Time for Memory Care?

“How will I know when it’s time for memory care?” Hands down, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear. Here are the three questions I ask (and two tips I give) my private clients to help them figure out when it’s time for memory care.


What are you hoping for?

There’s no wrong answer here! Most folks think of memory care in terms of When is it time for memory care? rather than, Is memory care what we want to do?

So I ask this question to get over that hump, and also because so many people think that having a parent living with dementia automatically means certain things. Things like, all people living with dementia have behaviors [NOT TRUE!], medications are the only way to manage behaviors [WRONGY-DONGY!], and that a move into memory care at a certain point is a necessity [STILL NOT TRUE, and I can’t say that enough!].

Most families–after recovering from the shock of learning they have choices–tell me some version of “We’re hoping to care for her at home for as long as possible.” No matter your answer, once you figure out what you’re hoping for, then we can map out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be ultimately.


What are your deal-breakers?

This defines the “as long as possible” part of the equation. Most families have a really vague idea here. They say something like “when things reach a certain point,” then we’ll know it’s time for memory care.

But it’s important to be crystal-clear on what, specifically, that “certain point” is. Is it managing incontinent care? Or wandering? What about when he’s no longer able to transfer independently? When she’s opening the door to strangers? Or not able to be safely alone while you’re at work?

The answers are always unique to your specific situation, of course, but the main thing is to have an idea of what your deal-breaker is before it happens. Then, decide if you want to use in-home care or if it’s time for memory care. If you chose memory care, keep reading.


Write it all down.  

Once you’ve identified your deal-breaker, write it down. Date it. List all the reasons that your particular deal-breaker won’t work for your family. It could be you work full-time outside the home, or it could be your bad back. Lack of support is a serious concern, as are financial resources. Your deal-breaker could be any of a 100 things.

It may seem silly, but you’ll appreciate you did this when it’s time for memory care and you’re struggling through second-guessing yourself, defending yourself, and beating yourself up. (Yep, all that happens, I’m sorry to say). This is when you’ll go back and look at your list and remember why you’re doing this, and remind yourself that you made a rational decision before you were thrust in the midst of a crisis.


What are the facts?  

When we love someone, it can become amazingly easy to gloss over the facts with a Little Mary Sunshine spin. A positive attitude is always a good thing in life, but there’s a difference between attitude and objectivity.

If you find yourself repeatedly saying things like, “She was just having a bad day today” or “He doesn’t usually let strangers in the house” or “Well, that’s the only time that she’s melted a pot on the stove,” you’re making justifications and things can get out-of-control and/or dangerous very quickly.

Do you know the signs that it's time for professional help? Get the checklist here. And if you find it helpful, feel free to tell your friends about DementiaSherpa.com in a Facebook post 🙂


BONUS Tip: Get with a placement consultant.

This is, by far, one of the kindest things you will ever do for yourself when you decide it’s time for memory care. Working with a placement consultant means you have a professional on your squad who can narrow down the choices–and there are seemingly bazillions–specific to care needs, personality fit, finances, location, you name it. A placement consultant will do all the heavy lifting for you, AND walk you through the whole process.

It’s never too early to start working with one; they understand that you don’t necessarily need them right now, and actually encourage families to contact them before there’s an immediate need. In Oregon, go to OSRAA.com for a list of qualified professionals* ready to help you. Best of all? Most placement consultants don’t charge you a fee.

*Unfortunately, I know of at least one person out and about in the community right now who is using a single personal experience as the basis for claiming “expert” status not only as a placement consultant, but also as a dementia professional. Visit OSRAA.com to avoid unwittingly hiring this individual.

Not in the Oregon area? No problem. Just Google “[your city] + placement consultant”.

Next week’s topic is Moving Your Parent Into Memory Care: Insider Tips from A Former Memory Care Director.” I’ll share with you what to expect, how and when to talk to your parent about it, how to avoid getting into an argument over it, and what to do if your parent has a meltdown.


Christy Turner is the founder of DementiaSherpa.com (CTC Dementia Care Management) and has enjoyed the privilege of working with over 1,100 people living with dementia and their families. Follow on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Content varies across platforms.