Elderly woman holding a small house in her hands

Nothing is as comforting and familiar to us as home. Our homes represent so much: They’re where we raise children and mark their growth on door frames, where we host family dinners for the holidays, and where we make a lifetime of memories.

What may best illustrate the value of the Memory Care household model in senior living communities is understanding what all the things “home” means to us as human beings. When someone we love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, we’re driven to find the most beneficial and innovative care for them, so that they may be as comfortable and at home as possible — even as the familiar is beginning to fade.

Origins of the Memory Care household model

The idea of the household model for Memory Care was introduced in senior living in the late 1990s. A community administrator was looking for a setting for her father that felt less institutional and more homelike. She struggled to find anything her father would be happy with; her father rejected every place she found and thought they were all just “nursing homes.” She came to understand his perspective. 

Her experience prompted her to think differently about how communities care for people with dementia. If the senior living industry’s mission was to improve the quality of life for dementia patients, the current model at that time wasn’t quite delivering, in her opinion.

What evolved from her efforts came to be known as a Memory Care household model that featured a Memory Care neighborhood setting and dementia-friendly design.

A unique approach to Memory Care

People with cognitive impairments and memory problems often become agitated, uncomfortable and confused by unfamiliar places. When they’re living among many other people, they can easily be overwhelmed by larger groups of people and overstimulated by the noise. Caregivers may struggle to care for many residents at once, not getting much time to know each resident well or learn their likes and dislikes.

The Memory Care household model is an innovative solution to these problems. “The goal of the household model of care is for residents to live in a comfortable, personable community that is embraced as ‘home’ because it supports all dimensions of their well-being including psychosocial, emotional, spiritual, physical, expressive, and recreational,” said Laura Sharp, RN, BSN, MS, Director of Clinical Operations, Fellowship Senior Living.  

It starts with a dementia-friendly Memory Care neighborhood, which is a smaller, more homelike setting. Each neighborhood’s population varies, but is typically around 15 or fewer residents, each of whom lives in their own private or semi-private bedroom or suite they can retreat to whenever they need a bit of peace and quiet. Families can bring in the resident’s artwork and photos, furniture, and other personal items to create a more familiar environment.

These private suites are situated around shared spaces — typically a large kitchen, sunroom, living room and den. The idea is to have a personal living space and shared social spaces, just like a Memory Care resident had when they lived in their own home. 

The social spaces are vital components for someone living with memory loss. The kitchen is the heart of the home, where familiar smells of baking cookies, cooking pot roast and simmering homemade soups fill the air. The living room is alive with laughter and meaningful, engaging activities. The den may have a piano, where the sounds of music and voices singing old standards invite participation.

If this sounds like what person-centered care should be, it is. It’s a setting that provides spaces and opportunity for respectful close relationships that foster normalcy, choice, purpose, belonging and security.

  • Neighborhoods with fewer residents in each allow caregivers to truly know each resident as a person, learn their likes and dislikes, and recognize more quickly if behaviors change. 
  • Private suites give residents a space to seek out quiet when they’ve had too much stimulation or noise. 
  • Social spaces give them familiar-feeling environments where they can enjoy moments together as a community of people, because avoiding isolation and encouraging sociability is particularly important for people with dementia

Something else the household model provides people with dementia: Personal choice and a measure of control over their days. They’re free to wander the household as they like, and come and go from private and shared spaces as they wish. They wake when they want and have breakfast on their schedule, not the community’s timetable. The resident chooses whether to be social or whether to be solitary at any given moment.

Best of all, Memory Care residents at communities with household models feel the community is home. Their families feel the same way about it, too.

About Fellowship Senior Living’s household model for Memory Care

We know Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect more than the person with memory loss. The whole family feels the impact. Our Memory Care incorporates the household model for a secure, homelike setting. Person-centered care and a high staff-to-resident ratio mean your loved one will receive personalized care and attention from team members who truly know them.

 Our Memory Care team is specifically trained to care for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, with certified dementia care practitioners, registered dietitians and registered nurses who are on-site 24 hours a day.

Learn how we can improve the quality of life for your loved one when they become a resident at Fellowship Village. Contact us today at 908-580-3824.