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What is Memory Care?

Written by Joe Carney
10 minute readLast updated December 2, 2022

Memory care, sometimes called Alzheimer’s care, provides housing and 24-hour care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Memory care facilities offer a safe, uniquely designed environment for residents with a focus on improving quality of life, reducing confusion, and preventing wandering. But what exactly is a memory care facility? Memory care facilities offer 24-hour care, specialized staff, memory-enhancing activities and therapies, and secure environments. Memory care also provides meals, housekeeping, and help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting.

Key Takeaways

  1. Memory care is designed for seniors with dementia. It offers housing and 24-hour access to care from specially trained caregivers.
  2. Memory care can be beneficial for seniors with dementia. Facilities often feature memory-supporting therapies and teach coping strategies to help manage dementia symptoms.
  3. It may be right for seniors with mid- to late-stage dementia. Other living arrangements may work in the earlier stages, but families often choose memory care as dementia progresses.
  4. When exploring facilities, start with your loved one’s needs. Your loved one’s unique abilities, symptoms, and interests may narrow your search for the right community.

What are the benefits of memory care?

Memory care offers many benefits to support the unique care needs of seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Memory care’s specialized approach helps residents with dementia maintain their skills as long as possible while providing enriching activities that stimulate cognition and improve quality of life.

Benefits of memory care include:

  • A secure environment to prevent wandering
  • 24-hour access to specially trained staff
  • Supportive dementia therapies
  • Unique layouts to reduce confusion
  • Low staff-to-resident ratio
  • Person-centered care, based on individuals’ abilities and interests
  • Coordinated care with other health care providers

How does memory care help seniors with memory loss?

Someone with advanced dementia needs 24-hour supervised care in a secure environment. In later stages of the 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.

It may be difficult for family caregivers to provide 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 prolonged stress may lead to burnout. Memory care provides much-needed support for caregivers while offering exceptional care for people with memory loss.

Is memory care right for my loved one?

Seniors with mid- to late-stage dementia often need to live in a facility with dedicated memory care. In these later stages, people become unable to care for themselves and need round-the-clock care to ensure their safety and well-being. The level of care they need is higher and more specialized than what assisted living offers, and it often exceeds what at-home caregivers can provide. Lower staff-to-resident ratios and specially trained staff in memory care facilities allow residents to receive the care and attention they need.

However, many assisted living facilities also offer on-site memory care. This means a senior with early-stage dementia may be able to move first to assisted living and later transition to memory care at the same community as their disease progresses.

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.

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When is it time for memory care?

As dementia progresses, it may become difficult to provide the support your family member needs at home. Memory care can support the unique needs of seniors with memory loss while keeping them safe and offering enriching activities that help them maintain their skills and a sense of self for as long as possible.

It may be time for memory care if:

  • It’s become increasingly overwhelming to manage dementia behaviors, such as agitation and aggression, at home.
  • Your relative’s daily hygiene needs aren’t being met.
  • Sleep problems have become unmanageable.
  • Your relative wanders and you’re concerned about their safety.
  • You’re unable to adapt your home to keep your loved one safe from falls and other accidents.
  • You’re unable to properly manage your loved one’s medications.
  • Your loved one is losing weight or not getting adequate nutrition.
  • You’re a caregiver who’s burnt out, worried about your own health, or concerned about your own safety or the safety of your family.

What does memory care cost?

The average cost of memory care ranges from $2,000 to $7,000 a month or more. 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.

How do I choose the right memory care facility?

You may feel overwhelmed with choices when it’s time to find a memory care facility for your loved one. Memory care services and amenities vary widely among different communities, so where do you start?

Your parent’s specific needs and preferences can guide your decision. For example, if your loved one wanders, security is a top priority. Or, if combative behavior is an issue, the community’s approach to preventing and handling aggressive dementia behaviors becomes an important consideration.

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for visiting a community and experiencing a typical day. Touring a memory care facility provides opportunities to see the layout of the building, witness staff interactions with residents, and try a meal. Most memory care communities also offer virtual tours if an in-person visit isn’t possible.

As you tour different memory care facilities, take the opportunity to ask important questions that will help you determine if the community is right for your loved one. Before the visit, create a list of questions that includes topics like safety measures, features and amenities, staff training, and more.

Below are a few factors to consider when choosing a memory care community for a loved one.

Memory care facilities near you

There are facilities in your area

Consider safety features

Safety is an important feature in memory care. However, each community implements safety protocols differently. These facilities may use different tools and technology to monitor residents and ensure their well-being.

As you tour potential memory care facilities, consider these safety aspects:

  • What security systems does the facility have in place? Are entrances and exits secure? Are gardens and courtyards enclosed?
  • Do private rooms have emergency alerts in case residents fall or need help?
  • Are spaces accessible? Are doors wide enough for wheelchair access? Are handrails in place? Are hallways well-lit?

Learn about staff expertise and staff-to-resident ratio

Seniors with cognitive impairment need support and attention throughout the day. Experienced staff who are well-versed in addressing dementia symptoms and behaviors can make a big difference in your loved one’s quality of life at a memory care facility.

As you research memory care communities in your area, look for information on staff training and experience in caring for seniors with memory loss. You may want to ask about:

  • Facility accreditation and staff certification
  • Staff-to-resident ratio
  • The type of training staff receive
  • Programs and activities for residents
  • How specific situations, such as combative behavior, are handled

Understand dementia care plans, programs, and activities

A person-centered approach in dementia care means care is personalized to support individual needs. Many memory care facilities offer customized care. Programs and activities are planned according to residents’ needs and interests.

It’s important to understand how dementia care plans are developed:

  • Do staff take the time to get to know residents?
  • Are residents’ interests and level of cognition taken into consideration when planning activities?
  • How often are care plans updated? As dementia progresses, individual needs change.

Notice memory care layouts as you tour facilities

Many dementia and Alzheimer’s care facilities are designed to feel more like home. Floor plans are easy to navigate, with clearly labeled exits and rooms. Some communities also feature soundproof walls, which may help reduce agitation and confusion.

When touring different memory care facilities, keep an eye out for these details. A thoughtful building layout can aid in your loved one’s transition to the community.

How do I overcome the guilt of moving my loved one?

If you’ve determined that your loved one needs to move to a dedicated memory care facility, you may experience overwhelming feelings of guilt about moving them to a new home. However, delaying their move to memory care may present risks to their health, your relationship with them, and your own well-being.

You may also struggle with talking to other family members about your loved one’s care or telling them you can no longer be a caregiver. Seeking support to care for a loved one with memory loss doesn’t make you selfish or uncaring. Ultimately, you want what’s best for your loved one, yourself, and your family.

Focus on what you can do to help keep them safe and promote their well-being. While you can’t change your loved one’s diagnosis, you can help by choosing the right type of care for them.

How do I find a memory care facility near me?

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. These local senior living experts guide you to the right care based on your loved one’s needs, your expectations for care, and your financial resources.


Meet the Author
Joe Carney

Joe Carney is an associate content strategist at A Place for Mom. As a copywriter, he specializes in nuanced medical content that explores diseases, procedures, and medications of top concern to seniors. He holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and philosophy from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Haines Eason

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