Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia-related conditions are a growing concern for all Americans. As a result, memory care is now one of the fastest growing segments of the healthcare industry. Overall, the number of memory care units on the market has increased by 52 percent since 2010, from 43,191 units to 65,594 units as of the second quarter of 2016, according to findings from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

While it is important for Life Plan Communities to meet the demand for memory care facilities, it is crucial not to lose sight of the care aspect in the process. The good news is that with an increased number of facilities comes not only increased competition, but increased innovation. Two major innovations seen in the memory care industry today are sensory stimulation and “wandering encouragement.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, stimulation of the senses has been proven to reduce behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions. Sensory stimulation uses everyday objects to arouse one or more of the five senses with the goal of evoking positive feelings. By drawing attention to a particular item, this type of interaction encourages memories and responses. Each facility has their own unique take on how to accomplish this. In Plymouth Harbor’s new Memory Care Residence, a specialized “sensory circle” will be placed in each of the two neighborhoods. These “circles” are designated areas that are set to encompass many different items for each individual resident, including objects they can directly interact with — for instance sand or seashells that bring back a fond memory of a trip to the beach.

“Wandering encouragement,” on the other hand, embraces the fact that six in 10 people with dementia will wander. Beyond built-in sensors throughout a building or apartment unit to track a resident’s movement, this technique focuses on allowing residents to move about freely in a safe environment. In addition to sensory circles, Plymouth Harbor’s new Memory Care Residence
addresses this in two ways: with an inviting, beautifully landscaped courtyard available for exploring in each of the two neighborhoods; and a designated group area located at one end of each neighborhood, fully equipped with a family room and dining room.

What really sets a memory care facility apart, however, is the critical component of staff training and development — establishing a standard of care and weaving it into every element of the design. With a continued reliance on our Positive Approach™ to Care (PAC) developed by Teepa Snow, and a plan for continuing education and community outreach, our new Memory Care Residence is on track to exceed the expected standard of care.