What is Alzheimer's Memory Care?

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be challenging, but searching for the perfect memory care facility does not have to be. A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors are here to give expert advice and help find memory care communities near you today.

What is Memory Care?

Though many assisted living facilities have memory care units on the premises, the two forms of care are not synonymous with one another. Memory care is a more comprehensive type of senior care as it caters specifically to individuals who live with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other types of memory problems[1]. Alzheimer’s care units generally have 24-hour supervised care within a standalone wing or on another floor of an assisted living facility. The physical layouts of dementia care units are designed to be easy to navigate around, which minimizes the likelihood of wandering. Dementia care units have dedicated programs intended to delay the progression of dementia among their residents.

If your elderly loved one lives with memory problems that hinder their ability to perform the Activities of Daily Living (bathing, eating, medication management, toileting, dressing and other self-maintenance tasks[2]), it may be time to consider moving them into a memory care unit. Before you begin the search for the right fit, there are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Dementia Care Community
  • Specialized Care Units (SPU)
  • Memory Care Unit
  • Alzheimer’s Care Community
When you see one or more of these terms, the facility likely specializes in memory care. Keep in mind that some assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer dementia care as well. It is important to not immediately rule out a community because it doesn’t advertise itself solely as a memory care community.

General Assisted Care Services

Safety and well-being is a top priority for all assisted living communities. This is true regardless of whether they cater specifically to memory care residents or not. A quality senior living facility should offer these primary care services:

  • Help with ADLs, such as feeding, dressing, toileting, bathing, grooming and ambulating
  • Three daily meals
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation
These services are the hallmarks of quality senior care.

Services That Are Specific to Memory Care

Aside from ensuring the safety of their residents, the main objective of memory care facilities is to slow the progression of memory loss. To achieve this goal, dementia care units offer both standard senior living services in addition to the following:

  • Safety for wandering or confused residents
    • 24-hour supervision
    • Secured and/or alarmed premises
    • Emergency call systems
  • Specially trained staff
    • Medication management
    • Nursing staff
  • Structured Environment
    • Cognitive therapies that include music, art, and reminiscence are proven to enhance brain function, communication and social interaction in memory care patients[3]
    • Gardens, which help dementia patients feel less trapped[4]
    • Health and exercise programs
    • Socialization activities
Research also suggests that a homey environment is key to helping memory care residents feel comfortable and secure. Today, dementia care settings look more like homes and less like institutions. To achieve this, facilities have hidden nursing stations, private quarters with doors that resemble front doors, and staff who wear everyday clothes as opposed to uniforms.

Goals & Benefits of Memory Care

Memory care is the fastest-growing segment of senior care, and for a good reason: It offers more than assisted living — it provides an improved quality of life despite the circumstances[5]. In addition to keeping seniors safe and promoting their mental and physical well-being, memory care units offer residents a variety of services that actively work against their memory loss. Services in a memory care unit can range from treatments and basic services to catered-patient environments designed by individuals who specialize in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

Dementia care units also offer personalized cognitive rehabilitation programs. These programs are intended to encourage progress in ways that enable residents to maintain their functioning and independence. According to the findings of several large-scale trials, these programs are particularly useful for individuals with early-stage dementia. In these cases, individuals have the capacity to relearn skills and improve their memory. For residents with more severe forms of memory loss, these programs can help slow the progression of the disease.

Memory care units have reported other substantial improvements in their residents’ overall quality of life. Some of the more notable enhancements are as follows:

  • Decreased falls and injuries
  • Reduced need for medications and reduction in medication-related side effects
  • Fewer violent episodes
  • Fewer emergency room visits
  • Increased independence and social interaction
  • Enhanced nutrition and reduction in vitamin deficiencies
Each of these improvements leads to an increase in happiness levels as well as an improved or maintained state of mental functioning. Improvements were noticeable in half to three-quarters of residents within six months[6].

Is a Memory Care Community Right for Your Family?

There are several types of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that range from independent living to residential care to memory care. So how can you decide which is right for you? When you work with A Place For Mom, we will assess your loved one’s current level of need and utilize their medical records to anticipate future needs. From there, we will guide you toward the right fit. That being said, the three most common types of CCRCs are memory care, skilled nursing, and residential care.

