Archive for the ‘Memory Care’ Category

Poetry Program Empowers Participants with Dementia


<Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.

Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.


The thought of elders with dementia drafting poems may be difficult to imagine. However, for one woman who lost both of her parents to Alzheimer’s disease, turning dementia patients into poets has become her passion.

“When caring for my parents, I was like so many caretakers who are focused on whether their loved one is taking their medicine correctly, eating properly, staying clean and kept safe, but it never occurred to me at the time about what I could have been doing for them that was stimulating, intellectual, creative, and allowed them to feel good about themselves,” says Molly Middleton Meyer.

While attending graduate school for creative writing, Meyer’s mother passed away.

“People would ask what I was going to do with my master’s degree, and the truth is I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to give back something that I couldn’t give my parents,” she says. “I kept envisioning all the faces in memory care who I had come across while visiting my mother, and so many seemed stagnant.”

Meyer began researching art therapy as it relates to people with dementia. So began the makings of Mind’s Eye Poetry.

“I knew music was able to trigger memory and calm people, but I thought it wasn’t very intellectually stimulating. I wanted to give those with memory loss the ability to contribute, not just put headphones on and sink into themselves, but actually communicate with their fellow memory care residents, as well as possibly learn something,” she says.

Mind’s Eye Poetry’s mission is to engage elders in the writing process through guided hour-long sessions led by Meyer. She held her first poetry writing session in 2013 at an assisted living community in Dallas, Texas. Years later, she’s helped hundreds of people with dementia living in assisted living communities and nursing homes write more than 800 poems collectively.

A Typical Session

The poetry sessions are a unique break from the typical day in assisted living communities. Meyer begins by asking participants to think about a particular topic. “I may say, ‘Let’s talk about the ocean’, and see where it goes,” she says. “They’re so used to being talked to about routine mundane things like eating and changing that it’s out of the ordinary for them to have someone ask them to think about other things. Even the word ‘ocean’ will light up their faces and get the wheels turning.”

Meyer brings a bag of props, too. For instance, she may pull out a scarf and ask the elders to share how it relates to the ocean. “Someone may say ‘wind’ and then I’ll ask, ‘How does the wind feel by the ocean?’ All the sudden we’re into a sensory realm. I’ll get answers like ‘it smells like ice cream on the beach’ or ‘I can hear children laughing,'” she says.

Part of the program includes reading poems related to the topic aloud.

“It’s scientifically proven that when people listen to poetry their brain reacts in a different way than if they just listen to someone talk, so I like them to hear the symbolism and metaphors, and even if they don’t really understand it all, their brains are hearing different language than they normally do day to day,” she says.

Meyer asks participants a variety of open-ended questions. From their responses, she creates short poems that she reads back to them.

“This is when the whole empowerment piece comes into play, which is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve given to people. When I read the poems back to them that they helped contribute to there are physical indications that they’re feeling empowered. They sit up straighter, lean in, talk to each other,” she says.

Each group creates three or more poems, depending on the stage of their dementia. Afterwards, Meyer types out their work and sends it to the communities. “The poems have a life that goes beyond the session. I’ve seen some places make scrap books or frame them so the elders can share them with family.”

Meyer says that while the finished poems are phenomenal, the process is just as rewarding.

“It’s really about getting people to relate, think and be empowered, as well as add joy to their day,” she says.

Get Poetic with Your Loved One

If your loved one’s assisted living facility doesn’t offer this type of program or they still live on their own or with you, Meyer says you can help them get the creative juices flowing.

“You don’t have to be a poet. You just have to ask open-ended questions and care about elevating a conversation,” she says.

After asking the typical questions about taking medication, eating and sleeping, Meyer suggests asking more engaging question like “What’s your favorite flower?”

“Maybe your parent says, ‘A yellow rose.’ Then you can ask, ‘Why yellow?’ All the sudden you have something to write down,” she says.

Another way to engage your loved one is to show them items from their home such as a quilt, picture, or piece of art. “Have them look at it, touch it and smell it, and ask what they think about when they do so, then start writing and read it back to them,” she says.

