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Ask Jenny: Apartment living for parents Jenny Wallis | Thu, Nov 11 2010 02:34 PM

Dear Jenny, My mom needs to live in a community for memory care, but they all seem to offer shared apartments. I can't imagine mom living in a semi-private setting with a roommate at her age. Why is this so common? Is it just because it's less expensive?

Most assisted living communities providing memory care services offer both private and semi-private accommodations. This is common, not for the reason of cost as you may suspect, but because roommate pairing can be a very positive aspect of socialization for individuals with dementia. It is very easy to project our own desires and comfort levels when trying to select a senior care community for a loved one, especially for dementia needs, because often those individuals are not able to contribute to making the decision.

It's important to recognize that a person's attitudes, behaviors, and even preferences change as a result of dementia. Consequently, they may be far more receptive to a roommate now than they may have been in their younger adult years. As much as it may seem unlikely that someone would "want" a roommate at an older age, more frequently than not, persons suffering from dementia tend to show much stronger socialization signs when they have shared living space.

Appropriate roommate pairing provides a multitude of psycho-social benefits, ranging from coping with change and life's challenges to a greater sense of community. This also helps mitigate a potential sense of isolation and provides a familiar and consistent face during what could otherwise be a somewhat lonely and sometimes frightening experience initially because of so many changes.

The benefits of someone with dementia having a roommate have been well documented. Studies published in The Brown University Gero-Psych Report and the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias both outline an extensive array of social benefits of someone with dementia living in a shared apartment. The studies identified fewer instances of depression and a significant difference in health, spirit and energy of those living in a semi-private setting with a roommate.

And lastly, of course there is the added benefit of the cost savings. Providing quality care in a nice setting for people with dementia is an expensive undertaking. Not everyone has the financial resources to meet the strain dementia care places on the family budget. Semi-private apartments do offer some degree of cost savings, but that's simply a bonus to all the real underlying advantages of appropriate roommate pairing.

If you have questions about senior care or helping an elderly loved one, contact Jenny Wallis, Community Marketing Director at Villa Bonita Senior Living at (619)739-4400 or by e-mail at villabonitamkg2@islllc.com. Villa Bonita Senior Living is an Assisted Living Community licensed by the California Department of Social Services, located at 3434 Bonita Road, Chula Vista, CA 91910. You can also visit Villa Bonita online at www.villabonitaseniorliving.com.

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