The statistics aren’t kind: According to a March 2023 World Health Organization report, dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death and a major cause of disability and dependency among older adults. Nearly 10 million new cases are reported each year.
Inevitably, some residents of independent and assisted living communities will have to move to a memory care community.
A decline in health is one of the most obvious signs that it may be time for that move. Dementia can manifest itself in a loss of appetite, anxiety and depression, or aggressive behavior. But often the signs will be more subtle. An afflicted person may have a loss of interest in the things that once brought them pleasure. Or they’ve suddenly become prone to misplacing their keys or wallet. Wandering and disorientation are also signs.
The team at the assisted living community at Ovation Heartwood Preserve in Omaha are poised to assist. Employees are also in the best position to recommend a move to the memory care community on the same Omaha campus.
“It should never be a surprise,” cautions Collette Mieres, executive director of assisted living at Ovation Heartwood Preserve. “The family must be included in the care process and be made aware of changes in their loved one’s behavior.”
Long before any decision is reached, however, Mieres recommends that families go on tours of the senior living community and ask these key questions.
- What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- What medical services are offered?
- Does the community provide hospice care?
- How about services for physical and occupational therapy?
- What about policies and fees for these and other services?
- What training do employees receive in Alzheimer’s and dementia care?
Mieres communicates with families on an ongoing basis. When the resident’s care team sees it’s time to move to memory care, team members meet with the family to explain why they’re suggesting the move, for example “when we notice cognitive decline — that residents can’t remember how to order a meal or they’re wandering around assisted living looking for their apartment,” Mieres said.
Once in memory care at Ovation Heartwood Preserve, residents have access to on-site nurses 24 hours a day, physical and occupational therapists who provide memory-enhancing activities, and bathing and medication assistance as needed. Additionally, a local doctor and nurse practitioner come to the community to see patients once a week. All memory care employees undergo intensive Alzheimer’s and dementia practitioner training.