While this may be a change of a mindset for you, Meyer says, “try to get off the caregiver road and just be with your parent.”

If your loved one doesn’t want to participate, Meyer suggests telling them you want to hear more about them and how they feel, or try again another time.

“It’s okay if you only get a few lines the first time,” says Meyer. “The point is that you’re allowing them to engage in a way that gets them away from the day to day of living with dementia.”


7 Common Myths About Alzheimer’s Disease

It's time to dispel the myths about Alzheimer's disease.

It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Learning that a loved one has Alzheimer’s can bring up countless questions. With a bombardment of information easily accessible online, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. The following are some common myths surrounding the disease.

Myth 1: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Are One in the Same

Dementia is an umbrella term for progressive and disabling cognitive decline. Everybody with Alzheimer’s disease has dementia, but there are many different kinds of dementia. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Sometimes people are upset when they hear Alzheimer’s disease, and for some reason less upset when they’re told it’s dementia. Everybody with Alzheimer’s has dementia, and in fact, most older adults with dementia have Alzheimer’s,” said neurologist Riley McCarten, MD, medical director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Gary Kennedy, MD, geriatric psychiatrist at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York said to think of it this way: “Alzheimer’s is to dementia as leukemia is to cancer.”

Myth 2: Everyone Gets Alzheimer’s Eventually

While Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related illness, it’s not inevitable for everyone. “If you live well into your 80s or 90s, about half of the population has some signs of dementia, but there’s also half that don’t. Dementia is always caused by disease. It’s not healthy aging,” said McCarten.

Myth 3: Alzheimer’s Comes on Strong

Alzheimer’s often is associated with the image of an incompetent or impaired person. However, for most people with Alzheimer’s, this isn’t the case until they’ve had the disease for years. “Like lots of chronic diseases, whether it’s emphysema or cancer or heart disease, people can look good for a long time with Alzheimer’s. Dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease, can last for a long time, on average 10 years, and sometimes twice that long, so for the first 90 percent of it, people may be up and around, quite active and engaged,” said McCarten.

Not recognizing people also happens much later in the disease. “I tell families that it’s not important if the patient calls wife ‘Mother’ or husband ‘Father’ or daughter ‘Son’. What’s important is that they’re expressing love and affection and recognize that this is a person they love,” said Kennedy.

Myth 4: I’ll Have Alzheimer’s Because My Dad Had it

While having a family history of Alzheimer’s increases your risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the disease. Scientists have found certain genes related to the onset of the illness. When genes are to blame, it is referred to as “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” because family members across several generations are affected. In these cases, symptoms tend to develop at a young age, usually before 60. This form of Alzheimer’s is rare, accounting for less than 5 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

 “While there’s a lot of work that’s been done on identifying these genes, nothing has lead to the discovery of a medication that could modify the genetic risk,” said Kennedy.

Myth 5: Medication Can Cure Alzheimer’s

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several prescription medications to treat Alzheimer’s, the drugs are used to treat symptoms rather than cure the disease.

 “While we have medications that will help, we really don’t understand what’s causing Alzheimer’s yet,” said Kennedy. “For instance, for diabetes, we know where the problem starts so we can counter it with medications like insulin. For HIV/AIDS, we found the infectious agent and now we have medication that keeps it at bay. However, that’s not the case with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s much more complicated.”

Both Kennedy and McCarten agree that the best approach to treatment is making lifestyle changes that give the patient a sense of independence for as long as possible.

“The concept of treatment, unfortunately, is usually viewed as a pill or surgical intervention, but medications have a modest affect,” said McCarten. “A lot of intervention isn’t related to medication. Somebody who is living with dementia can have a much better life if the family intervenes and makes sure they’re not isolated, are eating well and getting exercise.”

