5 Signs It’s Time For Memory Care

It’s challenging to know when you should transition a family member to a memory care community. Memory impairments such as dementia progress at different rates depending on the individual and each family has different resources at their disposal for home care. That makes the right time for memory care a very personal decision.

Regardless, there are some key signs it’s time for memory care. These 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 stress.

If you care for someone with dementia, here are some of the top signs that memory care will benefit both you and your family member.

5 Signs It’s Time for Memory Care

1. Wandering and “Sundowning”
Wandering and sundowning are both common symptoms of dementia. Approximately 60% 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 may be better off in a memory care community where staff have safety in mind. 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 family member. They can try to provide a secure place where your family member is comfortable and less likely to wander or become confused.

2. Balance Problems and Frequent Falls
Have you started noticing bruises and scrapes on your family member’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 affects not only 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 and fall.
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. If you begin regularly seeing bruises on a family member who doesn’t want to talk about them, they are probably stumbling or frequently falling in their home.

If your family member is hiding their injuries, broach the subject of memory care with them carefully and 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.v

3. Inability to Live Independently
An inability to live independently can present in multiple ways. For example:

  • Does your family member forget 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 your family member isn’t performing everyday tasks effectively, it may be time to consider a memory care community. People with dementia frequently 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 dementia progresses, support needs will increase. Caregivers may need to stop by every day. They may need to spend several hours a day with a family member, taking them to doctor’s appointments, pharmacies and to the grocery store if they can no longer drive. In addition to taking on more caregiver duties, family members may have to deal with personality and behavioral changes that make caregiving even more difficult.

All of that is a lot for any adult to handle. 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. If you’re overwhelmed, you can’t properly care for yourself or your family member. As you start feeling more stressed, begin looking for memory care services.

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. 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 altogether. 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 can help to ensure that a family member with dementia is clean, receives nutritious meals and does not spend hours alone in front of the TV. A memory care community is staffed with professionals who are experienced in navigating the symptoms of dementia. As such, these communities provide immense peace of mind for caregivers.

In Summary

It can be challenging to determine the best time to transition to senior living. However, there are some tell-tale signs that sooner may be better than later. If your family member is seeking more social interaction or struggling to manage their medications, moving to a memory care community could improve their life for the better.