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What is Memory Care?

Memory care is residential, long-term care intended for individuals with memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The environment is designed to be safe and secure for seniors with memory challenges, and residents receive daily assistance with personal care from staff trained to help patients with memory loss. Activities intended to improve cognitive function and opportunities to socialize with others are also offered to memory care residents. Memory care may be provided within special units of assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, or nursing homes. There are also facilities dedicated solely to memory care.


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How Much Does Memory Care Cost?

Memory care generally costs more than assisted living, yet less than nursing home care. While many memory care facilities do not publicize their costs, experts have calculated that memory care expenses are anywhere from 20% to 30% more than assisted living due to the extra included services and fees. For this reason, we calculate memory care costs as 25% more than the rates for assisted living. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, national median assisted living costs were $4,500 a month in 2021; therefore, the estimated national median cost of memory care would be approximately 25% more than this, or $5,625 a month. 

Factors that may influence cost are geographic location as well as the level of care provided by a facility.

The Different Levels of Care in Memory Care Communities

The needs of a loved one change depending on if they are in the early, middle, or late stages of dementia. While most people can still live at home and perform simple activities of daily living independently in the beginning stages, complicated activities may begin to become difficult.

By the time individuals enter the middle stages of dementia, they may begin to require the care offered in a memory care community and need assistance in the following areas:

  • Daily care and personal hygiene
  • Communication and expressing themselves
  • Emotional and mental health as they become anxious, depressed, irritable, and/or disoriented
  • Behavior management due to wandering, sleeping difficulties, and/or aggressive behavior.  

Late-stage dementia is indicated by worsening symptoms and, at this point, individuals require 24-hour care and supervision. An individual in this stage may experience any of several challenges, including:

  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Inability to speak clearly or express themselves
  • Walking problems or issues with mobility
  • Increased susceptibility to infections   

Hospice care may be provided by a memory care community to residents in the later stages of dementia. This care focuses on making a loved one with dementia comfortable and having the highest quality of life possible. 

Understanding the Symptoms of Memory Impairment and Dementia

Dementia is typically a slowly worsening condition that negatively impacts memory, reasoning, judgment, language, and general thinking. It often makes it difficult or impossible for someone to work or successfully interact with others. Indicators that someone may be suffering from dementia include the following:

  • Repeating the same questions
  • Taking longer to do routine tasks
  • Forgetting words when talking
  • Confusing one word for another
  • Becoming lost in familiar locations
  • Misplacing items in unusual places
  • Sudden inexplicable mood or behavior changes

Mild cognitive impairment is a decline in one or more areas of thinking that is greater than expected due to aging, but less than that of someone diagnosed with dementia. Those with mild cognitive impairment can still perform daily tasks and function in social situations. However, unlike those with normal levels of age-related cognitive decline, many people with mild cognitive impairment will develop dementia later in life due to a disease or disorder.

When to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care

When individuals’ cognitive changes lead them to start behaving in ways that can put their or others’ safety at risk, it may be time for them to move from assisted living to memory care. The staff and medical team at an assisted living facility will typically meet with family as their loved one’s care needs change to recommend or require a move to a memory care unit or a separate facility offering memory care. Examples of behaviors indicating a resident of an assisted living facility may be better served in memory care are included below.

  • Wandering away and becoming disoriented and/or lost in the assisted living facility
  • Showing signs of frequent forgetfulness
  • Developing poor hygiene, such as no longer bathing or brushing their teeth
  • Forgetting to eat or finish meals
  • Becoming unable to socialize or participate in scheduled activities

Is Memory Care Covered by Medicare?

Medicare will not typically cover long-term memory care, assistance with the activities of daily living in a memory care community, or the room and board expenses of living in a memory care facility. However, it will cover certain associated costs, such as the following:

Many residents and/or their families pay for memory care out of their own pockets. Once a majority of their assets have been spent, individuals receiving memory care may qualify for Medicaid, which may offer long-term care coverage. However, the facility must be willing to accept Medicaid payment.  

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Facility

If possible, you should compare different memory care facilities. Try to visit each on several occasions, including in the evening when there may be fewer staff members present and your visit isn’t previously scheduled. During a visit, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Does the environment take the needs of those with memory loss into account with a simple, uncomplicated structure? 
  • Are there tools to help residents navigate the facility, such as color coding on walls and/or clear labels on doors?
  • Is it clean and inviting? 
  • Is there an option to securely walk around outside?
  • What measures are in place to ensure wandering residents are kept safe?
  • What training does the staff receive to help them understand dementia?
  • Is there enough staff to take care of residents' needs quickly and efficiently?
  • What activities are provided to engage residents and provide mental stimulation?

The Benefits of Memory Care Communities for Residents and Families

Memory care communities are helpful for both residents and their families. Residents can enjoy the following benefits:

  • A calming environment designed to reduce confusion for those suffering from memory loss
  • Features such as color-coded walls and a floor plan without complex passageways or dead-ends 
  • Personalized care by staff with special training so they can appropriately assist residents with memory difficulties 
  • Opportunities to engage in appropriate mentally stimulating activities, such as pet therapy, music therapy, and more to improve their cognition, reduce stress, and elevate their mood 

In addition to memory care community residents enjoying a high quality of life, their families know that they are safe with access to quality care whenever they need it. Some common memory care facility policies that ensure resident safety and well-being are outlined below.

  • A lower staff-to-resident ratio than provided in assisted living to best support the  complex needs of dementia patients  
  • 24/7 supervision so that the needs of residents can be met at all times
  • Safety features such as secured doors and alarm systems to ensure residents who wander and/or become disoriented are protected and kept safe 

SeniorHomes advisors can help you determine what type of care is right for you and where to find the best care options. These professionals are available 24/7 by calling 1-800-748-4024.

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Those with certain disabilities or diseases have more obstacles to overcome when searching for a quality assisted living home. If you have questions, we are here to help provide the answers. Give our senior care advocates a call and read our guides for specific information and resources related to your or your loved one’s condition.

Those with certain disabilities or diseases have more obstacles to overcome when searching for a quality assisted living home. If you have questions, we are here to help provide the answers. Give our senior care advocates a call and read our guides for specific information and resources related to your or your loved one’s condition.

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