Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 are referred to as the Baby Boomer generation, and they are in their retirement years. Together with rising numbers of people being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia, this places an increasing requirement on healthcare services that are tailored toward the elderly.
Residential care facilities for seniors are gearing up to rise to this challenge and assisted living jobs are evolving accordingly. An assisted living facility is a residential facility for adults or people with disabilities who are unable to live independently. Roles in assisted living facilities fall into three categories:
- Jobs common to all care homes
- Specialized functions of caring for people over 65
- Healthcare professionals trained in Memory Care
All three categories employ administrative assistants, secretaries, drivers, maintenance staff, nurses, nurse practitioners, activities directors, catering staff, clinical nutrition managers, care managers, medical directors, portering staff, and social workers. Care centers for seniors would seek specialized medical professionals, social workers, etc.
Assisted Living Facilities for Memory Care
By 2050, the number of people over 65 is projected to double, while the subset of that population with Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, could expand from 5.7 million to 14 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In order to meet a growing need, memory care providers are developing innovative solutions that engage the senses.
Multi-sensory Environment (MSE)
Also known as Snoezelen (pronounced ‘Snoo-za-len’) Therapy, MSEs engage and stimulate reactions, reduce agitation, anxiety, and inappropriate behavior, and promote communication. Snoezelen rooms allow memory care residents to manage their own therapy.
A Snoezelen room is like a private cocktail lounge, with colored lights, soft music, soft, tactile fabrics and, occasionally, smells. The daughter of one resident of a facility that used MSEs said it was like “having her old mother back.” An MSE room is generally used by one person at a time.
Some memory care providers operate sensory neighborhoods depending on a resident’s degree of dementia need. The sensory room, for example, is designed to users’ awake and engaged, rather than subdued and relaxed. Neighborhoods accommodate multiple individuals at one time. They rotate between different themes with varying sounds, sights, and smells.
Keeping couples together: The Bridge
In many cases, the memory care industry separates the patient from their loved ones. One company that runs care homes in Illinois and Florida has introduced The Bridge, a wing of the building that enables couples to stay together when one has dementia and the other does not. The wing is secured like a memory care unit but is open to non-dementia spouses as well. This approach reduces anxiety in the dementia patient, if not both spouses.
Grind Dining specializes in providing menus for those with neuro muscular, chewing, or cognitive disorders. It involves grinding carbohydrates and proteins in such a way as to make it possible to eat without utensils, while the food retains its natural texture and flavor.
Instead of bringing in ‘special’ food, such as fish sticks and applesauce, assisted living operators are able to present these clients with the meals containing the same ingredients as the other residents. All that is required is a simple food grinder.
Rather than being a dire situation that lays a burden on society, the increasing numbers of seniors are driving innovation. Not only does this make a healthier, more contented resident population, but it is more stimulating and rewarding for the professionals who deliver memory care.