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Dear Mindful Aging: Should I Really Move my Mother to Memory Care?

Dear Mindful Aging,

My Mom was recently diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Testing is still being done to determine how far along she is. She is frail (she needs help getting out of a chair/bed, bathing, using the toilet.) We have aides in her home 24/7. She also has yoga/tai chi 5 days a week. We do jigsaw puzzles and word searches with her. She does want to stay in her home as long as possible. I feel this is a safe/comfortable environment for her.

My sister has visited recently and is concerned that our mother would be better off in a memory care assisted living where professionals with more experience with dementia can help our mom.

Can you suggest any reason that a memory care assisted living would be better?

Thank you,

Wondering in Des Moines

Dear mindful aging

Dear Wondering in Des Moines,

Vascular dementia, as with any dementia diagnosis, brings an onslaught of change for the person and the family. Based on what you are describing, you and your family have created a living situation that addresses core needs for a person with advancing dementia: family involvement, 24/7 caregivers, activity and stimulation, exercise and a familiar surrounding. Well done! It sounds as though she has a full and safe environment in which to remain at home.

Many people would simply not have the funds or resources to create such a living space. The main reason people consider memory care is that the cost of in-home care begins to exceed what memory care would cost. 24/7 in home care is prohibitively expensive for most people. They don’t have the funds to support the kind of care that you are currently providing for your mother.

We would suggest that you and your sister talk more about her concerns. Without the details, we wonder if your sister is worried about how your mother and the family will be able to afford this care in an ongoing way. For example, she may handle the bills for your mother and understand that this current care is not financially sustainable?

With the 24 hour care that you are providing for her currently we would see no reason for her to go to a memory care community especially since her wish is to remain at home.

The reality, however, is that your mother’s condition could change or worsen.  Memory care may be something that you and your family may have to agree on in the future. It’s good to check out what is available in your area for a Plan B.

While we know that there are some good memory care programs, you do have to search for them.  Ask a trusted doctor or nurse, a friend whose parent is in care, the Alzheimer’s Association to connect to your state and local chapter, or your area’s Aging and Adult Services to help you get started. Some cities have a local care broker who can consider your mother’s specific situation and help you find a place with a good fit. (Unfortunately, there are also big national companies that will hound you to choose their franchise care homes.)

There are pros and cons to living in a group setting with memory care. The upside for some is more social contact and less isolation. Group activities and interaction with trained staff can provide stimulation designed to engage those with cognitive decline. The downside of memory care is that sometimes the mix of people in the community can be disturbing since there may be people that have more severe dementia mixed in with people who have moderate symptoms. That can be frightening and demoralizing for someone who still has greater self awareness and abilities.

Again, the environment that you have in your mother’s current home checks off a lot of boxes. Should the need arise to move to group care, you know to look for those lifestyle and care options.

With best wishes,

Mindful Aging

Dear mindful aging

We invite you to write us with your questions. We are professional experts, but we are only offering general advice. In other words, we want to be helpful, but we cannot be responsible for choices you make based on our advice. At your request, we will change personal details to protect your privacy.

Watch for future columns that start with Dear Mindful Aging. We welcome your feedback and if you have had similar problems and found good solutions, please share and we will add to the post!

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