What is Memory Care?

Memory care is a form of senior living that provides intensive, specialized care for people with memory issues. Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes have created special memory care units for dementia patients. There are also stand-alone

How does memory care differ from assisted living?

Memory care communities offer assisted living services, but what differentiates them from assisted living is the unique features like memory-enhancing therapies, a uniquely designed, secure environment, specialized staff, and 24-hour care.

Along with specialized features, memory care facilities also offer services you’d expect from other types of senior care, such as:

  • Nutritious meals
  • Laundry services
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping
  • Incontinence care
  • Mobility assistance
  • Assistance with personal care

Benefits of Memory Care

The goal of memory care is to help residents maintain their skills while offering activities that stimulate cognition while boosting the quality of life. This type of care goes beyond medication reminders and personal care assistance. Memory issues require a well-developed treatment and care plan, along with implementation by a uniquely skilled team. Some of the unique psychological, social, therapeutic, and medical benefits residents can enjoy at a quality memory care community include the following:

1. Safety and Security

For family members of seniors who have memory issues, a big concern is knowing that a loved one is safe and secure. Memory care communities are designed to offer additional safety and security, including secured exterior doors, staff at entry/exit doors, and round-the-clock emergency assistance. Since wandering is a common concern for those with memory problems, a secure environment gives loved ones peace of mind.

2. Tailored Programs

Memory care facilities also offer programs that are tailored to the specific needs of each resident. Activities can be customized to each individual’s preferences and interests. This allows loved ones to enjoy engaging in meaningful tasks, increasing activity levels, and reducing problems with boredom. A memory care community also works to specialize programs with activities that promote health and cognitive stimulation.

3. Social Stimulation

When individuals with memory loss stay at home, they often have few social opportunities, which has been proven to be bad for the mind and body. Community life offers residents the chance to interact with other residents, staff, and their caregivers, and many facilities also maintain an active social calendar to keep seniors engaged.

4. Diet and Wellness

Individuals with dementia and other types of memory issues may have a difficult time getting the healthy meals they need. At a memory care community, residents are provided with healthy meals and assistance if needed during mealtimes.

5. Expert Caregivers

At memory care communities, caregivers and staff have been specially trained in the best practices for caring with individuals who have memory care needs. Not only are they able to deal with the intricacies of these conditions, but they’re able to monitor residents for any subtle changes and adapt care as needed. These well-trained professionals also understand the challenges that family members face as a loved one deals with memory problems. Caregivers provide an excellent, compassionate form of support to families, too.

6. Unique Community Designs

Memory care communities feature unique layouts designed to reduce confusion in residents. In many cases, this may include rooms located around centralized living areas and additional features to prevent confusion or residents feeling lost when they move from one area to another.

7. Coordination of Care

Communities offering memory care have nurses and other staff members on-site to care for loved ones. These facilities also have connections to other healthcare specialists and services. This may include auxiliary services like dental care or podiatry care in community clinics, or communities may offer transportation for residents to medical appointments.

Costs of Memory Care

Since memory care offers additional supervision and a higher level of care, the cost is higher than assisted living. According to a survey done in 2018, assisted living costs $4,000 per month on average. Specialized memory care generally adds between $1,000 and $4,000 per month to the cost of care. However, it’s important to note that costs vary by the level of care provided and the state where care is administered.

When it comes to paying for care, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans usually don’t pay for personal care or room and board at assisted living facilities. However, they do pay for medical care offered by these facilities. Medicaid may provide some coverage if your loved one has no assets, but that’s only if the care facility accepts Medicaid.

Most of the cost of memory care is paid out of pocket by the resident or their family member. If a loved one has long-term care insurance, that can be an excellent help. Living benefits of life insurance policies may also be used to pay for care in some cases.

Choosing a Memory Care Facility

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, memory care offers an excellent way to keep them safe while improving their quality of life. However, it’s important to choose a quality facility that ensures your loved one gets the care they need. As you’re considering different communities, here are a few things you should look for in a memory care faculty.

Properly Trained Staff

Staff members at memory care facilities should be specially trained to care for residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other memory concerns. Special training equips them to best work with seniors who are dealing with cognitive decline. Along with additional training, expertise in memory care also ensures staff members have the compassion and understanding needed to care for patients who often feel confused or overwhelmed.

High Staff-to-Patient Ratios

Since residents with memory problems often wander, it’s important to have a high staff-to-patient ratio at the facility to ensure each individual gets the care they need. Having a higher number of staff members on-site makes it easier to accommodate the needs of each patient while ensuring their safety.

Facilities That Have Been Specifically Designed

Memory care communities should be designed with the safety and comfort of residents in mind. Buildings should be crafted to prevent wandering while ensuring they are easy for residents to navigate. Smaller spaces often work better for seniors who require memory care, as this helps keep residents from feeling overwhelmed. Many facilities also provide common areas for watching television shows and movies, as well as kitchens and dining areas for meals or snacks. Additionally, memory care facilities should also have secured access to prevent residents from leaving the building unsupervised.

Full Schedule of Social Activities

A key thing to look for in a memory care community is a wide range of social activities. These activities are essential to keeping residents engaged and from becoming lonely. Activities may take place at the facility, including options like music, movie nights, or mixing events. Outside activities like meals out, shopping trips, walking outdoors, or even bird-watching may also be available. Keeping memory care patients engaged in social activities has been found to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression, which is why it’s so important to make sure the community you choose for your loved one has a full schedule of social activities.

