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Memory Care Directors: How They Shape a Memory Care Community

Written by Nirali Desai
7 minute readLast updated March 31, 2022

Behind the scenes of every top memory care facility, there’s a memory care director working hard to coordinate a safe and welcoming place for individuals with dementia. They are typically highly experienced individuals who’ve dedicated a great amount of time to studying dementia and serving seniors.

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“I feel like my main responsibility is to make sure residents have a dignified and purposeful life,” said Tracy Stanelle, senior executive director at Azura Memory Care of Stoughton.

Memory care directors have a variety of responsibilities: They’re in charge of the facility, staff, programming, care coordination, and anything it takes to keep a memory care facility running smoothly. Learn how their duties, qualifications, and involvement make for a best-in-class memory care facility.

In this article:

What are the duties of a memory care director?

Memory care director duties can differ across facilities, but there is a set of general duties typical to the position. According to most memory care director job descriptions, the position usually involves the following:

  • Hire, train, and supervise memory care staff members
  • Budget for on-site services, marketing, etc.
  • Develop and update a memory care program
  • Act as a role model and step in for staff
  • Maintain healthy communication with residents’ families and care teams
  • Educate staff and residents’ families about dementia
  • Collaborate closely with activities assistants to monitor resident engagement
  • Partner with community members, like the local library or senior center, to offer new engagement opportunities for residents
  • Participate in ongoing dementia training along with staff

Memory care directors in action

Each day as a memory care director is different, according to Stanelle. Her day-to-day work often depends on what’s going on in the community. Some days, a majority of her time is spent caring for residents, while other days are spent brainstorming new activities or creating a budget.

“A director wears many hats, including caregiver, social worker, nurse, mentor, friend, educator, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, and the list goes on,” Stanelle explained.

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John Moniz, executive director at Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, said his most important responsibility is to help residents stay engaged. From intuitive dining and exercise classes to stimulating activities and dementia therapies, it’s important to pay special mind to how residents engage with life and what they enjoy.

What are the qualifications of a memory care director?

A number of factors qualify a memory director for their role, like past experience, education, certifications, location, and the community itself. But one of the biggest qualifying factors is past experience. Most memory care directors have spent their fair share of time working in the health care or senior living industry. In fact, many of them start their careers as certified nursing assistants, as volunteers in a senior living facility, or in entry-level roles in the industry, such as activities assistants.

Depending on each state’s regulations, memory care director requirements vary. Many states’ memory care regulations simply mirror assisted living regulations, while other states have their own requirements specifically for memory care facilities and their executive directors.

While directors can take different paths, a typical list of memory care director requirements and qualifications includes:

  • Clinical experience in the geriatric field (as a certified nursing assistant or nurse)
  • Experience in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in health care administration or a related field
  • Memory care certifications and education from dementia associations
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Strong language skills to communicate with residents and families effectively

How does a memory care director work with staff?

“Collaboration and communication are key in memory care communities,” said Anne Martinez, divisional director of Life Enrichment and Memory Care at Enlivant.

From nurses and chefs to caregivers and activity coordinators, it’s important for staff to collaborate with one another to help meet each resident’s needs. This means that each staff member must be on the same page with each resident. So, it’s crucial to relay messages of change or adjustment to someone’s care.

For example, if a resident has a challenging start to their day that results in aggressive behavior, it’s important that every member of their care team becomes aware, so staff is prepared to take the right approach. Memory care directors often step in on these tough situations to provide multiple solutions and help smooth coordination across the team.

Why is it important to consider expertise, background, and involvement?

A memory care director’s expertise, background, and involvement can be a huge indicator of how the staff is trained, how programs run, and how residents are cared for. The director of the community should be caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable about up-to-date dementia care practices to help ensure that their memory care team follows suit.

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Stanelle explained how she is “out on the floor every day.” As a memory care director, she believes she shouldn’t ask her staff to do anything she hasn’t or wouldn’t do.

Over the years, Stanelle has learned the ins and outs of memory care. She’s spent time caring for seniors with dementia, talking to their families, studying dementia care plans, learning about residents, problem-solving with staff members, facilitating activities, and much more. Her hands-on experience, she said, enables her to train a trustworthy memory care team that’s prepared to help seniors thrive.

How can you ensure high-quality memory care for your loved one?

A memory care director oversees the operation of the whole facility to help ensure staff follows best-in-class memory care practices. To find the most suitable memory care facility for your loved one, inquire about the following when touring a prospective community:

Do the research

When researching memory care communities for your loved one, see if you can learn more about the on-site memory care director. Take into account their expertise and knowledge. Some community websites even provide a brief bio or contact information for their director.

Contact the director of a prospective community to see how involved they are in creating a safe and engaging space for memory care residents. You can also contact A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors, who offer a free service to help you get in touch with memory care communities in your area.


Meet the Author
Nirali Desai

Nirali Desai is a copywriter at A Place for Mom. She focuses on life enrichment opportunities and memory care. Previously, Nirali worked in social media and marketing, 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

Marlena Gates

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