Dementia is an umbrella term that describes the group of brain diseases that cause a long-term decline in cognitive abilities, especially memory.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.  In 2005,Sandra Day O’Connor stepped down from the U.S. Supreme Court to help transition her husband to a care facility.  She described the disease as “dreadful” and had to suffer through watching her husband unable to recognize her and developing romantic relationships with other women in the care facility.

O’Connor’s experience is not unique.  Over 5 million people are living with some level of Alzheimer’s disease and many families tackle the same issues as O’Connor on a daily basis.  Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can be very difficult to care for and caregivers are turning to senior living and nursing facilities for support.  As the population ages the prevalence of these diseases increases as well.  Not surprisingly, there has been a 3.1% increase in memory care units over the past year and a half, a rate that exceeds the general growth rate of other segments of senior housing.

Cambridge Realty Capital has seen that facilities that develop strong programs of support for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can set themselves out in the marketplace and successfully attract new patients.  A Place for Mom, a website dedicated to matching families with appropriate senior housing and assisted living facilities, provides a memory care checklist that gives insight into what patients and their caregivers are looking for in facilities.

Safety and staffing, community, policies, and memory care treatments are the main categories on the checklist.  Among the questions posed, which facility staff members and administrators should be prepared to answer, include “How is the community secure?” “Is a nurse on duty 24 hours per day?”  “Do they group residents by cognitive level?” and “Do they offer music therapy?”

Of course, sometimes memory care units or programs make missteps; a recent article from Senior Housing Newspoints out a few so you can learn from the mistakes of others.  First, though there has been a trend towards standalone memory care facilities, the article warns there is no one size fits all approach and there remains debate over whether standalone is the best choice for patients.  For example, a patient in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may look for a facility that can grow with him or her.

While falls and other incidents often cause more harm to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients than the disease itself, facilities must be careful to strike a balance between safety and freedom.  While restrictive measures can give families a peace of mind, they can do the opposite for residents who can be left feeling like they are imprisoned rather than being cared for.  Similarly, a balance must be struck between design and functionality. For example, a beautiful view is great, but when a resident does not have access to go outdoors and enjoy the view firsthand, it can have a detrimental psychological impact.

Keeping up to date on senior living needs and trends can help your facility or housing project stay ahead of the curve.  So can working with an experienced niche financing company like Cambridge Realty Capital.  Contact us today.

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