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How to Find a Memory Care Facility: 10 Helpful Tips and a Memory Care Checklist for Touring

21 minute readLast updated January 4, 2024
fact checkedon January 4, 2024
Written by Nirali Desai, memory care writer
Reviewed by Amy McLoughlin, senior living expertAmy McLoughlin is a learning and development specialist with A Place for Mom, focusing on improving the lives of seniors and caregivers.
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Deciding which memory care community is best for your loved one may feel daunting. With so much variation in facility amenities, staffing, and activities, you may be unsure about how to find a memory care facility to fit your loved one’s needs. To help you with your search, we asked multiple dementia care experts for tips on how to compare memory care facilities. We also created a memory care checklist with questions to ask when touring to help ensure your loved one is safe and taken care of.

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Tip 1: Determine your loved one’s needs and priorities

Finding a memory care facility starts with identifying and prioritizing your loved one’s needs. As a matter of fact, individuals diagnosed with dementia prefer to be involved in making decisions that affect their daily routine.[01]

For example, does your parent need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), like dressing, bathing, or eating? If so, be sure to start taking note of their needs. To make the process less daunting for families, memory care facilities typically perform a memory care assessment to determine a proper plan of care. We talk more about these assessments below.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Does my loved one show aggression or other difficult behaviors, like anger and agitation?
  • Does my family member wander, get lost, or seek exits frequently?
  • Is mobility a concern? Can my loved one walk independently, or do they require a walker or wheelchair?
  • Does my loved one require 24-hour supervision?
  • Does my parent need help using the bathroom?
  • Does my family member need ongoing medical attention or treatments, such as dialysis, diabetes management, or colostomy care?

If your loved one has severe health concerns that require round-the-clock skilled nursing care, a memory care community may not be the right fit. A nursing home may be able to better provide for their needs, according to the National Institute on Aging.[02] In that case, you may want to read our nursing home guide to find questions to ask a nursing home about dementia.

Tip 2: Factor in your loved one's lifestyle and preferences

Memory care communities offer a variety of amenities, including specialized meals that cater to specific diets, care coordination, concierge services, and more. To find a suitable memory care facility, be sure to list which features are most important to your loved one and try to check them all off.

For instance, if your loved one is social, they may prefer a shared room. Or, if they prefer to dine alone, they may want room service accommodations.

Ask a staff member or tour guide the following questions:

  • What types of living arrangements or accommodations are available?
  • Do residents or family members have a say in their daily routine?
  • How many meals or snacks are provided each day?
  • How are meals served? Are they served in a dining room or in their rooms?
  • Are escorts to meals available in case your loved one needs help eating?
  • Do fitness and wellness programs offer activities catered to different interests?

Tip 3: Learn how staff members are specially trained in dementia care

Dementia care can be complicated, so it’s crucial to learn how a community specially trains its staff. Finding out how staff handle difficult dementia behaviors — such as resisting care, anger, and aggression — is one way to determine whether a community’s understanding of dementia care is up to date.

“Behavioral expressions are responses to dementia symptoms, not symptoms themselves,” says Juliet Holt Klinger, a gerontologist and Brookdale’s senior director of dementia care. “There’s often an unmet need or a need for a better approach by a care partner. With appropriate dementia care, you’ll see a reduction in these responses.”

You should also keep an eye out for how staff members treat residents during the tour.

“Patience, understanding, and creative thinking are essential to being a dementia caregiver,” states Maureen Bradley, a former memory care director who now works at A Place for Mom. She recommends that families look out for these traits and skills as they tour.

“Look at the longevity of staff working there, and assess whether they’re willing to learn about your loved one,” says Jill Lorentz, certified dementia trainer and owner of Summit Resilience Training, a dementia education services company in Denver. “Find caregivers who see your loved one as a person, not their disease. You want someone to help them thrive, not just survive.”

Bradley adds that it’s important to learn how memory care communities reward their caregivers. She says it can be a thankless job, so it’s crucial to see how the communities approach staff retention. Learning how a community supports its caregiving staff is especially crucial because research has shown that caregiver experiences can affect the dementia care recipient.[03]

Lastly, you should learn about what kind of training or certification is required by the community. Training requirements for memory care staff vary by state. In some communities, all staff members — including housekeepers and kitchen employees — receive dementia care training. This training not only can improve community safety but also can help reduce staff turnover.

Questions to ask memory care facilities to assess staff training include:

  • How are staff in dementia care trained differently than those in assisted living?
  • What type of dementia techniques do staff use?
  • Do staff members dedicate additional time to acquaint themselves with residents?
  • Is a resident assigned to the same staff members every day?
  • How does the community use residents’ history to enhance communication and care?
  • How do staff members care for residents who are physically aggressive or those who exhibit disruptive behaviors?
  • Are your facility and staff accredited?
  • Are any staff members certified dementia care managers (CDCMs)?
  • How regularly do staff members receive dementia-specific training and continued education?

