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Memory care is a type of long-term care environment that caters to the specific needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Memory care facilities offer 24-hour care, specialized staff, memory-enhancing activities and therapies, and secure environments. Memory care also provides meals, housekeeping, and assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting.
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Memory care facilities offer a safe, uniquely designed environment for residents with a focus on improving quality of life, reducing confusion, and preventing wandering. The following services and amenities help communities achieve those goals:
Dementia symptoms and behaviors progressively worsen over time, often leaving elderly adults unable to live independently. Memory care facilities offer the specialized support and supervision that seniors with dementia need to maintain their physical and emotional health.
Someone with advanced dementia needs 24-hour supervised care in a secure environment. In later stages of their disease, many people have difficulty performing simple activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. Disorientation, confusion, and sometimes aggression also tend to get worse, affecting seniors with dementia and those around them.
Memory care focuses on improving quality of life for seniors with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia through personalized care plans and memory-enhancing activities and therapies. These dementia care facilities specialize in caring for people with memory loss through staff training and unique programs and building layouts to help increase residents’ well-being and sense of familiarity.
Important memory care facility features include:
Memory care facilities are well-equipped to prevent wandering, a common but dangerous dementia and Alzheimer’s behavior. People who wander may get lost or hurt.
Residents’ safety is a priority in memory care facilities. Memory care offers a secure environment with locked exterior doors, so that no one may leave or enter unnoticed. These communities may also have keypads or doorbells at entrances and exits to help staff monitor who enters and leaves the building. Many facilities feature enclosed gardens or courtyards to allow residents to safely spend time outdoors.
Memory care communities are often designed to reduce confusion and disorientation, both of which can lead to wandering. Clearly identified spaces, personalized apartments, proper lighting, and reduced background noise are some of the thoughtful design elements in memory care. They promote a sense of safety, calm, and familiarity that helps residents relax and feel at home.
So what should families look for when touring a memory care community and observing the environment? Amy McLoughlin, a learning and development specialist at A Place for Mom with more than 17 years of experience helping families navigate senior care, says there are some unique features that can make a community comfortable and welcoming to residents with dementia.
“My favorite example is when a landscape mural is painted across the wall, doorway, and sometimes even the floor of a memory care unit’s locked entryway.” McLoughlin says. “The reality is that the resident is coming up against a hard stop or boundary that they’re not going to be able to pass, but what they see is a beautiful waterscape with no bridge to cross, and perhaps a real-life bench where you can sit and enjoy all the things happening in the mural.”
McLoughlin also explains that sensory rooms can be a “godsend” in terms of de-escalation: “This could be a full room or just a little nook with white noise, low or specialty lighting, super soft or weighted blankets, and aromatherapy to soothe the resident’s sympathetic nervous system.”
Memory care facilities are often a part of a larger senior living community. For example, many assisted living facilities have a separate wing designated for memory care. In other cases, memory care facilities are standalone communities exclusively for residents with memory loss.
Staff in memory care facilities receive specific, thorough, and regular training to provide round-the-clock quality care for seniors with memory loss. Memory care residents are often encouraged to be as independent as possible according to their abilities while getting the support they need.
A high staff-to-resident ratio at memory care facilities allows for more social interaction and time to care for each individual’s needs. Staff help residents stay engaged with social and enriching activities, like brain games and art classes, which stimulate memory and encourage seniors to maintain their skills.
Using specific dementia care techniques, memory care staff are also trained to manage dementia symptoms — including difficult and combative behaviors — in a kind, compassionate manner. Communities emphasize a non-drug approach to dementia care and behavior management, reducing the need for antipsychotic medication.
It may be difficult for family caregivers to provide this same level of full-time care for a loved one with advanced dementia while juggling other responsibilities, such as work and children. The physical and emotional stress of caring for someone with dementia puts caregivers at risk for health problems and decreased quality of life, and that stress may lead to burnout. Memory care provides much-needed support for caregivers while offering exceptional care for people with memory loss.
Staff at memory care communities may also work with other health care providers to ensure residents receive the care they need. Care coordination at memory care facilities may include:
Many memory facilities offer person-centered care for seniors with dementia. These communities take a personalized approach to dementia care by understanding a senior’s preferences, past experiences, abilities, and care needs.
Staff in these memory care facilities develop a relationship with residents and family members to get a holistic understanding of the person who will receive care. This approach allows them to develop a customized dementia care plan to better meet the resident’s unique needs and support their health and emotional well-being. It also helps them communicate more effectively with residents and plan activities according to their needs and abilities.