Myth 6: It’s Always Hard to Care For Someone with Alzheimer’s

Of course Alzheimer’s has detrimental effects, but Kennedy said there are some people with Alzheimer’s who are easier to care for than expected. “Rather than depressed and aggressive, there are Alzheimer’s patients who are in elevated spirits and in a certain sense ‘easy’ to take care of,” he said. “Of course they don’t make it into the research studies because they’re not a ‘problem’ and they’re not seen by the psychologist or specialty neurologist because the family is managing well.”

Still, Kennedy points out that there is a need for better resources for families who struggle with difficult behaviors exhibited by their loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Myth 7: Alzheimer’s is on the Rise

According to Kennedy, the percentage of older adults who now develop dementia has declined, but because the older adult population is increasing worldwide, the prevalence of dementia will continue to swell.

“There’s an increasing awareness that vascular risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease make a contribution to Alzheimer’s. In other words, people who have the pathology of Alzheimer’s also have the pathology of vascular disease in their brains,” Kennedy said. “The reason that’s so important is that we’ve had pretty good luck for intervention for cardiovascular disease, whether it’s the cholesterol lowering agents, anti-hypertensives, or anti-diabetic agents.”

“They’re all having an impact on the frequency of stroke, brain hemorrhage and heart attack, which is most likely responsible for the reduced incidence of dementia in late life,” he said.

Kennedy advises that ensuring a loved one with Alzheimer’s is properly treated for other conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes may help keep dementia at bay.

Cognitive Activities May Benefit Older Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Seniors enjoying a game of cardsAlzheimer’s disease is a growing problem around the world, with its expected to increase considerably over the next several decades. In fact, as of 2015, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, and it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia is on the rise

An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, and caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia will cost the nation $226 billion in 2015; these costs are expected to skyrocket to $1.1 trillion by 2050. As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are now an extremely common healthcare concern among older adults, and the costs of caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia reaching such astronomical figures, any method for slowing the progression of the disease or improving cognitive functioning is welcome.

Both physical and cognitive activities may improve cognitive functioning, research shows

While Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented, cured or slowed despite advances in modern medicine and therapeutic techniques, there are some cognitive and even physical activities that have shown promise in research studies for improving cognitive functioning.

For instance, a 2013 Cochane review (an update to a 2008 review) found that exercise “may improve both cognitive functioning and the ability to perform activities of daily living in people with dementia.” The study’s lead author, Dorothy Forbes, PhD, associate professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, says the results indicate that prescribing physical activity for individuals with dementia could offer benefits.

Additionally, other studies have demonstrated the positive effects of physical activity in midlife. Psychology Today reports on several such studies whose findings indicating that physical activity in midlife can reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life — and those who participate in regular physical activity as young adults benefit from a boost in brain power in midlife. Generally, physical exercise has brain-boosting benefits that can have positive effects for several decades.

Cognitive activities linked to memory and cognitive improvements

According to Everyday Health, the brain, like the muscles in the body, can atrophy with a lack of use. So much like physical exercise is beneficial for maintaining lean muscle mass, targeted brain-flexing activities can help you to preserve your brain’s cognitive reserve, or “its ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging and other factors without showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss.”

There have been several meta-analyses of prior research studies performed in attempt to gain a body of evidence supporting the idea that cognitive stimulation can improve the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia on cognitive functioning.

Results generally indicate that some positive effects are noted, such as improvements in cognition above the effects of medication, as found in this review, and improvements in scores on the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and Alzheimer’s disease Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog), as found in this analysis. However, it’s worth noting that improvements in Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog) were not clinically significant, and the authors note that “difficulties with blinding of patients and use of adequate placebo controls make comparison with the results of dementia drug treatments problematic.”

