What's the Better Fit: Dementia Care or Assisted Living

“We complete our comprehensive assessment for every person who moves in,” she says. “We ask a series of identifying questions to help us determine what the right location is going to be and that’s such an important step.”

Questions around lifestyle, personal habits, budget and, most importantly, health care needs are all important parts of the assessment. This is when deciding whether assisted living or dementia care is the right fit happens. According to Juliet Holt Klinger, Brookdale’s gerontologist and Senior Director of Dementia Care, there are some key differentiators to look for.

While assisted living communities and dementia care both have staff and programs in place that support and assist residents with daily living and basic care, Klinger says dementia care like Brookdale’s Clare Bridge program requires care associates to have a deeper level of training in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

“All of our associates have been educated in Brookdale’s care standards and techniques which really help them to help people remain engaged and continue to do the things they used to do. This level of training is just not readily available to caregivers in other settings,” she shared.

One of the care standards that is foundational to Brookdale’s Clare Bridge is the practice known as “consistent assignment,” where the same care associate is paired with the same resident day in and day out. This creates a strong relationship that allows for the resident’s preferences, routines and identity to be very well-known by the care associate.

“In everything we do, we strive to help our residents maintain a sense of themselves and a sense of identity, so if someone has always been very modest or it’s always been important to them to maintain a certain look or certain style that all carries through in their care,” she says. “In the Clare Bridge program, we make sure that we’re honoring the person’s past interests, skills and sense of themselves and maintain that in the face of living with the disease.”

Another concept that is an important differentiator in dementia care is something that Klinger calls “sheltered freedom.” The specialized dementia care environments are known for being secured, but it can also be a place where those living with dementia experience more freedom than they did at home. In some home environments, not everything can be made safe and the person may end up being more restricted in their day-to-day life. The specialized Clare Bridge environment may offer fewer restrictions because it’s been specially designed for dementia.

“...At home, they’re told ‘nope, don’t go through that door,’ or ‘no, you can’t use that tool’ — it can be a constant barrage of what they can’t do,” she says. “In a dementia care environment we’re really striving to make things as safe as possible, and as a result, they’re able to do more throughout the day and have more experiences of success.”

Alternatively, Elliott says residents in assisted living oftentimes maintain their usual lifestyle, engage in independent activities and may come and go as they please. These can range from going on simple errand runs to Brookdale-organized events off-campus.

Whichever route you choose to go, she adds that there’s one thing to keep in mind. “It’s all about finding the right spot for them at the right time and being flexible enough to know that conditions decline and what may be right at this time may change in the coming months,” she says. “The best thing you can do is lean on the healthcare professionals with experience in treating the condition and realize it will take time to adjust to the new surroundings.”


More from Brookdale

If you want to learn more about the difference between Assisted Living and Alzheimer's and Dementia Care, we can be a resource. We’ll help you find the right new home for yourself or a loved one. Take a look at our Alzheimer's and Dementia Care articles or contact us for more information. 

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