Memory Care Facilities Support Residents as Well as Families

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Apr 10, 2018

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The story about Alzheimers disease, a powerful degenerative malady that shrinks brain cells, robbing its victims of their memories as well as their physical and mental abilities, isnt about the curethereisnt one. Its about the care.
Alzheimers shrivels brain cells, making its victims lose their short-term memory first, before their long-term memory goes. Alzheimers patients lose their cognition slowly, becoming unable to carry out simple tasks like dressing themselvesand using the bathroom. As the disease progresses, affecting more parts of the brain, patients are often left unableto talk, recognize friends and familyor recall how to feed themselves. Theyalso might become violent because their requests or fears are misunderstood.

When families care for a loved one with Alzheimers in their own home, they may encounter many unforeseen struggles. Thats where memory care facilities step in.

Choosing a Care Facility

Today, there are 220,000 Alzheimerspatients in Illinois, most of them older than 65 and most of them women, according to theAlzheimers Association. That number is projected to jump by more than 18percent during the next nine years.

There are nearly 100 Alzheimers care facilities in the greater Chicago area, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. So how do you choose one?

Families should visit the facilities in person and consider a number of factors, says Natalie McFarland, executive director ofTerra Vistain Oakbrook Terrace, which specializes in caring for Alzheimers residents.

In memory care facilities, staff members are specially trained to help people with dementia or Alzheimers. McFarland suggests that families ask about the facilitys approach to working with their loved one. Does the facility embrace person-centered care and look at the resident as a whole person, taking into consideration his or her life history, and incorporate it daily? she says.

Many facilities offer activities, suchas art and music, which are critical to keeping residents bodies and minds active. The Northbrook Inn Memory Care Community, for example, offers a modified stretching activity similar to tai chi, and residents are given iPods with music they enjoyed in the past, because music evokes memory, says executive director, Karolee Vandrush.

Belmont Villagesenior executive director Jeanne Hansen recommends that families look at facilities sooner rather than later so they dont have to make a hasty decision.

No two residents are the same, she says. Dementia, including Alzheimers, doesnt manifest itself in the same way or at the same speed for any two people. Families need to find the place thats right for them and their loved one.

Paying for It

Alzheimers care can alter retirement plans and the financing of those golden years. As a result, an Alzheimers patient may need many financial resources to cover the bills., a website tracking those charges, says that the average billin Illinois for someone in a memory care facility runs from $60,000 to nearly $90,000 annually. Yet some memory care facilities in the Chicago area bill more than $100,000 a year, depending on the carean Alzheimers resident requires. These facilities are usually private pay. Short of having the money set aside, how else can you pay these costs?

Long-term care insurance can be expensive, but when you think about what it can provide an Alzheimers patient at a skilled nursing facility for a considerable amount of time,

the benefit is vast, says Lori Martin, who sells long-term care insurance plans at Riverside-basedEnvisionBenefit Specialists.

Some long-term care plans have high annual premiums, but Martinsays that someone in their mid-50s can purchase a policy with good benefitsfor a $2,500 annual premium. The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurances website,,lists agents specializing in selling long-term care plans.

Providing Support for Families

In addition to assisting residents, memory care facilities can also provide support for families.

All forms of dementia, including Alzheimers, are very stigmatized, similar to depression, says Mary Ann Anichini, a nurse practitioner and executive with Evanston-basedPresbyterian Homes. Families have a hard time accepting it.

It is sometimes a shocking diagnosis for families, echoes neurologist Daniel Cacioppo, MD, ofNorthwest Community Healthcare. We tell them theyre not alone and provide them with information about support groups.

We provide comfort to the families by listening and talking, Hansen says. We cant make the disease better, but we can absolutely let our family members and residents know that theyre not walking the journey alone. Doug Page

Editoris Note: Excerpt reprinted with permission from Chicago Health magazine. Visit to read more or to subscribe to its bi-monthly e-newsletter.

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