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What Is the Average Length of Stay in a Memory Care Unit?

5 minute readLast updated January 5, 2024
Written by Michaela Kitchen
Reviewed by Carol Bradley Bursack, NCCDP-certified dementia support group facilitatorAuthor Carol Bradley Bursack spent two decades as a primary caregiver to seven elders and is also a newspaper columnist, blogger, and expert on aging.
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There isn’t a simple answer to the question, “What’s the average stay in memory care?” In some cases, a senior may only need memory care for a temporary respite care stay. Another senior may be more ready for a permanent move to a community that either focuses on or offers memory care. According to Leslie Fuller, founder and owner of Inspired Senior Care, the length of stay in memory care after a move in can range anywhere from two to 10 years. How long a person stays in memory care often depends on the progression of their dementia and their overall health.

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Factors that affect the length of stay in memory care

Disease progression, family preferences, type of memory ailment or dementia, and overall health are just some of the factors that may affect a senior’s length of stay in memory care. Ultimately, whether your loved one needs a short-term stay or a long-term home will depend on their needs — and yours.

Supporting your family member’s daily needs, providing medications, and adapting your home for their safety can be difficult. A stay in a memory care community can benefit not only those with memory impairment but also their families who act as caregivers.

The benefits of staying in memory care

Many of the benefits of memory care are similar to the benefits of assisted living. Both provide social interaction, an environment designed with elder safety in mind, and assistance from trained caregivers, as needed.

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A stay in a memory care community can provide a safe environment for your family member. You can feel confident that they are in a secure space where their physical and intellectual needs are being met. Staff at memory care communities are caregivers who specialize in working with individuals who have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. These caregivers provide supportive, person-centered dementia therapies best suited to each individual’s needs.

Fuller explains that in quality memory care, seniors “are going to be in a setting where the support people around them understand the progression of what the individual is going to be going through. And they can help that individual to adapt as those changes continue in their journey.”

Why memory care may be a better option than assisted living

Once you have determined that a memory care community is an appropriate choice, Fuller says it’s important to remember dementia is progressive. This means the symptoms will continue to worsen over time.

Memory care is a specific type of assisted living that caters to seniors who live with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Staff at a regular assisted living community may have some training with memory care, but in most cases their training is limited. The layout and safety designs of the communities may also be different.

Memory care communities often have the following features that typical assisted living communities lack:

  • Ongoing Alzheimer’s and dementia-specific training for staff
  • Design features to increase safety and prevent certain behaviors, like wandering
  • Therapies designed to improve cognitive health

How to support a loved one’s move to memory care

Moving your loved one into a memory care community can be challenging. Fuller notes that families can find comfort in the adjustment by educating themselves and creating an open dialogue with the memory care staff.

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“My advice is to, one, learn from the experts — those with the condition,” Fuller says. She urges you to listen to your loved one, “get their advice, ask for their help, observe them and what works well for them. Two, self-study — read books, listen to podcasts, join professional support groups. Be willing to set aside what you think you’ve learned and be open to new knowledge.”

Another way Fuller says families can support their loved ones in memory care is by educating caregivers about their relative. Family “can help educate the staff on what they know about their loved one, emotionally and socially. [This is] what’s good for them and helps them to develop a genuine relationship with this individual.”

The last key, Fuller says, is to “nitpick less, ask questions more.” Understanding that caregivers work in a dynamic environment with different daily challenges helps families to support staff in their day-to-day work.

Moving forward with your search for memory care

After a dementia diagnosis, you may notice that your elderly loved one needs extra support. Considering a stay in a memory care community could be one of the most beneficial solutions for you and your loved one. It’s important to choose a memory care community that best suits your family’s needs.

Whether you decide on a long-term or short-term stay, A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors are ready and able to assist in your search.


Fuller, L. (2022, March 21). Personal communication [Email].


Meet the Author
Michaela Kitchen

Michaela Kitchen is a former copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she focused on senior living trends, resources relevant to the families of seniors, senior lifestyle tips, and health care. Previously, she worked in television and print journalism, social media management, and marketing. She holds a bachelor's degree from Kansas State University in journalism and mass communications.

Edited by

Jordan Kimbrell

Reviewed by

Carol Bradley Bursack, NCCDP-certified dementia support group facilitator

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