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When Does Someone with Dementia Need Assisted Living and When Do They Need Memory Care?

The Alzheimer’s Association says there are three commonly defined stages of dementia — mild, moderate and severe. But if you have a loved one with dementia, you already know there’s no such thing as a common experience. Dementia doesn’t fit neatly into any stage, calendar or timeline. Even the symptoms and how they affect a person vary widely.

Because each individual experiences dementia in such different ways, it can be difficult to know when it’s time to move a loved one with dementia from Assisted Living to Memory Care. The information in this article can help you understand the condition and know when dementia care may be right for your loved one. 


What is dementia?

It’s helpful to understand that dementia isn’t a specific disease. Rather, it’s an umbrella term to describe a group of symptoms. It happens when once-healthy neurons in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. 

While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia have a far greater loss. And while one-third of all people 85 or older may have some form of dementia, it’s important to note dementia isn’t a normal part of aging.

According to The National Institute on Aging, signs and symptoms can vary depending on the type of dementia, and can include:

  • Memory loss, exhibiting poor judgment and confusion
  • Difficulty speaking, reading, writing, understanding, or expressing thoughts
  • Wandering or getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Repeating questions
  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
  • Hallucinating or experiencing delusions or paranoia
  • Acting impulsively

These symptoms may be very mild in the beginning — they may be easy for the person with dementia to hide, and difficult for their loved ones to detect. 


What are the stages of dementia?

As mentioned earlier, there are three commonly recognized dementia stages: early, moderate and severe.

Early or mild stage — In this stage, a person with dementia may experience memory lapses, such as forgetting words or the location of everyday objects. They may have issues with concentration or forget something they just read or saw. However, this person may still be able to live independently, drive on their own, work and socialize.

Middle or moderate stage — This is often the longest stage, lasting for several years. Individuals may become quickly frustrated or angry, due to their struggle to express themselves or complete everyday tasks. They may also have difficulty sleeping, begin wandering more often, or show confusion about the time of day. People in this stage will need an increasing level of care.

Late stage — People in this stage have generally lost their ability to communicate or express themselves. They’re typically unaware of their surroundings. They may exhibit personality changes or show a fading of their personality. They may not be able to walk, sit or swallow. Because of these reasons, they will need 24/7 help with daily activities and personal care.


What is Assisted Living and when is it appropriate for someone with dementia?

Assisted Living provides a safe environment for older adults who need assistance with activities of daily living. Those activities include things like bathing, grooming, eating, and using the toilet. Assisted Living residents are able to maintain as much independence as possible thanks to professional staff members; they also enjoy amenities and services such as meal preparation, housekeeping and laundry service, a calendar of community events, and much more.

Assisted Living may be ideal for someone with early-stage dementia who has shown some of the symptoms yet is still able to engage with others. However, some Assisted Living communities aren’t designed for, or don’t have staff trained to care for, residents with dementia.


What is Memory Care and when is it appropriate for someone with dementia?

Memory Care is specifically designed to be safe and secure, featuring highly trained, skilled staff members who know how to provide personalized care and attention. Often, Memory Care communities are innovatively designed to offer secure places for residents to safely wander; residents live in smaller “neighborhoods” that resemble a household model. Memory Care residents have access to many of the same services and amenities as they would in assisted living; they also enjoy specially designed activities that encourage socialization and a sense of belonging.

Because of its specialized staff and the physical design of the spaces, a Memory Care community is for people with mild-, moderate- and late-stage dementia. 


Where to find Memory Care in Culpeper, VA

At The Culpeper, we work with individuals, family members and caregivers, searching for the right balance of care. Our thoughtful layout and design reduce confusion and provide complete security around the clock. The Culpeper’s Cornerstone program provides residents with services designed for individuals whose life is changing due to memory loss and enables them to enjoy pleasant and peaceful days.

If you’re looking for Memory Care for a loved one with dementia, and you live in the Culpeper area, we invite you to learn more about The Culpeper. When you contact us, we’ll send you a free brochure telling you more about the distinct advantages of our Memory Care community.