Memory Care Vs. Assisted Living

Though many assisted living communities have memory care units, assisted living care and memory care are not the same. In assisted living communities, residents are no longer able to perform ADLs on their own due to a progressive impairment. In an assisted living facility, your loved one would receive housing, support services and health care as needed, as well as medication management, transportation and, if necessary, round-the-clock care.

Memory care differs from assisted living due to the fact that memory care comes with more restrictive, 24-hour supervision. The staff’s training in a memory care unit are also more comprehensive and detailed. Additionally, the physical layouts are designed to better suit the needs of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Assisted living communities are not federally regulated. However, memory care units are federally regulated in 23 states.

Memory Care Vs. Skilled Nursing

Like some assisted living facilities, select skilled nursing homes also have memory care units. However, the care offered at skilled nursing homes is directed toward rehabilitation patients or those who do not require long-term care. Staff at these facilities may include speech-language pathologists, audiologists, rehabilitation specialists and physical therapists, among others. The staff in memory care units, on the other hand, are specially trained to meet the needs of persons with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other types of memory problems.

Memory Care Vs. Residential Care

Residential care homes provide housing, meal services and help with activities of daily living[7]. These facilities, also known as board and care homes, cater to small groups of adults. Though some offer part-time medical care, it is not the primary focus of this type of senior living community.

Signs It’s Time for Memory Care

Deciding to transition an aging loved one to a senior living facility can be tough. However, memory care may be a decision to thoughtfully consider. If you need help assuaging your guilt over transitioning your elderly parent into a memory care unit, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your loved one experience incontinence or need help toileting?
  • Does your loved one need help with eating?
  • Does your loved one need ongoing medical attention or treatments? (For example, colostomy care or dialysis)
  • Does your loved one require diabetic care?
  • Does your loved one show aggression or other behavioral issues?
  • Does your loved one wander?
  • Does your loved one need 24/7 supervision?
  • Is your loved one experiencing Sundowner’s Syndrome?
  • What is your loved one’s level of mobility? Does he or she walk independently or require a walker or wheelchair?
  • Is your loved one getting lost in familiar territory?
  • Does your loved one know his or her phone number & address?
  • Does he or she forget to lock or shut doors?
  • Is he or she leaving on stoves or other fire hazards?
  • Have you seen a decline in personal hygiene or appearance?
  • Is your loved one able to manage his or her meds?
  • Is he or she increasingly suspicious or paranoid?
  • Does your loved one experience short term memory loss?
  • Does your loved one substitute words that make no sense or forget everyday words, such as “fork” or “toothbrush?”
  • Does he or she seem disoriented, even in familiar environments?
  • Does your loved one experience delusions, depression or unexplained weight loss?
  • Has your loved one forgotten how to perform the most basic of daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing or cooking?
  • Has your loved one’s judgment become impaired to the point where he or she is inappropriate in his or her dress, speech or behavior?
  • Has your loved one become withdrawn?
  • Does he or she continuously misplace objects or have to retrace his or her steps?
  • Has caregiving for your loved one become too much?
If you answered yes to a handful or more of the above questions, it may be time to talk to your loved one and family members about memory care.

How Much Will Alzheimer’s Care Cost?

The cost of Alzheimer’s care varies and is dependent upon several factors. Some such factors include the location of the community, the size of the community and how comprehensive your loved one’s needs are. Memory care provides much more extensive care than an assisted living facility, so you can expect to pay more for it.

Though you cannot know for sure how much your family will have to pay for dementia care until you meet with a facility supervisor, you can use the national and state averages to help you plan ahead.The national average monthly cost for memory care is $5,000. Some state averages can range from $3,500 to $8,000[i]. To provide some clarity, below is a snapshot of the average cost of each type of CCRC:

  • Independent Living: $1,500 to $6,000 per month[II]
  • Assisted Living: $4,000 per month (median)[iii]
  • Skilled Nursing Care: $7,441 per month (semi-private room) to $8,365 per month (private room)[iv]
  • Residential Care: $3,500 to $4,500 per month[v]
  • Home Care: $16 to $28 an hour[vi]
  • Hospice Care: $193 per day, or $41 per hour[AJ1] [vii]
For a more accurate idea of what you will spend on memory care, use our Senior Living Cost Planner. This cost index is unique because it is the only data source of its kind that is based on what families spend on memory care, not the surveyed list prices.

