5 Signs It’s Time for Memory Care
It’s challenging to know when you should consider transitioning a relative or friend to a memory care community. Memory impairments such as dementia progress at different rates depending on the type and individual, and each family has different resources at their disposal for home care. That makes the right time for memory care a very personal question. When are you better off with a relative living at home and when do you need full-time support?
Regardless of your unique position, there are some key signs it’s time for memory care that apply across situations. Those signs typically revolve around security. When memory impairment symptoms put the safety and health of the individual at risk, it’s usually time to consider consistent, professional memory care services. However, there are other signs as well, including increasing caregiver and support network stress. You, your family and friends will all be better caregivers if you aren’t overwhelmed, something memory care can help with.
If you’re in the process of caring for someone with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, here are some of the top signs that memory care will benefit both you and your relative or friend.
Signs It’s Time for Memory Care
1. Wandering and “Sundowning”
Wandering and sundowning are both common symptoms of dementia. Approximately 60 percent of individuals with dementia wander. Many have wandering episodes where they unexpectedly leave the home and begin walking or driving for no reason. In most cases, family members who wander feel agitated and confused because they suddenly think they have to go to work, pick up a deceased relative or meet someone they haven’t talked to in years.
Individuals with sundowning will notice increased dementia symptoms in the late afternoon or evening, including confusion, agitation and wandering. Wandering and sundowning are similar behaviors causing late-day anxiety, restlessness and irritability in people with dementia. Factors that may promote wandering and sundowning include fatigue, impending darkness/low lighting and illness.
Recurring episodes of wandering and sundowning are indications your family member would be safer in a memory care community. Wandering can create dangerous situations for individuals who get lost and cannot find their way home. Sundowning can cause similar challenges while making it more difficult for caregivers to handle the situation without help. In a memory care community, professionals are available to assist both you and your relative. They can provide a secure environment where your relative is comfortable, less likely to wander or become confused and able to manage their symptoms.
2. Balance Problems and Frequent Falls
Have you started noticing bruises and scrapes on your relative’s arms or legs? If you ask them where the bruises came from and they tell you they don’t remember, it may be time to consider moving them into a memory care community. Dementia not only affects memory and cognition but also a person’s balance and ability to perceive depth. If an individual experiences bruises and scrapes due to changing abilities, it usually indicates a safety problem as they could more easily slip, fall and experience more severe injuries.
Watch carefully for this sign, as some individuals with dementia may try to hide cuts and bruises by wearing long shirts and pants, even when it is warm outside. This is usually because they know something is wrong but are frightened or ashamed to admit it. Chances are if you begin regularly seeing bruises emerge on a family member who doesn’t want to talk about them, they are probably stumbling or falling frequently in their home.
If your relative is hiding their injuries, broach the subject of memory care with them carefully, in a positive way. Memory care is designed to make individuals feel safe and supported, maximizing their abilities and improving their quality of life. Make sure those and other benefits are the focus of the conversation.
3. Inability to Live Independently
An inability to live independently can present in multiple ways. For example:
- Is your family member forgetting to take medications as prescribed?
- Have there been increasing mishaps with household appliances such as burning food, improperly using the microwave or forgetting to turn water faucets off?
- Are there stacks of unopened mail stashed in odd places throughout the home?
If you are increasingly dealing with these and other issues that indicate your relative isn’t performing everyday tasks effectively, it may be time to consider moving your family member into a memory care community. People with dementia frequently have these problems along with others that take longer to notice. They may forget to pay bills, for example, then have their utilities shut off. Since they don’t know they forgot to pay a bill they often don’t know why they have no electricity or water. Instead of telling you or other caregivers as soon as it happens, they may wait until you check on them because they are confused or ashamed. Like the other signs on this list, a lack of utilities or independent abilities is a safety issue that can impact their well-being.
4. Caregiving is Stressful and Overwhelming
People with dementia are often capable of living on their own in the early stages, but need a caregiver to visit them every few days to perform physically difficult household chores or to make sure they haven’t forgotten appointments. As the dementia progresses, support needs will increase. Caregivers may need to stop by every day instead of every two or three days. They may need to spend several hours a day with a family member, take them to doctor’s appointments, pharmacies and to the grocery if they can no longer drive. In addition to taking on more caregiver duties, friends and family members may have to deal with personality and behavioral changes that make it even more difficult to ensure your family member is receiving the care they need.
All of that is a lot to handle for any adult and, while rewarding, can quickly become overwhelming. Signs of caregiver burnout include constant fatigue, recurring illnesses and feeling resentful about being a caregiver because you simply don’t have the time or energy to address your own needs and the needs of your family. If you’re overwhelmed or burned out, you can’t properly care for yourself or your relative, so try not to reach that point. As you start feeling more stress, begin looking for memory care services. For your own health, don’t wait until you’re burned out.
5. Changes in Personality and Behavior
Individuals with dementia frequently become angry and aggressive for reasons others don’t always understand. They can be lucid one minute and start insulting you the next minute. Usually, aggressive behavior is not seen in dementia patients until the disease has advanced, but since dementia progresses at different rates for different people, your family member could start lashing out at any time, making it difficult for you to provide support.
However, changes in behavior do not always involve anger and aggression. Some people with dementia withdraw, become depressed or stop communicating with family members or friends. They may resist moving from a particular chair, only getting up when they need to use the bathroom or eat. They may even take to sleeping in this chair and neglect to bathe or change their clothes.
Services provided by a memory care community ensure that a family member with dementia is clean, receives nutritious meals and does not spend hours alone in front of the TV. It includes professionals who are familiar with the mood swings and aggression that can present in some individuals, which can make both the individual with dementia feel more comfortable and take the weight of caregiving off your shoulders.
What to Know About Memory Care Services
Memory care services are a powerful tool you can use to better support a relative or friend with dementia, as well as ensure you and other caregivers have the help you need. There are many memory care options available around the country that you can look into.
The Atrium at Boca Raton is one such option in Boca Raton, Florida. Our memory care community is warm and welcoming, with compassionate support and amenities and services that enhance residents’ lives. If you’re ready to learn more about transitioning a family member to memory care, please contact us today. We’ll connect you with memory care experts who can help you understand your options and our community.