Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

How are assisted living and memory care different?

Trying to make decisions about senior living care can be tricky, especially when trying to understand the differences between assisted living and memory care facilities. Both can offer support to people with a variety of health issues. Memory care, however, specifically provides supportive care to those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments. Assisted living, on the other hand, focuses on socializing activities meant to combat the debilitating effects that isolation can have on seniors living alone. Both can provide meals, medical support and housekeeping support.

Both kinds of facilities will offer three meals a day to residents, often in a delightful social setting. Assisted living facilities may allow small meal prep areas in residents’ rooms but memory care communities will focus on creating an eating environment that is supportive of their residents’ needs which can include managing the caloric needs and other medical nutritional needs of dementia patients.

Memory care community environments will be focused on the needs and safety concerns of their residents. These might include additional door alarms, motion-sensor sinks or lighting, designed to protect residents who may wander. Assisted living facilities on the other hand, will offer residents more freedom and connection to activities beyond the facility. They will not have the precautionary measures that memory care facilities will have.

Staffing of assisted living facilities may include some limited medical staffing while memory care facilities will have more medical staff and staff who are trained in handling the needs of those with dementia.

Because memory care facilities require more staffing, costs are higher – roughly 25% higher – than assisted living facilities. Memory care facilities usually have a higher staff-to-patient ratio because of the higher care needs of dementia patients, especially given the additional safety concerns.

Can you receive memory care services in assisted living?

For the most part, assisted living facilities do not provide extensive memory care assistance. Residents who are in the early stages of dementia and can handle the independence required in assisted living, may be able to receive some basic memory care therapies in-house. However, as residents need more help with memory care and medical needs associated with memory care, they may have to move to another facility. This can add to the confusion dementia patients often experience.

Who can benefit from assisted living?

Assisted living is perfect for someone who needs help with daily care, but not as much as a nursing home or memory care facility. Often, several layers of care are available with costs varying accordingly but most assisted living facilities will provide three meals a day, assistance with personal care, help with housekeeping along with many socializing activities. If you or a loved one is feeling isolated, needs a bit of assistance managing daily functions but is fairly independent, then assisted living care is the answer.

Who can benefit from memory care?

If your loved one struggles with daily functions and is needing support much of the time, it’s time to look into memory care. This is especially important if your loved one is having trouble maintaining themselves in a safe, healthy environment, is agitated and confused often or is showing other signs and symptoms of increasing cognitive dysfunction. The environment and staffing in a memory care facility will help ease your concerns and have training to help ease residents’ stress as they move through the stages of dementia.

How to decide between assisted living and memory care

When you are faced with choosing between assisted living and memory care, remember that in an assisted living facility, you or your loved one will have to function fairly independently. While both will provide social activities and basic care, memory care is called for when you or your loved one’s dementia symptoms have progressed to the point that the health and safety of you and others requires it.