What cognitive activities can help improve cognitive functioning for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

The best brain exercises and activities may vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s current level of cognitive functioning, interests, and abilities. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends several activities that can help seniors stay mentally active, including:

  • Learning something new, such as how to play a musical instrument
  • Committing to lifelong learning and remaining curious; enrolling in continuing education courses at a local college or university
  • Attending lectures or plays
  • Playing games or participating in memory exercises
  • Gardening
  • Reading, writing, or working on crosswords or other puzzles

Healthline suggests a variety of additional activities that can keep the brain engaged, including:

  • Painting
  • Knitting or needlework
  • Learning a new language
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Playing chess
  • Playing computer games that require strategizing, memory, quick responses, and active participation
  • Puzzles, including both traditional jigsaw puzzles and other types, such as brain teasers, Sudoku, and even math problems

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to brain- and memory-enhancing activities that can be enjoyed throughout life. Whether you’re trying to ward off Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or working with a senior or group already experiencing memory impairment resulting from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the range of activities that provide brain-health benefits makes it possible to design custom activities programs that are as unique as the individuals enjoying them.

Silverado and Sunrise: Senior Living Providers Which Treat Pets Like Family

With family pets being such a central feature in home life, you could assume that senior living communities would embrace a culture of being pet friendly; after all, many communities market themselves as being just like home and what is home without one’s pet. Yet all too often, communities have a no pet policy. At Silverado and Sunrise Senior Living communities, you won’t find a no pet policy; instead both senior living providers specifically include treating pets as family as one of their company’s core values.

“Most people are pleasantly surprised to learn that our communities are pet friendly,” says Maggie Schlagel, regional director of sales for Sunrise Senior Living. ‘We’ve found that allowing pets helps with the transition into a community and residents are so much more relaxed.”

Kathy Greene, vice president of operations for Silverado, says that she knows of families who stalled moving a family member into a community when they learn that pets aren’t welcome. Among the reasons why Silverado communities have house pets is because “life needs spontaneity and what better way to provide spontaneity than pets,” she says.

Both Silverado and Sunrise communities have house pets in addition to residents’ pets. Sunrise communities typically have a dog and cat, though some have birds, and their Staten Island community has a rabbit, Schlagel adds. Silverado communities also feature cats, dogs and birds (on average it is one dog to 10 residents), but there are also guinea pigs. One of the communities they acquired even came with miniature horses—which they kept, much to the delight of residents.

At each Silverado community there is a pet budget and dedicated pet coordinator who helps residents care for the house pets, which Greene says helps give residents a sense of purpose. “All of us human beings need the opportunity to nurture others, and just as residents are being nurtured, residents can nurture in turn,” she explains. At one community, residents made blankets for the local animal shelter and volunteered to train or walk the dogs.

When people outside our community learn that our residents have Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are surprised about the life our residents are still able to live, she adds. “It’s about the moment, not the memory.”

Sunrise residents are also active in supporting the animals in their local community. At one location, the memory care residents bake treats to take to the local animal shelter, and our communities often partner with local rescues and host a pet adoption day on site, Schlagel says. Many of their house pets are adopted from local animal shelters as well.

Not only do community pets boost the residents’ spirits, but they also promote physical health. Both Greene and Schlagel have seen residents resume walking or walking more because the dogs genuinely enjoy taking walks.

Of the house pets that have made a difference in residents’ lives, Greene says the story of Max, a golden retriever, comes readily to mind. He would know when someone is approaching death and would stay with that person until the end, she says. One time, Max remained with the resident, only leaving to go outside and go to the bathroom. The family was so moved that they asked if he could be at the funeral and he lay next to the casket during the service.

At Brighton Gardens of Stamford it was Bear, a Bernese Mountain dog (pictured left), who helped a woman adjust to her new home. The resident connected with Bear before the other residents and the unconditional love he provided just made the transition easier, Schlagel says.

Sunrise doesn’t require a pet fee, and pets are assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure they will fit in with community pets. For residents with allergies, Schlagel says the team members will keep residents apart from the pets, but this health issue doesn’t often arise. “Most people are thrilled we have the house pet, as it’s an asset to our community,” she explains. Even team members, visiting physicians and family members will bring in their pets.

At Silverado communities, families are also welcome to bring in pets, and there is also an open-door policy when it comes to residents’ pets. We don’t want a dog locked in the room all day, nor do we want the resident to stay in their room, so resident pets are welcome to roam around the community too, Green says. All future pets are assessed to ensure they can be around people and noise, and in many cases, they will become a community pet when the resident passes away. Silverado does have a monthly pet fee which covers food, pet supplies and care when it’s needed.