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Tip 4: See how the memory care facility prioritizes safety

Safety is a top concern for families seeking dementia care. With features like motion-sensor technology, secured windows, and doors with keypads, memory care communities generally incorporate a variety of safety features. Memory care safety measures and protocols are especially important to prevent wandering — a common but potentially dangerous behavior in people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

When finding a memory care facility, look for these additional building features:

  • Mobility assistance. Is the building equipped to assist residents on wheelchairs safely and comfortably? Some communities have sit-to-stand lifts, elevators, zero-threshold showers, and other assistive features.
  • Fall prevention. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in people over 65.[04] Look for wider doors with handrails to provide stability. Pay attention to the flooring as well. For example, hard floors and non-slip rugs help seniors maintain balance.
  • Human-centered design. Memory care facilities tend to look and feel more homelike than other senior living options. Design features include easy-to-navigate floor plans, soundproof walls, personalized doors, and color-coded hallways. Such environmental design factors help orient residents, minimize confusion, and prevent wandering.[05]

Furthermore, see how caregiving staff play a role in your loved one’s safety. In order to maximize the safety of your loved one and provide person-centered care, it’s important that your loved one’s caregivers build a good relationship with you and other family members involved in your loved one’s care.

When touring a memory care community, ask these questions about their safety protocols:

  • What measures does the community take to offer 24-hour supervised care?
  • Are the buildings and grounds secured with gates, keypad entries, alarms, etc.?
  • Are there emergency alert systems, enclosed courtyards, and safety locks on outdoor fences?
  • Are hallways clearly marked to navigate the facility?
  • Is a nurse on duty 24 hours a day? If not, what are the nurses’ hours?
  • Is there a visiting physician or psychiatrist? How easy is it to seek medical help if needed?
  • What medical services are available?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio during the day? What about at night?
  • What in-room safety features are implemented? (e.g. automatic lights in the bathroom, grab bars, and emergency call buttons)

Tip 5: Understand memory care assessments and care plans

Many memory care facilities offer person-centered dementia care by understanding residents’ preferences, past experiences, abilities, and care needs. In addition to an initial memory care assessment, staff take time to develop a relationship with seniors and their families. The care team then develops a personalized dementia care plan that meets the resident’s unique needs while supporting their health and well-being.

“It’s important to ask about care plans,” Lorentz says. “Find out who is involved — nurses, family members, executive directors, or others — and how often care plans are reviewed.” Because dementia is often progressive, care plans need to be evaluated regularly.

When finding a memory care facility, ask how staff evaluate and manage changes in care plans as a resident’s health declines. Ideally, care plans should be assessed every two to three months or more, depending on your loved one’s health.

“It’s unacceptable for reviews to be done every six months,” Lorentz says.

When learning about memory care plans, you may want to ask these questions:

  • Does each resident have an individual care plan?
  • How are care plans developed?
  • Who’s involved in developing a resident’s care plan?
  • How often are care plans evaluated?
  • Are residents grouped by cognitive level?

Tip 6: Ask what memory-enhancing therapies are available

Tailored therapies or treatments may help improve quality of life and delay cognitive decline in people with dementia and other associated health conditions.[07]

For example, light therapy may be used to treat depression or improve symptoms of sundown syndrome — a behavior shift that worsens confusion and increases agitation in people with dementia during the transition from daylight to darkness.

Ask what memory-enhancing therapies are available in the community and how they can specifically help your loved one.

“The memory care programming makes all the difference in the world,” says former memory care facility executive director Maureen Bradley. “The quality of programming (and therapies) is critical. It can impact how well a resident sleeps, it helps with their orientation with day versus night, and so much more.”

Bradley suggests asking for programming or an activities schedule, as well as a list of amenities to understand how the unique needs of dementia patients are accommodated.

When finding a memory care facility, ask if the community offers these therapies:

  • Art therapy, which may stimulate the brain, improve communication, and boost self-expression.
  • Music therapy, which can elevate mood, improve overall wellness, and generate memory retrieval.
  • Aromatherapy, which uses soothing scents like lavender to relieve anxiety and agitation while promoting better sleep, or energizing scents like citrus to promote activity.
  • Occupational therapy, which can help loved ones with dementia retain life skills like eating independently or dressing themselves.
  • Therapy gardens, which are green spaces and healing gardens commonly found in memory care communities. Such spaces may reduce feelings of isolation, agitation, depression, and aggression.[08]

Tip 7: Learn how memory care activities are tailored to residents’ interests

Find out how communities engage with residents through both scheduled and free time activities, says dementia education services company owner Jill Lorentz. Person-centered care includes customized memory care activities that enhance a resident’s experience, giving them purpose and enjoyment.

