Memory Care

Also known as: Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, Special Care Units

Last Updated: October 20, 2020

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

What is memory care?

Memory care facilities are similar to assisted living communities but specialize in providing a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment for people living with dementia.

When is it time to consider a memory care facility?

It will help your family to start thinking about memory care when your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Signs that it may be time to for your loved one to enter a memory care residence is if they:

  • Are showing signs of aggression or sundowning, a change in mood and memory at day’s end.
  • Are no longer safe alone at home.
  • Forget to:
    • Clean and maintain their house
    • Pay their bills
    • Eat or go shopping
    • Maintain personal hygiene
  • Are getting lost or wandering outside of the house.
  • Get lost while driving or are dangerous behind the wheel.
  • Are lonely and have very little social interaction.

Memory care may be a good option for your loved one if you:

  • Are experiencing a decline in health because of your caring role.
  • Feel burned out, exhausted, and not able to continue.
  • Feel that their anger or aggression puts you in danger.
  • Ever feel that you are not capable of caring for them.
  • And your family cannot maintain a healthy living environment at home.

What services can memory care offer?

Memory care facilities are specially equipped for caring for people whose thinking, memory, and mood are declining. Their staff is typically trained in the special care needs of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Similar to assisted living, memory care offers:

  • Secure, comfortable housing
  • Meals and snacks
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Social activities and exercise
  • Some health care services
  • Transportation to outings and other needs

Memory care also offers these more specialized services:

  • Higher ratio of staff to residents
  • Around the clock supervision
  • Nursing staff who specialize in memory care
  • Treatments and therapies to help stimulate memory
  • Facility layouts to assist with getting around
  • Enhanced security features, such as exit and entrance security systems
  • Resources and support groups for families

How much does memory care cost?

The average cost of memory care nationally is $4,300 per month ($51,600 per year).

  • It is most affordable in the south and midwest where monthly costs can be as low as $3,300 per month ($39,600 per year).
  • It is most expensive in the northeast and on the west coast where monthly costs can easily rise above $5,500 per month ($66,000 per year).
  • State by state costs can be viewed by scrolling to the bottom of the page linked PayingforSeniorCare page.

How can my family pay for memory care?

  • If the memory care residence is part of an assisted living home, your payment and financial assistance options will be similar to those of an assisted living facility which you can read about on our Assisted Living page.
  • If the memory care residence is part of a nursing home, payment and financial assistance options will be similar to those of a nursing home which you can read about on our Nursing Home page.

How can I find the best memory care near me?

  • Start looking for a memory care facility near you through the FindContinuingCare.com locator.
  • You can also find memory care residences through Leading Age’s Aging Services Directory.
    • Be sure to check the box labeled “Dementia Care ” before searching.
  • Some areas have waiting lists for dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
  • You can begin to find out about memory care in your area when you start to have serious concerns about your loved one’s memory and actions.

What are some questions to ask during your visit to a memory care facility?

Residence Background

  • Is the memory care residence Medicare or Medicaid certified?
  • Does the administrator of the memory care residence have an up-to-date license?
  • Does the facility offer continued care as a resident’s needs change (skilled nursing, palliative care, hospice care)?
  • Is the discharge policy clear and well explained?
  • Do they offer transportation to the emergency room if needed?

Memory Care Staff

  • Does the ratio of staff to residents seem reasonable and in line with other facilities?
  • Does the staff provide medical and personal care?
  • Is the staff specifically trained in memory care?
  • Are there physicians, nurse practitioners, or registered nurses in the facility 24 hours a day?
  • Does the staff interact with each other and the residents in a pleasant manner?
  • What is the average length of time staff members have been working at the facility?

Facilities and Meals

  • Is the facility clean and free of odors?
  • Is the facility designed to help with getting around and freedom of movement?
  • Is the facility secure and always monitored indoors and outdoors?
  • Is the facility handicap accessible?
  • Are the residents’ rooms spacious and well kept?
  • What belongings are residents allowed to move into their room?
  • Are the common areas (dining room, lounge, and outdoor space) spacious and comfortable?
  • Does the food look healthy and appetizing?
  • Do they offer special meals based on dietary or religious needs?
  • Are meals and snacks served at the same time everyday?
  • Does the staff help with eating if needed?
  • Are menus diverse and changing?

Services and activities

  • Do the facility’s services and activities match your loved ones needs and interests?
  • Does the facility have a schedule of activities and events that residents can participate in during the day and in the evening?
  • What types of therapies and rehabilitation are available?
  • Does the residence offer transportation to appointments and trips?
  • Does the residence offer religious celebrations and holidays?

Residents

  • Are the residents allowed to maintain a somewhat flexible schedule based on their needs?
  • Do the residents look comfortable, relaxed, clean, and well-dressed?
  • Do residents look well supervised and given regular attention?
  • Are resident falls, injuries, or wandering common?

Family Participation

  • Can family members take an active role in care planning?
  • Are family members kept informed of changes in health?
  • Is the staff open to communicating with family members?
  • Are the visiting hours and family participation in activities adequate?
  • Are there special supports for family members such as a support group or family education?

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Nursing Home

Nursing homes are community style residences for people who are aging or very ill and in need of round-the-clock care by nurses and aides.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is for people with disabilities or older adults who need assistance with their daily activities but don't need around the clock nursing care.