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Learning about assisted living Jenny Wallis | Sat, Jul 07 2012 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny,
Is there a difference between Assisted Living and Dementia Care?  Can’t a person who has Dementia live in Assisted Living?  Isn’t it all the same thing?

These are very good questions and the answer is simple, sometimes.  I know that that is a very ambiguous answer, but I’ll explain.

Dementia Care is a special part within an Assisted Living Community.  Not all residents in Assisted Living communities have dementia. Dementia is an actual disease that is diagnosed by a physician.  It can not only affect the memory, it can affect the attention span, cause agitation, and even cause discomfort or pain. Sometimes the best way to relieve the pain is by walking or moving around, also known as wandering.

Residents at assisted living communities who do have dementia and do wander away from the community (the term is elopement) need to be in a secured area.  Some measures are: door alarms and extra window security.  Some may even have video surveillance in order to monitor residents prone to wandering the grounds

The non Dementia Part of Assisted Living is meant for seniors who are aware of their surroundings and don’t need any extra security measures taken.  They can come and go as they please, and in some cases are still their own primary care giver. Many Residents in Assisted Living do need assistance with activities of daily living, but do not have dementia. All residents need social interaction, social stimulation is important in Assisted Living as well as in dementia care. The only difference is that the dementia residents may require a much smaller grouping that has less stimulation.

Sometimes residents who have dementia have a hard time concentrating, they have very short attention spans.  And maybe an activity that is being offered to assisted living residents will not work for the resident who has dementia because they can’t follow the activity.  They lose train of thought after a short time.  So some of the activities offered to residents who have dementia can be the same kind of activities they just need to be much shorter.

The growing number of senior citizens, along with the fact that people are living longer means that there is a rise in age related dementia diseases. There is not only a large need for assisted living; there is also a large need for dementia care. It is important that whatever the care, the environment is home-like and comfortable.  It is equally as important that social needs are met as well as mental needs.  This accounts for the increase in professionally run communities.

Home-like does not mean safe, so if you are considering moving a loved one into an assisted living community it is a good idea to check the community and see if they do offer dementia care, in case your loved one needs it now or in the future.

The best thing to do is to make no decision yourself, ask the Assisted Living Director (usually a nurse) to perform an assessment on your loved one.  The assessment is based on what the physician has reported to the community, as well as what the family told the community, and what the Director of Assisted Living has learned of the resident.  That is the best way to determine if a person is more suitable for assisted living or memory care.

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.

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