Ask St. Ann’s – What is Memory Care?

By Carrie Buckert, LPN, Dementia Service Manager at St. Ann’s Community.

Do you worry about leaving a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia home alone? Maybe it’s time to consider memory care.

Similar to assisted living, memory care is for people living with memory impairments who can still do many activities of daily life but need 24-hour supervision. Memory care centers provide a higher staff-to-resident ratio and innovative support to help residents maintain as much independence as possible.

Many senior living communities offer memory care apartments in a comfortable, safe and secure environment, such as Rainier Grove Memory Care Center at St. Ann’s Community at Cherry Ridge in

Helping memory care residents feel at home is a top priority. At Rainier Grove we complete an “I Care Plan” with residents and their families upon their arrival. This helps us understand the resident’s history, interests, achievements and what motivates them. Knowing even the smallest of details helps staff create a family environment that promotes choice, celebrates accomplishments and reinforces the familiar for residents.

A Professional Approach

New York state mandates all senior living communities to provide recreation therapy and adhere to state standards. A large organization such as St. Ann’s Community, for example, employs full-time recreation therapists — known as life enrichment advocates — who work with residents across the continuum of care, from independent living to skilled nursing. Our life enrichment advocates are professionals with a four-year college degree in recreation therapy or a related field. Some also have National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, an advanced credential.

The Essentials

Before choosing a memory care center, talk to the direct-care staff about the hands-on care provided and how a typical day unfolds. Essential items to listen for include:

• Safety: A secure environment with alarms allows residents to move about safely and alerts staff to wandering.

• Family-style environment: Familiar routines promote a calm and relaxed atmosphere and help reduce anxiety and confusion.

For example, at Rainier Grove we serve family-style meals and staff often share meals with residents. Baking in the community kitchen fills the air with the aromas of home.

• Interactions: Daily opportunities for socialization and engagement are signs of a caring environment. Take a tour when there’s an activity in progress to see if the center’s promotional message matches its actions.

• Person-centered and holistic: Staff should support the accommodations outlined in residents’ individual care plans. Programs and activities should address residents’ social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual wellness.

• Family access and inclusion: You should be welcome to participate in activities with your loved one. Look for a facility with around-the-clock access so you can visit any time your schedule allows.

• Experienced staff: All direct-care staff should specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The team should maintain residents’ dignity and promote their optimal levels of cognitive, physical, and functional ability.

• Communication: Staff should communicate regularly with local and out-of-town family members and provide daily interaction updates.

• Continuum of care: Dementia is a progressive disease. Consider a center that offers priority access to skilled nursing care on the same campus, should your loved one progress past the scope of memory care.

Making the move

Memory care is a compassionate bridge between home and a skilled nursing facility for your loved one. To receive the support and peace of mind you need, maybe it’s time to make the move.


 Carrie Buckert, licensed practical nurse, is the dementia service manager at Rainier Grove Memory Care Center, located on the campus of St. Ann’s Community at Cherry Ridge in Webster. Contact her at [email protected] or 585-697-6720, or visit

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