As dementia symptoms progress, independence becomes more and more difficult to preserve for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other types of cognitive impairment. Memory care communities offer a wide range of specialized services from staff trained in dementia care — all with the goal of maximizing a senior’s independence while also ensuring safety.
It’s essential for caregivers to learn the distinctions between these two settings as they consider senior living options for a loved one with dementia. Both memory care and independent living can provide a comfortable and engaging environment, but they vary significantly when it comes to benefits, services, and costs.
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Memory care is a type of senior living for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Sometimes, it’s called Alzheimer’s care or dementia care. Memory care communities provide housing and 24-hour care with a focus on improving quality of life, reducing confusion, and preventing elopement, the term for when a mentally impaired individual wanders away form their familiar surroundings.
A senior with dementia and their family caregivers can benefit from memory care communities.
As dementia progresses into later stages, it can become increasingly difficult for loved ones to manage challenging behaviors at home. Seniors with dementia can experience confusion, sundown syndrome, aggression, and wandering. This may lead to caregiver burnout.
Memory care communities provide a safe and calming setting to reduce stress on families and their loved ones with dementia. Benefits of memory care communities typically include:
Memory care communities offer services comparable to assisted living. This can include help with activities of daily living such as bathing, grooming, and dressing, as well as dining, medication management, housekeeping, laundry, and transportation services.
However, what can set the services in a memory care community apart from other senior living options is person-centered dementia care, memory-enhancing activities, and supportive therapies. Memory care therapies may include:
The national median monthly cost of memory care was $5,430 in 2021, according to proprietary APFM data. However, median costs varied widely depending on location. For instance, the median monthly cost of memory care in Georgia was $3,995 compared to $5,900 in Illinois and $7,695 in Maine.
Independent living is a type of senior living community for active older adults, and it can be a standalone facility or part of a community with other levels of care.
Independent living communities offer a more carefree lifestyle by removing the burdens of homeownership and other daily tasks. Through various activities, these communities often promote camaraderie among residents who are at a similar stage in life.
Older adults who are generally active and healthy can benefit from independent living. While the communities don’t provide daily care like assisted living or memory care, independent living usually offers services and amenities designed to make the lives of residents easier as they age.
With fewer chores and responsibilities, residents can spend more time on favorite hobbies, discover new interests, and connect with friends. Importantly, this sense of belonging can help prevent social isolation in seniors, thereby improving mental and physical health.
Lastly, these communities benefit seniors by providing a safer environment while still enabling them to remain independent. Older adults are at increased risk of falls, but senior-friendly living spaces can help prevent this potentially life-changing hazard.
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
Convenience and comfort are key components of independent living communities. As a result, these communities typically provide services designed to create a hassle-free environment. Here are a few examples of services you might find:
The national median monthly cost of independent living was $2,552, according to A Place for Mom’s 2018 Annual Senior Living Cost Index. However, costs can vary widely depending on location. For example, the median monthly cost was $2,152 in Tampa, Florida, compared to $3,517 in San Francisco, California.
Independent living and memory care differ significantly. Therefore, while these senior care types may be available in the same senior living community, they’re often located in separate areas or dedicated units.
Someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may be able to function somewhat independently. However, it’s important to remember that their care needs can change as dementia progresses.
A memory care community may be an appropriate option for your loved one if:
As you can see, there’s a notable difference between independent living and memory care. A senior with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia typically requires ongoing monitoring and care throughout the day, which isn’t offered by an independent living community. The two settings also differ in costs, services, and activities.
When you’re searching for the most appropriate senior living environment for a loved one, it’s important to learn about all of your options, including assisted living, in-home care, and nursing care.
Finding senior living can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are resources to help guide you. A Place for Mom offers a free consultation service that’s helped thousands of families find senior care for their loved ones. Contact a Senior Living Advisor to talk about the needs of your family member and available options near you.
A Place for Mom. (2022). A Place for Mom Proprietary Senior Living Price Index.
A Place for Mom. (2018). A Place for Mom 2018 Annual Senior Living Cost Index.
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