Of Sunrise’s pet program, Schlagel says it will definitely continue in the future because the company strives to champion the lives of their residents and pets and to create a homelike environment. The same sentiment is held at Silverado, Greene says, because they want to have visitors to be taken aback by the life found at their communities.

Images are courtesy of Silverado and Sunrise Senior Living (photographer Jennifer Prat).

New Comparison Tool for Independent Living and Memory Care Costs

You can research the price of a new car, a college and a house to help you narrow down your choices before taking a drive or a tour. Yet if you search most senior living providers’ websites for the community’s monthly cost, you will be hard-pressed to find a dollar amount. If there is a mention of costs, it generally references what is included in the monthly fee, such as rent and services, but does not give the full amount you will be writing a check for each month. Instead they encourage you to call and take a tour to answer your questions.

Online directories which serve as a one-stop-resource to search for senior living communities may include the starting cost of a community on its profile page. However, you cannot easily compare the pricing of nearby communities without clicking back and forth between profiles. Some sites even lock this pricing behind a form that you must complete to view the pricing.

At, we don’t think either experience allows you to easily search for senior living options, whether for yourself or for your aging parents and relatives.

That’s why we recently updated our City pages for Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care to include the median costs of senior living communities within that city and the surrounding area. This way you can search one place for the cost information and narrow down your search for the communities within your price range.

To the right is an example of the Independent Living options in Atlanta. You can sort the list either by Community or Starting Price by clicking on the arrows. We also include the nearby communities to provide you with more options to consider. To learn more about any community, click its name to be taken to its profile page.

If you experience sticker shock when you see the monthly price, keep in mind the number of amenities and services included:  rent, utilities (generally excludes telephone and cable), dining services, laundry services, housekeeping and transportation. For memory care communities, personal care services may also be included in the monthly price or may be extra.

We obtain this cost data directly from the senior living communities and update the information as new pricing is received. Please be aware that this cost data is for informational purposes only and your actual senior living costs, upon joining a community, may vary for a variety of reasons not limited to availability and your personal situation. Should you need further help narrowing down your search, consider chatting with one of our Family Advisors who will be able to give you a better sense of the costs you can expect.


How Much Will Memory Care Cost Families in 2015?

Of the long-term care costs that families may have to budget for, memory care is one of the costliest care types available, second only to nursing homes. The reason for this is often because seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia require higher levels of care due to the behavioral, emotional or physical changes that this disease leaves in its wake. For this reason, communities often have a separate, secured neighborhood for residents requiring memory care or even specially designed communities which only care for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia.They will also advertise that staff are specifically trained in Alzheimer’s care, whether through an company-specific training program or the Alzheimer’s Association’s CARES® Dementia Care training program.

Yet when it comes to finding the costs of much memory care, this pricing information isn’t readily available to families. The annual Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey doesn’t include the cost of memory care, and while families can use the cost of assisted living as a starting point, the out-of-pocket cost is several thousand dollars more per month. And the actual monthly cost is known only after an assessment is conducted to determine the level of care a future resident will require upon joining the community.

To aid families in budgeting the cost of memory care for a loved one, has compiled a state-by-state comparison. These costs were calculated based upon the pricing which our clients provide to us and what is displayed on a community’s profile. To find the cost of care in your state, visit our recently updated 2015 Memory Care Community Costs:  Facts and Figures.

The Importance of a Person-Centered Approach When Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer’s disease

One heart-breaking consequence of having a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia is the resulting upheaval in the family dynamics. The resulting loss of memory and cognitive ability often means you have to step in and become a caregiver, Caring for a parent with Alzheimer'sassuming responsibility for making difficult medical and financial decisions. Though it may be natural to assume your parent doesn’t comprehend his/her situation or could contribute to the discussion, this isn’t the case. As The Alzheimer’s Voice: Person-Centered and Person-Directed Dementia Care Report, prepared for the Administration on Aging’s Administration for Community Living, suggests, people with Alzheimer’s are aware of their situation and do want a say. So how can families allow their loved one to exercise autonomy in the face of a disease that seems to rob them of it?

