Is my mom with dementia better off at home or in a memory care facility?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is 89 years old and has mid-moderate dementia. Is she better off living at home where her daily routine would be while awake watching tv and napping or in a Memory Care facility where the staff are trained to work with dementia patients and provide activities and a social setting that she would not get at home. Anyone who is experienced in having a parent at home and in a memory care facility please respond. Thank you.

Expert Answer

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

Most people with dementia do better in care facilities than at home. There are exceptions, of course. Some residential care homes provide around the clock care but activities consist of sitting in front of the TV. It is difficult to provide engaging activities with a very small group of residents. Their residents may be better there because their physical care needs are being managed by professional staff so their primary care giver is free to provide emotional support.

It is extremely difficult to keep a dementia patient at home through the entire course of the disease. The wake/sleep cycle is erratic and the need for supervision is constant. A primary caregivers wears out long before the disease ends. Most caregivers reach their limit in the moderate stage of the disease. When the caregiver is overwhelmed, it is well past time for a care community to provide round the clock care, so the primary caregiver can rest and re-charge.

In an good care facility, the dementia patients may actually improve slightly, or slow the progression of symptoms for a while. This is usually due to professional care combined with new activities every 1/2 hour.

The important thing is to preserve the health and energy of the primary caregiver, so this person can continue to provide love and attention, and meet the emotional needs of the patient.