If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, or if your loved one already lives in an assisted living community, they will likely need additional care as their disease progresses.
Some families may choose to place their loved one in a memory care community -- a specialized type of long-term care that is designed to meet the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
What Are Memory Care Communities?
Memory care communities provide round-the-clock care and assistance with the tasks of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and taking medications. They also provide recreational programming and outings, all tailored to your loved one’s abilities and interests, so there is always something fun and social to do.
Typically situated within assisted living communities, memory care can also be standalone communities. Availability varies based on the area where you live and if there is space at any given community.
Because laws vary from state to state, it’s important to ask specific questions about what type of care is provided in a memory care community to ensure that the level of care is appropriate for your loved one.
Costs depend on the level of care the individual needs, as well as the size of the room, whether it’s private or shared, plus the community’s geographical location.
What’s the difference between assisted living and memory care?
Confusion between how assisted living and memory care differ is not unusual. Memory care communities have staff specifically trained to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Activities are planned with the population in mind, designed to support socialization and stimulate cognitive abilities.
Additionally, memory care communities are secured to ensure consistent and familiar surroundings, and to prevent wandering – a common behavioral issue of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Does My Loved One Need Memory Care?
When deciding whether it’s time for memory care, it can be helpful to consider these questions offered by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Is it unsafe for the person with dementia to remain in his/her current home?
- Is the health of the person with dementia (or the health of the caregiver) at risk?
- Do the person's care needs extend beyond the caregiver’s emotional and/or physical abilities?
- Would the structure and social interaction provided at a memory care facility benefit the person with dementia?
Transitioning a loved one into an assisted living or memory care community can be emotional, but gathering good information can relieve some of the worries and help guide you in making the right decision.
What Should I Look For in a Memory Care Community?
As you consider whether any particular assisted living or memory care community can meet the needs of an individual suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, there are three major points to keep in mind: how good is the quality of the care, how robust is the activity program, and finally, how is the community laid out and maintained?
When you narrow the list of communities down, schedule a tour so you can see them firsthand. Here are some things to pay attention to when touring a prospective community:
- Is the community responsive to family requests, and do they allow family members to visit at any time?
- Does the community resemble a home or nice hotel - light and airy? Are common areas actually used by residents?
- How does the staff interact with you and the residents? Are they friendly? Do they seem to know the residents well?
- Is the calendar of activities varied and aimed at meeting the social, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the residents? Is there arts programming? Are activities led by skilled activity coordinators?
- How often and what type of training do staff receive? An ongoing training program is important to ensure that staff is aware of current best practices for care.
- What are the rooms or apartments like? Is the dining area pleasant? Check out the bathrooms, as well as the living areas, to evaluate the level of comfort and privacy your loved one will experience.
- Is the building well-maintained, with rooms and furniture clean, odor-free, and in good repair?
- What safety protocols and mechanisms are in place to ensure residents can make sense of their surroundings and stay safe?
During your tour, take plenty of notes so you can refresh your memory when it comes time to make a decision. Ask questions and expect good answers in return.
Regardless of where the care takes place, it should be a priority that your loved one receives the care that he or she really needs, in a safe and supportive environment.
Need Help Understanding Dementia?
Our resource page will walk you through the stages of dementia, help you understand what you can do, and provide more information about memory care options.