Over the past decade, memory care centers have exploded onto the scene to meet the growing demand for senior care services that specifically address Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. And as they continue to grow, the patient experience becomes more important than ever before.
The Troubling Rise of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
The number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is growing by the year. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are currently an estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older living with either Alzheimer’s or dementia, with 72 percent of them over the age of 75.
When you peel back the layers and look at the raw data, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that we’re dealing with a serious national health crisis. One in nine people over the age of 65 have some form of Alzheimer’s dementia.
By 2050, it’s estimated that more than 12.7 million Americans will suffer from this debilitating disease. That’s an expected growth of 204 percent over the next three decades.
There are no known medical breakthroughs or proven preventative methods at this stage of research. However, we are seeing a swift response from the long-term care industry to provide helpful and comprehensive care solutions that are designed to help patients and their loved ones face this challenging issue.
In particular, memory care centers are stepping up their level of care to provide the one thing where they have total control: patient experience.
Memory Care Centers Putting an Emphasis on Patient Experience
The surge in Alzheimer’s cases has led to an increased emphasis on memory care centers and other specialized care centers. And, for the time being, the industry is doing a decent job of meeting that demand.
“In the past year and a half, the supply of memory care units has increased by 3.1%, far outpacing growth rates in other senior housing property types,” SeniorHousingNews.com notes. “Because of this influx, overall occupancy has dropped across memory care facilities, bringing vacancy levels up to 9.3%.”
These increased vacancy levels are good news for patients and their loved ones (meaning there’s ample room and plenty of choices). And from a care provider perspective, it’s forcing them to step up their efforts and implement top-notch design techniques and services.
Here are a few of the top trends and developments:
- Unique amenities. Facilities like MorningStar Memory Care at Bear Creek in Colorado Springs offer exceptional services and amenities for those with mild to advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This includes high-end services like salons, spa baths, massage rooms, fitness centers, and even sensory rooms.
- Strategic designs. Individuals with dementia are known to be frustrated by dead ends and may experience tunnel vision when there’s a long, straight corridor. At some memory care centers, architects and managers have intentionally designed hallways to prevent the appearance of frustrating dead ends. Simple tweaks like off-center photos, alcoves, and sitting areas provide visual encouragement and create the illusion of winding corridors (rather than straight paths).
- Throwback elements. In some memory care centers, rooms and hallways are thematically designed to help seniors relive the “good old days,” which is known to keep them happy and engaged. From retro barbershops and throwback interior designs to antiques and oldies music, everything is designed to trigger positive recollections and stimulate chatter among residents.
- High-tech solutions. Many memory care centers are now integrating advanced, user-friendly technology into their facilities to further enhance the patient experience. From communication tools (like Zoom and Skype) to smart home automation (like smart lighting and thermostats), convenience and comfort are now top priorities.
While every memory care center is unique and has its own specific elements, designs, and amenities, it’s encouraging to see the growth and development in the industry. Moving forward, this type of innovation will continue to become more sophisticated.
Adding it All Up
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths have increased by a whopping 16 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia (making it more deadly than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined).
While the biggest focus in the healthcare industry is on preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, no reliable cure has been found. Until then, it’s up to memory care centers to continue providing first-class services and positive patient experiences. At the moment, the industry is living up to that expectation.