When someone suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other form of memory impairment, it takes a community of people to care for them. If you are a family member who is caring for your loved one who suffers from cognitive impairment, you may already know that you wear too many hats to keep track of, many more than you ever did raising children even! When people think about careers in memory care, many people think of the nurses and caretakers who perform the routine care tasks, but there are so many more people who are involved in the care of the memory impaired. If you are interested in a career in memory care, but never considered it because you aren’t a nurse or a nursing assistant, take a look at all the options before counting it out!
Each person who suffers from a condition or disease that causes memory impairment should have a regular medical provider to monitor progression of disease and alter treatments based on changing condition. While memory impairment itself is not a condition that warrants regular medical intervention, it does cause other complications that should be addressed promptly.
Whether the nurse makes home visits or the memory impaired person is a patient at a memory care facility, there will be a nurse who is the primary facilitator of the patient’s care. A nurse’s main role for the memory impaired patient is assessment, tending to medical needs, and coordinating multidisciplinary care. Assessments are important to recognize the cognitive decline, addressing safety concerns, checking for skin breakdown or injuries, and identifying the potential for worsening medical condition caused by nutrition issues, hygiene concerns, and immobility. Medical needs should be attended to prevent worsening conditions and includes medication administration, dressing changes, and monitoring weight, vital signs, and input and output. When concerns are identified, the nurse should communicate and coordinate the concerns to the multidisciplinary team to modify care plans.
The certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, or caretaker performs most of the day to day care for the memory impaired patient. This includes assisting with personal hygiene, toileting, eating, and help navigate the activities of daily living. Personal care aids help redirect the confused patient and ensure safety with walking and other activities.
Those who are memory impaired still need active stimulation! Activities directors and assistants plan activities that cater to the limitations and handicaps of the memory impaired. Activities that are great for the memory impaired include art, low-impact exercise classes, music and theater, tactile exploration, and guided activities. As you can imagine, anyone who has a skill to share can be of use with patients! There is no need to have a medical background to help a group of dementia patients paint a birdhouse!
Housekeepers conduct some of the most consistent and important work for the memory impaired patient. Oftentimes, one of the first signs of dementia is a change in personal care and hygiene. A change in memory and cognition will alter the way a person is capable of caring for themselves and the area around them. Keeping a tidy space is not only a way to make someone more comfortable, but also contributes to safety. Keeping a clean home helps to prevent falls, illness, and isolation. Housekeepers perform a variety of tasks from laundry to full sanitation.
Social workers do not perform direct patient care but are involved in coordinating all the care that patients need and how to fund the care. Social workers also act as an additional advocate both for the patient and their families. Social workers can help address the legal and financial aspects of care, while also ensuring that the medical team is properly caring for the memory impaired patient who cannot advocate for themselves.
Not all people who suffer from memory impairment require the same therapies, but most memory care facilities staff all types of therapists to address different needs. Physical therapists can help build the strength of the patient who has some physical limitation or to help with general exercise as memory impairment tends to lead to a more sedentary lifestyle than a patient may have previously been used to. Occupational therapists help with tactile tasks such as hygiene and self-feeding. Speech therapists are often very important as cognitive decline progresses and speaking and swallowing become an issue. Speech therapists can help bridge the communication gap between the patient and those they love as well as make recommendations to the medical and kitchen staff about what is safe for the patient to consume.
The importance of kitchen staff cannot be underestimated! Another service that does not have direct patient care, but makes a huge difference in the quality of life for the memory impaired patient. Those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease require good nutrition and variety in meals, even if they cannot remember what they ate yesterday! Kitchen staff is responsible for providing three nutritious meals that meet the speech therapist’s requirements a day, plus snacks and beverages.
Volunteers are important to boost the morale and provide “cherry on top” care including talking to the patients, painting their nails, bringing pets or babies to play, or even take the memory impaired patient on a walk or provide some form of entertainment. While the volunteer may not be able to help with the official plan of care, everyone loves visitors and extra attention!
The important thing to take away is that if you have thought about a career in memory care, do not discount it because you do not have a medical degree! It takes a village to care for those who are losing their memory and there is a place for everyone who has a desire to help. At Serenity Gardens Memory Care Assisted Living, we will help train the right person in memory care, so direct experience is not necessary — only the desire to care for others. If you are interested in a job in memory care, apply online, call us, or stop by one of our many Texas campuses in Friendswood, Dickinson, or Galveston today!