There are many aspects to consider when it comes to memory care, especially in an assisted living setting. Treatment is not limited to medications alone. Rather, a holistic approach is necessary to effectively manage things like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The holistic approach includes consideration of the resident’s environment as part of the treatment plan since it plays such a large role in the effectiveness of any memory care program.

The environment should:

  • Be free from distractions as much as possible. In an assisted living community, the resident shouldn’t live on the ground floor or any floor that is too busy.
  • Have a beautiful (and safe) outdoor space. Gardens and other beautiful outdoor spaces and nature views can help memory care patients feel more in tune with the natural rhythms of day and night, which helps ease anxiety. Outdoor spaces should be secure in a discrete way to allow a feeling of freedom for the residents while keeping them safe.
  • Promote fewer injuries, less medications required, less sleep disturbances and less wandering.
  • Look like a home, not a facility. In an assisted living community, the resident’s living space should be cozy, comfortable, and look like a home rather than an institutionalized room. There should be a living room to visit with friends and family, a bathroom, dining area, and a bedroom. Privacy is important.

In any memory care program, wandering can be a particularly dangerous symptom. In order to prevent this dangerous habit without making residents feel trapped, the facility should be designed so that exit doors are well-placed and secured with a keypad lock and fencing in outdoor areas should be discreet.

Alzheimer’s has been known to destroy the brain’s cognitive maps of the environment, so it is important to involve the five senses in every setting. This means that every one of the senses should be getting the same message from each location that the resident has access to. For example, a shared kitchen and dining area should smell great, be busy, and be inviting.

It is paramount that each memory care resident feels comfortable in their environment. The typical “institutional” environment should be avoided at all costs to reduce anxiety.

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