Adopt Person-Centered Approach

Person-centered care is a new shift in the healthcare field, whereby emphasis is placed on all aspects of a person’s well-being including emotional, spiritual and social, in addition to physical and medical (page 5). Researchers have proposed a number of definitions of what is person-centered dementia care, and at the heart of all these definitions is respecting the autonomy and personhood of the individual and striving to maintain their quality of life.

The report points out that “people do not surrender their right to autonomy simply because they have a diagnosis of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and the disease exists along a continuum of capability. Especially in the early to moderate stages of AD, individuals are able to actively participate in the decision-making that affects their lives. And even people with severe dementia can make their preferences known on a variety of important everyday decisions” (23).

Changing Decision-making Process as Dementia Progresses (Hirschman, 2005)

Adopting a person-centered approach when caring for your parent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t step in and assume responsible for aspects of your parent’s life. Instead, it means you work together to find a solution that is respectful of their autonomy while keeping them safe. For example, when it comes time for you to assume responsibility of their finances, explain to your mother or father beforehand why it is necessary to manage to their finances and how can you work together to ensure they can still continue going shopping while having the bills be paid on time.

When visiting their physician for medical appointments, make sure the physician is addressing your mother or father, in addition to you, and is considering their opinion when providing recommendations. This will ensure your parent is being included in the decision-making process.

Benefits of a Person-Centered Approach

You want create the best quality of life possible for your parent as they live with Alzheimer’s disease, and adopting a person-centered approach has been found to yield positive benefits. “[W]hen individuals with dementia have greater involvement in daily decision-making, they have lower levels of depression and less negative relationship strain (Menne, Tucke, Whitlatch, & Feinberg, 2008). Depression is significantly correlated with quality of life, but cognitive impairment is not (Thorgrimsen et al., 2003)” (9).

Studies have also shown that starting the dialogue early of what your parent’s wishes are will leave you better prepared for assuming the caregiver role when it’s time; “[w]hen treatment goals and desires are supported by both caregivers and care recipients, caregivers gain a better understanding of the person’s wishes and therefore feel better prepared and less burdened with decision-making (Whitlatch, Judge, Zarit, & Femia, 2006)” (10).

Though you cannot prepare for all the challenges that will arise when caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, understanding their wishes will also leave you better prepared as the disease progresses and you are solely responsible for all decisions.

An Updated Profile of the Sixth-Leading Cause of Death in the United States

The Alzheimer’s Association recently released its 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report and while the report doesn’t offer promise of when a cure would be delivered, it does depict what families and friends face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Most importantly, it also highlights what the United States is currently facing and will face in the coming years as more seniors are diagnosed with this disease. The report notes that “not only is Alzheimer’s disease responsible for the deaths of more and more Americans, the disease is also contributing to more and more cases of poor health and disability in the United States”(page 29).

Cases and Mortality

Though the estimated number of the adults 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease in 2025 and 2050 did not change from the 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, this is a small comfort as the numbers are expected to be 7.1 and 13.8 million, respectively, unless medical advances deliver a cure or prevention(22).

Courtesy of 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

2015 Estimated Alzheimer's Lifetime Risk

Courtesy of 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

Between the two reports, the estimated lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s, based upon the Framingham Study, saw mixed news: men saw their lifetime risk decrease across all age classes while women saw an increase at the age of 75 and older.


Estimates place California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania as the top five states with the highest number of cases of Alzheimer’s among adults 65 and older. The states with the fewest cases of adults with this disease are Alaska, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Vermont, and North Dakota.


The deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have “increased significantly” the report found, with an increase of 71 percent between 2000 and 2013. The current total of annual mortality rate due to Alzheimer’s disease for 2013 is 27 deaths per 100,000 people(26).

