Working in senior living means you have to be kind, supportive, and flexible. If you choose to work as a memory care caregiver, you must also learn to be curious, think quickly on your feet, and have the drive to create moments that are person-centered for each individual.
Memory care communities are wonderful places to work, where coworkers and residents quickly become one big family unit as they experience life together each day. In these specialized communities, residents and caregivers work side by side, enjoy their coffee side by side, take a stroll side by side, and enjoy one another’s company all day long. It’s a unique relationship and a very unique place to work.
Just like any senior living career, being a caregiver in a memory care neighborhood is equal parts rewarding and challenging. Every day offers familiar routines but is quite different from shift to shift and day to day. If you are creative, compassionate, and ready to learn, memory care could be your next best step in your senior living career.
Let’s hear more about life as a memory care caregiver from someone who knows all about it: a caregiver at a Cedarhurst memory care community.
It Starts with Curiosity
Being curious is one of the foundations of being an excellent memory care caregiver. That drive to find out new details and new ways of doing things ensure the residents are receiving personalized care that is tailored for their specific needs. Staying curious also ensures memory care caregivers are always looking for new interventions, new approaches, and new ways of providing support and care.
Discovering the Career Possibilities for Helping People
For most caregivers, their curiosity starts long before they fill out an application. For the memory care caregiver at a Cedarhurst community that we spoke to, the curiosity began years before she decided to apply at a senior living community.
“I knew I wanted to work in healthcare and help people,” says the caregiver. For her, a retail position just wasn’t giving her the connection with others that she always wanted. She was curious as to what else was out there.
When she applied to senior living, she didn’t have caregiver experience. In fact, she wasn’t sure what memory care duties entailed. She just knew she wanted to be a caregiver and that she found older adults interesting, so she filled out the application.
Next Stop: Training
At a Cedarhurst memory care community, not all caregivers come with decades of experience—and that’s okay.
In fact, we are quite confident in our training program so we know that we can hire caregivers who don’t have extensive experience but who are still passionate, curious, and ready to serve. Our carefully crafted training program will give them specific job direction and more information about best practices in dementia care.
The Cedarhurst memory care caregiver we spoke with felt positively about her training experience. She started her tenure working overnights, which suited her schedule and gave her time to get involved in the lives of residents.
“It was less pressure,” she recalls of working overnights. Soon, she felt ready to move to the busier day shift when she could build on the foundation that her overnight shift gave her. Her coworkers were experienced and took the time to help advance her training. In no time at all, she knew the residents’ preferences and interests.
“I am still learning every day,” she says. “No day is the same.”
Life in a Memory Care Community
Days in a memory care community are vibrant and busy. And just like the Cedarhurst memory care caregiver said, no day is ever the same as the one before it.
Leaning into Routine and Personalized Attention
Residents living with cognitive decline often thrive in settings where a routine is familiar and mimics life habits. This is why you’ll find residents pursuing what is comforting to them at the moment. Personalized interventions are the basis of Cedarhurst’s memory care approach. For the Cedarhurst memory care caregiver, those preferences are honored from the moment they wake up.
“I get residents up in the morning. I know how to wake them up the way they like so they can start their day off right,” she says. She knows which residents like their blinds open right away and which ones prefer to ease into the daylight. She knows who likes to wake up to a song and who prefers a quieter approach. In all of her interactions, she aims to do what they would have done at home so their wake-up routine is comfortable and familiar.
Encouraging Independence and Activity
This knowledge of preferences and history continues throughout the day with meaningful independent tasks. For example, the Cedarhurst memory care caregiver notes that a few of her residents were teachers. She calls them by their more formal names—Mr. and Mrs.—because this helps them to recall their time teaching and stay focused on tasks.
“They like to grade papers to stay busy,” she says. This task of grading papers keeps them feeling empowered and valued—which they are.
Communicating Throughout the Day
Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, is even more important in a memory care setting. Our Cedarhurst caregiver notes that she spends the majority of her day communicating with residents, her coworkers, physicians, and family members. Clear communication helps to keep everyone on the same page and ensure residents receive the best care possible.
Development Through Challenges
Working as a memory care caregiver is rewarding and fun, certainly. But it does come with challenges.
Dealing with Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are thieves, stealing memories, judgment, and so much more. It can be difficult to work with a resident who was once pleasant and is suddenly angry or uncomfortable. But when that happens, you rely on your training.
“I remind myself that it is the disease causing the sadness or aggression,” says the Cedarhurst memory care caregiver. “Then I work on finding a way to positively redirect them to something new.”
Taking Lessons Home
There is always something to learn from working with memory care residents, and as a caregiver you’re bound to take that home with you.
“When I come home to my five-month-old baby, I’m more patient,” says the Cedarhurst memory care caregiver we spoke with. A little extra patience is just one of the many gifts she has received from working with residents, team members, and family members at her community.
Are You Ready for a Career in Memory Care Caregiving?
At Cedarhurst Senior Living, we are always looking for memory care caregivers who are curious, ready to learn, and dedicated to serving older adults. We provide the training to ensure you know the best practices in dementia care, and we give you peer support that comes in the form of other team members who are there to lift each other up.
C’mon—aren’t you curious to find out what life as a caregiver is all about for yourself? Learn more about career opportunities available in a senior living community near you and start your memory care career today.
Originally published April 2022. Revised August 2023.