Memory care is a specialized type of elder care tailored specifically for the needs of seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
As Alzheimer’s disease or dementia progresses, the level of care and assistance a person requires increases. Many families prefer to keep their loved one home for as long as possible, and in the early stages it is possible to provide memory care at home.
Depending on where you live, there may be a number of home care options for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Informally, your friends, family, neighbors and people from your church or community may help out with cooking meals, shopping or spending time with the patient or the primary caregiver.
You may also choose to hire a part-time home health aide or nurse to provide memory care. A home health aide may help with everyday tasks such as bathing, cleaning, and laundry, while a nurse can provide medical care and help with any behavioral issues that may arise.
Respite care provides the primary caregiver with relief from the day-to-day demands of memory care. Adult day care services are one type of respite care and are generally provided at a community center or facility and ensure that the patient continues to interact with other people. Activities may include support groups, games and musical activities. Many adult day services provide transportation and meals as well.
Long-Term Care Options
At some point, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will need more care than you can provide at home. The patient may need to move into residential care, with options that provide different levels of memory care depending on the patient’s needs. Medical care, personal assistance and support services are available. The costs of care at long-term care facilities can vary widely, and options vary from one community to another.
- Private, apartment-style housing
- Cleaning and laundry services
- Help with personal needs (bathing, grooming, dressing, etc.)
Residential assisted living homes do not provide medical care but may be appropriate for people with early mild Alzheimer’s disease who can no longer live alone but who can still function fairly independently.
Nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities or custodial care) provide long-term care for those who require on-going nursing care and supervision. All aspects of care are provided by these facilities, including:
- Medical attention
- Help with personal needs
- Other support services
Nursing home care may be expensive, but for many people with advanced dementia this may also be the most appropriate choice for memory care.
Special Care Units (SCUs)
Alzheimer special care units (SCUs) (also known as “memory care” assisted living) have been developed to meet the unique needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. SCUs can take many forms but most often exist as cluster settings in which people with dementia are grouped together on a floor or a unit within a larger residential care facility.
SCUs offer a higher ratio of staff to residents than other types of care, specialized training for their staff and activity-based patient programs. The unit may include features such as secured exits and enhanced visual cues (such as signs or pictures) designed to help residents feel more oriented in their surroundings. They are often more expensive than other long-term care facilities.
Written by gerontologist Sara Shelton.