Perhaps you’ve seen them, idle and bored 'memory' care residents. If you study the calendar at a typical dementia care setting (adult day, assisted living, or nursing home) – it is possible to find a time of day in when there are no facilitated activities underway. Before and after meals, perhaps – a time period stretching an hour or more. The TV is on or music is playing. The day or evening shift staff members are doing a variety of chores, nurses are dispensing and recording medication doses – and residents are wandering or seated, in wheel chairs perhaps, or perhaps they are repeatedly approaching and deflected from exits.
What is the difference between good and great care? Perhaps someone you know has visited one of these units and does not know what to make of what they see. Is this a positive setting? Good enough? Does it meet the requirements set forth by the Alzheimer’s Association? Or perhaps a checklist is used by families to select an appropriate setting. This particular element is intriguing: "Are residents actively engaged in activities that are appropriate and/or interesting to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Are there opportunities for residents to contribute to the community (as appropriate), such as folding napkins, towels or clothing?"
Memory care is the best contributor to senior housing profit. Consider the senior housing industry -- one that is watching its move-in and average age of residents rise (87 and 89), one year each year. And memory care is the fastest growing and likely the most profitable segment of the senior housing sector. Prospective residents face a price boost of 42% from the assisted living average rate of $42,600 for assisted living up to an average of $57,000/year for assisted living with memory care. This cost can rise up to $1000/month more if the business is (entirely) specialized in memory care. For today, let's not dwell on who can afford this or why the average age is older each year.
So what are examples of memory care settings where residents are engaged? One of the more intriguing approaches to memory care I’ve heard about uses the Montessori method (as used in this link to a particular Toronto senior center) for engaging residents. I'm not sure that it so much combats dementia as it combats boredom, but certainly it is an approach that "relies heavily on the sensory environment." But further surfing around reveals that this method has been both widely studied and also that it is in use here and there -- although it does not appear to be an attribute you can use in customizing a search for care on search sites like Caring.com. My guess is that it is both costly to set up the physical environment and labor-intensive for staff to monitor and help residents engage. But are there possibilities in setting up large touch screens, including interactive video, as one or more of the individual stations in which residents engage? Thoughts?