In addition to the monthly costs, your family must also take into consideration the move-in fee. Like the monthly price, the move-in fee varies considerably from facility to facility and can range from $1,000 to $5,000. This fee covers everything from enrollment to apartment renovations[8].

How To Pay for Memory Care

For many families, the costs of memory care range from overwhelming to downright unmanageable. Your A Place For Mom advisor is available to help you explore your payment options and decide on the method or methods that will work for your family’s budget:

  • Private Pay: The most straightforward way to pay for memory care is to pay out of pocket. If you and your family have the income, savings or annuities to do so, this is the least stressful way to cover the cost of dementia care.
  • Life Insurance Policies: If your elderly loved one has a life insurance policy, discuss the possibility of selling said plan to a third party. The third party will pay the present-day value of the policy, and then assume responsibility for monthly premiums. Upon your loved one’s death, the third party will receive the death benefits.
  • Home Equity: Does your loved one own a home? If so, he or she may wish to sell it, rent it out or take out a reverse mortgage to cover the cost of dementia care.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: If your aging parent is one of the few who invested in long-term care insurance, he or she may be able to use it to cover some or most of the costs associated with Alzheimer’s care.
  • Medicaid and Medicare: Some states provide Medicaid to low-income individuals who need dementia or Alzheimer’s care. This is worth looking into if you have no other options. Medicare does not cover memory care, but it may include annual health visits and health risk assessments. The PACE program, or Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, may also be worth looking into, as it provides comprehensive medical and social services to select community members who are frail and elderly.
  • VA Benefits: Aid & Attendance benefits can reduce the cost of long-term care for veterans by as much as $2,266 per month per couple or $1,91210 [AJ2] per month per individual. Aid & Attendance benefits are available to veterans and their survivors who also qualify for Pension. Your loved one will not receive these benefits in lieu of his or her pension but rather, in addition to it. The VA may pay A&A benefits if your loved one requires assistance with ADLs, is bedridden, lives in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity or has limited eyesight[11].

How To Have The Conversation With Your Parents

Deciding to transition your aging parent into a memory care unit or facility is tough, but having the conversation with him or her may be even more so. The A Place For Mom Senior Living Advisors have helped hundreds of families have this very conversation and make the transition with as little conflict as possible, and they have a few tips to share with you.

First and foremost, have the conversation early and often, as this allows your parent to adjust to the idea. When it comes time to make the transition, discuss your concerns calmly and objectively, and let your loved one know you are acting in his or her best interests. Do your homework so you can confidently explain what your parent can expect from memory care (services, activities, therapy programs, costs, etc.). End the conversation with a plan in place, such as your intent to visit a facility the following day.

Even after a successful conversation regarding the transition, you may find yourself overwhelmed with guilt. That is entirely normal, but you should not let it eat away at you. If you feel guilty for moving your parent out of his or her home into an unfamiliar environment, remind yourself of why you decided to do so in the first place. You can also reassure yourself by going over the benefits of dementia care, such as increased safety, improved cognitive health and a better quality of life.

How To Choose a Memory Care Facility

Though there are several factors to consider before choosing a memory care facility, the top two should be memory care accreditation and memory care certification. The memory care accreditation requirements apply to all existing accredited nursing care centers and address essential safety and quality issues for residents with cognitive impairments. Though memory care certification is not required, it does set certified facilities apart in that it shows they demonstrate advanced competency in dementia care services. To qualify for certification, facilities must have an organized approach to the maintenance, treatment, and services of memory care patients.

Memory Care Services To Assess

  • Care Capabilities: Assess the staff’s level of expertise, ask about plans for treatment and inquire as to the types of available psychiatric care.
  • Safety: Safety is a key distinguishing factor of memory care facilities. The facility you choose should be separate from assisted living and other types of care, feature a layout conducive to memory care patients, have round-the-clock supervision and boast secured common areas.
  • Environment: The environment should feel homey and cater to residents with memory problems. Easy-to-navigate hallways in the shape of an L or H are ideal. Spaces should be clearly marked with signs or numbers. Colors and décor should be utilized to prompt patient recognition. Security features, such as fences, doors and nursing stations, should be discreet. The lighting in these facilities should be adjustable to manage Sundowner’s syndrome.
  • Cleanliness: You can get an idea as to the quality of care by assessing the cleanliness of a facility.
  • Menu: The menu at a memory care facility should include foods that promote both brain health and overall health.
  • Common Areas: Assess the quality of both indoor and outdoor common areas. Are they conducive to socialization? Are they homey? Does the facility have a garden?
  • Activities: Certain activities promote cognitive health, reduce agitation and enhance the quality of life in Alzheimer’s patients. Though productive activities vary from person to person, there are some, such as art, music and gardening, that make more of an impact than others.

