your research to learn about their experience and expertise. It’s normal for families to have difficulty assessing their parent’s needs, as the process can be very emotional. It’s important to find a community that you trust to take the best care of your family member. When staff have been trained in dementia care, they are better able to assess and serve the needs of residents.

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How have you seen memory care positively impact residents and their families?

When families try to care for a loved one with memory care needs on their own, it can be a lot of work and take a toll on families. Often they have to juggle a lot of other commitments along with caring for their parent. So often we see that after someone comes to Poplar Place, their son or daughter is once again able to enjoy spending time with their parent without the added stress of being the caregiver. We get a lot of letters from families thanking us for caring for their mom or dad and providing them with peace of mind.

How is the care different in a memory care neighborhood from traditional assisted living?

Memory care neighborhoods offer both more structure and more flexibility. A highly structured schedule with ongoing supervision provides the best care and a sense of community, but it’s done with the flexibility of accommodating to how each resident is feeling at the moment. This creates a calm and relaxed atmosphere.

Our staff are specifically trained in dementia care, and the caregiver to resident ratio is 1:8. In traditional assisted living, the ratio is 1:16. All of the activities are geared toward memory loss, and the homelike setting is incorporated into every part of life.

How do I choose the right memory care setting? What questions should I ask?

One of the biggest factors is how the community aligns with your personal values. A great caregiving staff is important, but it’s also important that the community atmosphere feels like home for the resident. At Poplar Place, the desire to be in a faith-based community is an important value for many of our residents and their families. As memory loss progresses, we have residents that may not remember names and experiences, but they remember that they love the Lord. For these residents, singing familiar hymns or reading familiar stories from the Bible can be incredibly therapeutic.