alzheimer'sAsk The Expert: Memory Care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia

May Ehresman, Executive Director of Rittenhouse Senior Living of Indianapolis


Q: After much soul searching and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer care for my husband who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease approximately 2 years ago.

I thought making the decision to move him would be the hardest decision to make but now I am faced with trying to figure out where to move him to. Please help me – I have no idea how to chose a memory care unit … Sophia T.

A: Acceptance is the hardest decision anyone can make, especially when it is someone near and dear to your heart such as your mother, or father. Therefore, the harsh reality that you can no longer care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia makes the decision complicated. You are torn between what is socially accepted and your own emotions of guilt and anger. However, placement is only one of many decisions that will need to be made on behalf of your loved one. Once you’ve made the decision to move, choosing a living arrangement that meets the needs of your loved one is vital to their quality of life.  With that in mind, there are three primary areas to focus on when choosing a memory care unit.

The first focus of your attention is on the staffing of the memory care unit you are considering. It is important that the number of staff is adequate to meet the needs of those residents living within the unit. Individuals with Alzheimer’s/Dementia typically require more assistance with their personal care needs. In addition, it is also important to make sure the staff is specifically trained to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. The way in which a staff approaches or handles a resident with Alzheimer’s/Dementia can determine their mood for the entire day.

Programming for the unit is the next area to focus on when considering a memory care unit. Ideally, the memory care unit should employ a Program Director. The Program Director should possess a combination of Alzheimer’s/Dementia training and experience. The Program Director should be instrumental as an advocate for the residents and families to ensure the resident’s needs are being met socially, emotionally and physically.  The Program Director is also responsible for creating a calendar of programs and activities that will meet the needs of the residents living within the unit. Programming for the unit can consist of small group, large group (such as chair exercises, bingo or reminiscing) and one-on-one activities. For instance, if a female resident had been a housewife and exhibits an interest in taking care of the house a one-on-one activity can be scheduled for her to assist staff with the laundering and folding of her personal clothing. Appropriate programming is essential for the residents and an important consideration when choosing a memory care unit.

The last, but not least, consideration when choosing a memory care unit is the overall environment of the unit. It is important to make sure the unit is clean and well maintained. Observing the interactions between staff and residents, as well as the staff to staff interaction, is also essential to the overall cohesiveness of the unit.


May Ehresman, Executive Director of Rittenhouse Senior Living of Indianapolis, is a licensed healthcare administrator with 7 plus years in the healthcare industry. She also has a degree in law and a realtor license.

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