Memory care facilities often offer supportive therapies and activities for dementia that help with behavior problems by increasing relaxation, reducing agitation, and improving mood. These may include:
Real-life implementation of reminiscence therapy in memory care often involves recreating tasks from earlier in a resident’s life.
“Being able to perform activities that contribute to the resident’s world allows them to feel their self-worth,” McLoughlin explains. “There may be a small desk with a typewriter, rotary phone, and a few files to sort and put away. Other examples are a baby doll, crib, rocking chair, and a few cloth diapers or blankets to choose from, a laundry basket with clothes that need folding, or a workbench with realistic tools.”Back to top
|Services||Memory Care||Nursing Homes||Assisted Living|
|Private or shared rooms||x||x||x|
|Housekeeping and laundry services||x||x||x|
|Help with daily activities (ADLs)||x||x||x|
|Exercise and physical therapy as needed||x||x||x|
|Specialized care for patients with memory loss||x||x|
|24-hour care and supervision||x||x|
|Secured entrances and exits to prevent wandering||x||x|
|Transportation to appointments||x||x|
|Unique facility layout and design to reduce confusion||x|
Memory care is for seniors experiencing cognitive decline. Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia is progressive and is classified in stages that relate to levels of cognitive impairment and symptoms.
Whether your loved one has just been diagnosed with dementia or is showing signs of increasing cognitive decline, understanding what to expect as their disease progresses and the type of care they need at each stage can help you plan.
Memory care residents are often people with more advanced dementia. While some people with early- to middle-stage dementia may do well at home or at an assisted living facility, many families opt for memory care as their loved one’s dementia symptoms and behaviors worsen. But recognizing exactly when that move to memory care is necessary can be a challenge for family members.
If your loved one is already receiving in-home care, attending adult day care, or living in assisted living, McLoughlin says that their caregivers are likely the best barometer for how sustainable the current arrangement is. “The community’s director will certainly let you know if any concerning behaviors that could warrant a move to a higher level of care are starting to pop up,” she explains.
Seniors with greater cognitive decline often need more assistance than caregivers are able to provide at home or at an assisted living community. People with late-stage dementia become unable to care for themselves and need round-the-clock care and supervision to keep them safe and to ensure quality of life. Memory care offers a higher staff-to-resident ratio, which means residents can receive the care and attention they need.
The specialized care and therapies available at memory care facilities teach coping strategies that enable seniors to compensate for memory loss, increasing confidence while keeping them safe. Memory care also provides a structured environment, with daily routines and stimulating activities to foster independence.Back to top
Assess the situation carefully to determine how long your loved one can age in place safely. Talk to their doctor, other care providers, or a geriatric care manager.
The median cost of memory care is approximately $5,995 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 report on the cost of long-term care. Prices vary depending on location, amenities, and care needs. While some services like meals, medication management, and group activities are included, others are optional. For example, residents may have access to laundry services, lunch outings, or beauty services, like haircuts or manicures, but these may cost extra.
Apartment size and floor plan also affect the price. For example, does your loved one need a one-bedroom suite, or will a studio be sufficient? Would they enjoy having a roommate?
When you’re considering a memory care facility, it’s important to understand how prices are calculated, what’s included, and what’s not. Be sure to also ask how often rates increase and whether a deposit or entry fee is required.
In general, memory care costs more than independent and assisted living but less than nursing homes.
While many families look to savings to finance senior care, there are other little-known funding sources that can help, including:
Communication is key when it comes to moving a loved one into a memory care community. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ease the transition:
When you’re moving a loved one to memory care, it’s important to be realistic about your expectations. Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia often get confused, and changes in routine may increase stress, so here are a few things to keep in mind:
Finally, after you’ve done your research and selected the right memory care community for your loved one, find comfort in knowing that providing the right type of care helps improve their quality of life, and take steps to help your family member transition.Back to top
If you’re unsure about how to start your search, our Senior Living Advisors can help connect you with memory care communities in your area. Our local senior living experts who can help you consider your loved one’s needs, your expectations for care, and your financial resources to find the right care for your loved one.Back to top
Memory care facilities provide housing, care, and therapies for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in an environment designed to reduce confusion and prevent wandering.
The score shown is the overall experience rating which is an average of the reviews submitted for those communities. The overall experience rating is a star rating that ranges from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.
Below are the 51 largest cities grouped by their metropolitan area.
Top states for Memory Care