2015 cause of death as a result of Alzheimer's

Courtesy of 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

A Picture of Caregiving

17.7 billion hours of unpaid care were provided to friends and family with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in 2013; this number increased to nearly 18 billion in 2014. Though it is expected that older adults require assistance with activities of daily living, which include dressing, bathing or getting in and out of bed, adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia require more assistance with these activities compared to other older people(33). Of the states with the highest hours of unpaid care—California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania—were the top five.

And this caregiving takes an emotional and physical toll:  59 percent of caregivers reported high to very high emotional stress of caregiving but on the physical side, only 38 percent reported it as high to very high(38).

Costs of Alzheimer’s and dementia

$226 billion is the estimated costs of health care, long-term care and hospice in 2015 for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementias. Of this cost, Medicare foots the bill for half of these costs, followed by out of pocket and Medicaid (45). The average per-person payments were highest for adults living in nursing homes or assisted living communities compared to living in the community (45). The report projects that the cost of care will increase to more than $1 trillion (in 2015 dollars) in 2050(56).

Are people being told of their diagnosis?

The 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report also included a special report on Disclosing a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have found that fewer than 50 percent of adults are being told they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. This is in sharp contrast to other medical conditions that are disclosed at substantially higher rates: breast cancer (96 percent), prostate cancer (92 percent) and Parkinson’s disease (72 percent)(61). It was also found that health care providers are more likely to disclose the diagnosis to the caregiver.

Of the reasons for why the diagnosis is not shared—diagnostic uncertainty, time constraints and fear of causing emotional distress, patient or caregiver wishes and lack of disease-modifying treatment and stigma—are the common reasons. Fear of causing emotional distress is the most common reason cited for not disclosing the diagnosis. Yet studies reveal clear benefits of disclosing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia both promptly and clearly, including better decision-making, planning for the future and understanding the changes they have been experiencing.

Given that the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease will only increase in the coming years, more families will, unfortunately, find themselves dealing with this very situation and becoming a statistic. With an ongoing commitment to research and education, the hope is that better diagnostic and treatment options will one day make it possible to slow or even stop the disease process in its tracks, enabling patients to live longer, healthier lives without the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

What to Look For in a Memory Care Community

Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, can make life incredibly difficult on seniors—and on their caregivers. Fortunately, there are memory care communities, which specialize in care for seniors dealing with dementia.

Just like with assisted living or skilled nursing communities, finding the right memory care community is a daunting task. It’s not always easy toWhat is Memory Care? know what services, amenities or care levels are available at different types of communities. That’s why we’ve published a new, comprehensive look at memory care, a one-stop article with all the information you’ll need to know, such as this section on what to look for when searching for a community:

Given the high costs associated with memory care, some families may seek the less expensive alternative of an assisted living community to care for their loved one. The good news is that more assisted living communities are offering “memory care light” for those who don’t exhibit wandering or require an enhance environment. For those seniors who exhibit wandering or require constant attention, a memory care community is the best option.

However, if may be difficult to find a community, especially in rural areas, that offers memory care. Of the senior living providers that offer memory care services, the National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, 2012 found that only 26 percent serve residents with dementia or have a portion of the community designated as providing dementia care. Some companies, such as Silverado or Autumn Leaves, only provide memory care at their communities while others offer this care type along with assisted living.

Figure 1. Selected characteristics among residential care communities, by community bed size: United States, 2012

Characteristics of Memory Care Communities

Courtesy of NCHS Data Brief Number 170, November 2014. Operating Characteristics of Residential Care Communities, by Community Bed Size: United States, 2012.

With the larger communities being those that primarily offer memory care, you may be reluctant to have your loved one join, as he/she might not receive one-on-one care or be overwhelmed by being surrounded by many people. However, many memory care communities are designed around a neighborhood-style setting, where common areas are duplicated throughout the community. This allows residents to have a homelike atmosphere within a larger setting.

Once you have identified a community, your loved one will be assessed to determine whether they are a good fit for the community, i.e. whether the community can provide the type of care they require. Depending upon the community’s assessment policy, a nurse may visit your home to assess your loved one. It is important to be honest about your loved one’s behavior, whether he/she wanders or has difficulty walking, so the nurse can develop a care plan that thoroughly addresses all his/her care needs.