Is Memory Care Right for Your Loved One?

While family members often try to care for loved ones with dementia, there are certain situations when individuals may enjoy a better quality of living in a memory care community. These communities feature staff members who are trained to work with residents who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The following are a few of the signs memory care may be right for your loved one.

1. Your Loved One’s Safety is at Risk

Many individuals with dementia experience disorientation and confusion, which can lead to falls, wandering, car accidents, and other scary situations. Someone who has dementia may forget the rules of the road when driving, or others may wander away from home and forget how to get back. When disorientation and confusion begin to put a loved one’s safety at risk, it’s a sign memory care may be a safer option for their needs.

2. Sudden Changes in Behavior

People who have dementia often display sudden changes in their behavior. An outgoing individual may become withdrawn. A senior who’s always been very independent may suddenly become apprehensive about getting behind the wheel. A loved one who’s always been meticulous about good hygiene may forget to shower or care for their hair. These are signs they’re having difficulty caring for themselves, which means it’s likely time to consider a memory care facility.

3. Caregiver Has Health Problems or Passes Away

Relatives often care for loved ones who have dementia, and if they have health problems or a caregiver passes away, then it may be the right time for memory care.

4. Physical Decline

One of the first signs that someone has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is physical changes. If a loved one becomes frail or thin, he or she may be forgetting to take their medicines, shop for groceries, or make meals. Along with forgetting to take medications, individuals who have dementia may also forget if they took medicine and take a second dose. Any sign of physical decline should make family members begin considering if it’s time to move their loved one to a memory care community.

5. Incontinence or Toileting Difficulties

For many caregivers, helping a loved one with incontinence and toileting can become overwhelming. Incontinence becomes particularly challenging for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is often a point when caregivers begin looking for quality memory care.

What to Ask When Considering Memory Care for Your Loved One

As you’re considering a memory care environment, it’s often helpful to answer a few questions surrounding your loved one’s well-being. Some important questions to answer include:

  • Could my loved one’s behavior harm themselves or others?
  • Is my loved one safe to continue living at home?
  • Am I or other loved ones able to keep track of their medicines and additional health needs?
  • What are other family members and healthcare professionals suggesting?
  • Am I equipped to offer stimulating activities to delay additional cognitive decline?
  • Are there support systems and options that may allow my loved one to age in place, or do they need to move to a memory care community to get the protection and care they need?
  • What does my loved one want?

Moving a Loved One to Memory Care

Once the decision has been made to move a loved one to memory care, the next step is to help them make the move to memory care. That’s often daunting for everyone. Seniors may feel apprehensive, and you may feel nervous about the decision, too. Here are some steps you can take to make this transition as easy as possible.

Step 1: Start by Talking with Your Loved One

The first step is to talk to your loved one about the move to memory care. Sharing information early and at the right time can help smooth over the transition. It’s important to avoid telling them that they need additional help since people who have dementia are often unaware of their disease and its symptoms. Some tips for communicating with your loved one include:

  • Reduce distractions before talking
  • Use names when talking about people
  • Stick with one subject at a time
  • Be patient when your loved one tries to communicate their thoughts

Step 2:  Helping Seniors Through Downsizing

Before the move, you’ll likely have to help your loved one downsize significantly. Downsizing can prove emotionally taxing since belongings often come with memories of days gone by. Before determining what to take along, be sure you understand how much space your loved one will have available. A few considerations to remember include:

  • What belongings will help them stay surrounded with special, positive memories?
  • What things will make their new accommodations feel homey?
  • What things will be important for your loved one to use daily?

Step 3: Plan Moving Day

Taking time to plan ahead for the moving day can significantly reduce stress. Consider having some professional movers help to make the day easier. It’s a good idea to schedule the move when your loved one feels best. Make sure you have transportation for your loved one, as well as any mobility assistance they may need. To make the transition smoother, try unpacking and getting their room so it’s ready before they arrive to make it feel more like home right away.

Step 4: Prepare to Ease Your Loved One Through the Transition

From the day of the move to those first few weeks at a memory care community, the entire transition can prove difficult for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Realize that it often takes time for seniors to adapt to their new surroundings, but you can do some things to ease them through this transition.

  • Make Their Room Homey: Familiar photos, knick-knacks, and other items that make it seem familiar can make them feel more at home.
  • Trust Facility Staff: Lean on the training of the facility’s staff. They can give you additional advice to help your loved one adjust.
  • Get Involved: Talk to the staff about your loved one’s health problems, specific needs, preferences, hobbies, and more. Come up with a communication plan, so you stay involved in their care.
  • Stay in Touch: Make sure you stay in touch with your loved one by calling regularly and visiting from time to time. Work out a visitation plan with other family members, but allow some time for them to adjust to their new home without family, too.
  • Remind Loved Ones of Benefits: When chatting with your loved one, remind them about the benefits of their new home, like social activities, enriching hobbies, and delicious food. Reassure them about the caregivers they have surrounding them, and let them know you’ll still be there to support them.

Making the Transition to Memory Care

Moving a loved one into a memory care facility is difficult, but knowing that your loved one is safe, receiving the care they need from trained professionals, and has access to social activities and cognitive therapies brings peace of mind.


If you’re considering memory care for your loved one, download our complementary guide: Dementia & Memory Care: Understanding the Journey, for more information.