How Can Your Family Find the Right Memory Care Community Near You?

Though it is certainly helpful to know what to do during your search for the right memory care community for your elderly parent, it’s just as valuable to know what NOT to do. For instance, you should never judge a book by its cover. In other words, the quality of care is not something you can discern by just driving past a community or reviewing its services and gallery photos online. You also shouldn’t choose a community just because you like it. Keep your loved one’s interests at the forefront of your mind and prioritize his or her current and future needs.

Do not fail to read the fine print, as doing so could be a costly mistake. For instance, some communities charge one fee for room and board and a separate fee for care. Other communities charge each service separately.

Finally, do not try to shoulder the burden of finding a community on your own. Seek the help and guidance of friends, family members, acquaintances, and above all, work with a professional. One of our Senior Living Advisors at A Place For Mom can help you avoid common and costly mistakes and guide you toward the right fit for your family, your loved one and your budget.

Begin Your Memory Care Search

The amount of work that goes into finding the right future home for your loved one can be overwhelming, which is why it’s best to begin your search with the facts. Use our improved State Guide to Assisted Living Records to find accurate information regarding the licensing, personnel and violations of a contending memory care facility. To create this guide, A Place For Mom looked at communities in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. These states were assessed on 12 separate objective criteria. We frequently update the reports and include accessibility rankings, which inform consumers as to the transparency levels of each state[9].

Deciding to transition an elderly loved one into a memory care community is hard, but finding the right facility does not have to be. A Place For Mom advisors have helped thousands of families across the United States and Canada find a fit that works for them and their budgets, and we’re excited at the opportunity to help you. For the support and guidance you need at this difficult time, contact A Place For Mom today.

Sources:

[1]Stevenson, S. (2018, June 13). Assisted Living vs. Memory Care. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-3-4-assisted-living-vs-memory-care/.

[2]Glossary of Senior Living Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/glossary-of-senior-living-terms.

[3]Alzheimer's CareFacilities Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/alzheimers-care-facilities.

[4]Wegerer, J. (2018, October 24). How Art Helps Dementia Patients. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-8-3-art-therapy-dementia/.

[5]Larsen, D. (2018, June 28). Why Memory Care is the Fastest Growing Segment of Senior Care. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/memory-care-improving-seniors-quality-of-life/.

[6]People with dementia benefit from goal-oriented therapy. (2017, July 18). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170718084608.htm.

[7]What is a Residential Care Home? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/care-homes.

[8]Assisted Living vs Living at Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/assisted-living-costs.

[9]Sauer, A. (2018, July 18). Improved State Guide to Assisted Living Records. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/improved-state-guide-to-assisted-living-records/.

[10]Benefits & Eligibility for the Aid & Attendance, Housebound & Basic Pensions for Veterans & Surviving Spouses. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicaidplanningassistance.org/va-pension-aid-and-attendance/.

[11]Veterans Benefits Administration, & Office and Policy and Program Management. (n.d.). Pension. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/aid_attendance_housebound.asp.

[i]Senior Living Planning Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web28.streamhoster.com/apfmdev/family-guide_pdf.pdf.

[ii]What is Independent Living and How Much Should it Cost? – Assisted Living Today. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://assistedlivingtoday.com/p/independent-living/.

[iii]2019 Assisted Living Costs & Pricing by State: Monthly & Annual Costs. (2019, July 12). Retrieved from https://www.seniorliving.org/assisted-living/costs/.

[iv]What Does A Nursing Home Cost? (2019, October 14). Retrieved from https://www.retirementliving.com/what-does-a-nursing-home-cost.

[v]What to Expect in a Residential Care Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/residential-care-homes.

[vi]Senior In-Home Care Costs: Elderly Home Health Care Costs in 2019. (2019, April 29). Retrieved from https://www.seniorliving.org/home-care/costs/.

[vii]Writer, A. M. F. S. (n.d.). End-of-life Options - Hospice Costs & Who Pays for Care. Retrieved from https://www.debt.org/medical/hospice-costs/.

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