To learn more about memory care, read the complete article here. And if you have further questions about memory care, or want to find the right memory care community for your loved one, simply call the number at the top of this page.

Kicking Off National Assisted Living Week: Great Things Happening in Communities Across the U.S.

Yesterday, Sept. 7, kicked off National Assisted Living Week 2014. This year’s theme is “The Magic of Music,” which, according to the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), “showcases the integral role that music plays in assisted living residences every day.”The Magic of Music logo

This year’s theme: “The Magic of Music”

“The Magic of Music” theme gives some credibility to the multitude of studies that show music can have positive impacts on people of all ages. “For older individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, music often has a soothing effect and can also trigger memories long dormant,” according to the NCAL’s Planning Guide & Product Catalog. “Music has the potent ability to enchant and provides the listener with moments of comfort and joy.” This is a phenomenon we’ve talked about before here on the blog.

And, the right music can get anyone up and moving – like this handsome gentleman whose impressive moves quickly garnered the attention of a few lovely ladies:

Assisted living communities are where it’s at this week

Paradise Village in San Diego is just one of many communities with a fun-filled week packed full of lively events planned to celebrate National Assisted Living Week throughout the week. Among their celebrations? An interpretation of Latin music through the dance of Tango, which kicks off the start of the week – which also happens to be Grandparent’s Day.

On Wednesday, the community will host its very own Prom Night, with military guests joining the dance. Other events include a fashion show and students from the San Diego Academy joining residents for song, along with bands and soloists set to entertain all through the week.

Epoch Assisted Living at Melbourne in Pittsfield, MA is hosting an event called “Music and Memories,” featuring June Green and Doug Schmolze, who are performing an interactive music program designed to evoke memories today, Sept. 8. Later in the week, an art opening with Rosemary Daly, featuring Daly’s scenes of the Berkshires, will be held at Epoch, and Daly’s work will remain on display throughout September. And on Wednesday, a drumming event will be held with Aimee Gelinas, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

The Sunrise at Fleetwood is holding a patriotic sing-a-long event, sponsored by Veterans Financial Inc., a financial services company offering education to seniors about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Aid and Attendance Pension. The event is open to families of residents, volunteers, staff and their families, and the surrounding community, and will be held on Thursday, Sept. 11.

More ways to celebrate “The Magic of Music”

Each year, the NCAL puts out a comprehensive guide outlining the current year’s theme with some ideas for fun and unique activities that engage both residents and staff, as well as family members and members of the broader community.

This year, in light of “The Magic of Music” theme, NCAL recommends tying in some music therapy concepts to activities programs and even daily interactions with residents, pointing to the growing body of research and everyday experiences that prove beyond doubt that music can evoke deep memories even in individuals with severe memory impairment. The Alzheimer’s Association has some excellent tips and resources for using music in therapeutic ways. Check out this article and this one for some ideas and insights.

Let’s not forget about the value of music in encouraging physical activity. It’s difficult for anyone to stand still when a favorite tune starts playing, so NCAL suggests using the power of music to get residents up and moving this week with fun activities like, “Sweat’n to the Oldies,” an idea that incorporates upbeat, lively music into regular exercise programs offered at communities, or even allowing residents to select their favorite songs from days gone by as the backdrop for the day’s physical fitness program.

Other residents may enjoy a gathering where favorite songs from their lives are discussed, along with the story behind the songs and the song’s significance to their own lives. Many people have songs with significance, such as their wedding song, a song that reminds them of high school, or a song that evokes memories of a long-lost love. This activity is a great way to get residents talking about the events that shaped their lives, and it’s one with the potential to get even the most tight-lipped residents opening up and engaging in conversation.

One thing is for sure: We’d sure like to be a resident in some of these assisted living communities, because it sounds like this week is set to be a blast! What’s your community doing to celebrate National Assisted Living Week this year? Tell us about your plans to celebrate “The Magic of Music.”