Where Should You Live When Living With Memory Loss?

Many families think that home and familiar surroundings will be the best place for their loved one facing a memory loss illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, in my experience, people with memory loss, including mild cognitive impairment, do much better with constant companionship, stimulating programs, and structured activities throughout the day and evening.

For those with dementia, living at home alone or even with loving family members can feel isolating or confusing. More to the point, they aren't necessarily receiving treatment to address difficult behaviors and the anxiety and fears associated with cognitive decline. The best treatment programs are not medication-based, but rather social treatment programs that aim to reduce the symptoms of the memory loss causing illness, therefore offering a more positive enriching environment that is focused on the person’s remaining abilities. So how do you know if your spouse, parent, or other loved one could benefit from such an environment?

Do You See a Decline in Your Parent's Social Life?

  • Does your parent interact in a socially appropriate manner for light conversation, and yet if the conversation becomes more complex, they do not follow or respond appropriately?
  • Does your parent make excuses why they don’t get together with friends or engage in social events or church activities?
  • Does your parent forget your recent visits or calls?
  • If you have one parent you are worried about, does the other often answer for them?
  • Is your loved one withdrawn, fearful, lonely, bored, or agitated?
  • Do they deny problems or refuse to discuss the situation, even though you may have answered “yes” to several of the questions above?


What About Home Maintenance and Cooking?

  • Is your parent able to handle house and yard work? Is laundry piling up?
  • Are bills falling behind? Is old mail piling up? Increased clutter?
  • Is there expired food in the fridge?
  • Is your parent still shopping and cooking?
  • Do you worry about your parent’s safety when cooking alone?


Are You Worried about Personal Care and Safety?

  • Can your loved one shower without help?
  • Is your parent able to schedule and remember medical appointments?
  • Can they explain and follow through with their doctor's recommendations?
  • Is your parent forgetting to take their medications?
  • Have you questioned if your loved one should still be driving?
  • Has there been a crisis situation such as a hospitalization or an episode of wandering away from home and not remembering how to get back?

If you answered “yes” to four or more of the questions above, this could indicate a decrease in daily functioning abilities and judgment, a loss of executive functioning and/or of working memory -- clear signs of memory loss. It may be time to consider a move. I've worked with many families who have faced this decision. It can be difficult and fraught with anxiety and guilt. But when families see positive changes and a happier sense of well-being in their loved one, they know they made the right move.

Compass on the Bay is a Memory Support Assisted Living community located in South Boston. For more information on the community, or its enriching social programming and Brain Healthy Cooking program, visit www.CompassontheBay.com or call 617-268-5450.

19 Apr 2021

By Jenna Petrenko, Executive Director of Compass on the Bay