“Make sure the community has activities that fit your loved one’s specific interests or needs,” adds Lorentz. “Don’t be distracted by aesthetics or bells and whistles. Make sure the staff’s priority is getting to know your loved one.”

Lorentz also recommends paying attention to details when reviewing the community’s calendar of activities. Are the programs passive, or do they offer real opportunities for the residents to engage?

“It’s nice to have a memory care community that looks nice. But I think people forget to consider, ‘what’s my mom or dad going to be doing all day?’” says gerontologist Juliet Holt Klinger.

Memory care activities may include:

  • Puzzles and board games
  • Music programs and singalongs
  • Sensory and tactile stimulation
  • Pet visits
  • Gardening
  • Painting
  • Cooking
  • Going on outings to parks or community events

In addition to scheduled activities, many memory care communities have open engagement areas residents can use when they want to be productive or replicate tasks from their previous day-to-day.

“Look for a community that incorporates real objects, such as a real garden versus fake plants,” Holt Klinger says.

Engagement areas, sometimes called life skill stations, in memory care may include:

  • A clerical area with a desk and functional adding machine and/or typewriter
  • A kitchen with an oven for supervised cooking
  • A garden with real plants and dirt

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Tip 8: Explore memory care facilities that fit your budget

Cost is a major consideration when choosing a memory care community. The national median monthly cost of memory care was $5,995, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 report on the cost of long-term care.[09]

Many factors affect the cost of memory care, including location, amenities, and level of care provided. It’s also important to learn about monthly fees, and what happens if your loved one’s needs change.

In the long run, memory care may be more affordable than you expect, because it can cover many living expenses that you or your loved one currently pay for. You can use our senior living cost calculator to compare your loved one’s current living expenses — like rent and in-home care — against the average cost of memory care in your area.

Ask these questions when evaluating costs for a memory care facility:

  • How are monthly fees determined? What’s the cost structure? Is there a flat fee, or are services provided a la carte?
  • What’s included in the monthly fee? What types of services aren’t provided?
  • Are there additional fees, such as an entry fee or deposit?
  • Do prices increase annually? What’s the maximum increase?
  • Are there any move-in incentives or specials?

Tip 9: Trust your instincts about what to look for in memory care

No matter how much information you gather, it’s always a good idea to trust your instincts — you’ll know when a community is the right fit for your loved one.

A Place for Mom’s Maureen Bradley — former executive director of a memory care facility — advises families to pay extra attention to whether residents look engaged, whether the environment is something your loved one will enjoy, and how staff members are treating residents while touring a community.

After touring, ask yourself these questions about the memory care facility:

  • Do staff appear knowledgeable and caring?
  • Do residents seem happy and well-cared for?
  • Does the community feel safe?
  • Does their philosophy of care resonate with you?
  • Would you feel comfortable and at peace if your loved one lived there?

Tip 10: Take our memory care checklist with you

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for touring a community in person or virtually. Print our memory care checklist to guide your search and help you evaluate and compare memory care facilities

Finding a memory care facility doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. If you need guidance looking for memory care near you, contact our Senior Living Advisors. A Place for Mom’s free, local senior living experts can help you assess each community to learn about services, amenities, personalized activities, safety features, and more.

Our advisors can also help with the following as you search for the most suitable memory care community:

  • Find options within your budget
  • Answer any questions about memory care and senior living
  • Help you compare options
  • Set up memory care community tours
  • Help plan the logistics of a move


  1. Wehrmann, H., Michalowsky, B., Lepper, S., Mohr, W., Raedke, A., & Hoffmann, W. (2021). Priorities and preferences of people living with dementia or cognitive impairment – a systematic reviewPatient Preference and Adherence.

  2. National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2017, May 18). Finding long-term care for a person with Alzheimer’s.

  3. Quinn, C., Nelis, S. M., Martyr, A., Morris, R. G., Victor, C., & Clare, L. (2019, May). Caregiver influences of ‘living well’ for people will dementia: Findings from the IDEAL studyAging & Mental Health.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion. (2023, April). Older adult fall prevention.

  5. Möhler, R., Renom, A., Renom, H., Meyer, G., & Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group. (2018). Personally tailored activities for improving psychosocial outcomes for people with dementia in long-term careCochrane Library.

  6. Basso, A., Borella, E., Cavalli, R., Melendugno, A., Meneghetti, C., Murroni, V., & Pazzaglia, F. (2021, September). Effectiveness of therapeutic gardens for people with dementia: A systematic reviewInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Meet the Author
Nirali Desai, memory care writer

Nirali Desai is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom specializing in memory care and life enrichment topics. Previously, she worked in marketing and social media, edited a regional senior magazine, and wrote for the American Red Cross. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Merritt Whitley, senior living writer and editor

Reviewed by

Amy McLoughlin, senior living expert

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