Memory Care vs. Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?October 6, 2021
We’d all love to imagine ourselves or our parents spending their senior years living comfortably at home, cared for by family members. It’s a pleasant image, but not a very realistic one.
There will come a time for most people when attention by a trained team of caregivers becomes necessary for health and safety. Statistics collected by LongTermCare.gov show that a person turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and support in their remaining years.
Long before this need arises, it’s a good idea to explore the levels of care available for today’s seniors. That includes understanding the difference between memory care and assisted living.
How will you know when the time is right for assisted living or memory care? This article will answer that question by detailing the type of care that each type of community provides.
What Are Assisted Living Communities?
If you or your loved one still has the capacity and desire to live independently but needs a little extra help to do so, assisted living can be a wonderful solution to maintain a full and satisfying lifestyle.
One of the main differences between memory care and assisted living is that typically, residents of assisted living communities only need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), including bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, transferring and continence — and in many cases, just one or two ADLs. With the assistance of trained caregivers, they can lead mostly independent lives.
Difficulties with ADLs can occur for a variety of reasons. For some seniors, it can be related to the earliest stages of a memory condition like dementia. For others it could be a strength issue and the growing need for a walker. Regardless of the reason, seniors who need more help with ADLs but still have a significant degree of independence can flourish in an assisted living setting.
In an assisted living community, residents may live in a private or sometimes shared apartment. Staff is available for welfare checks, help with medication, and assistance with other ADL needs. Assisted living communities typically provide housekeeping and laundry services, as well as free shuttles to doctors’ appointments and other errands. Meal services in a dining room are also included in the monthly fee. Residents can enjoy a full and active social life as they choose, as well as opportunities to stay fit, take classes, and enjoy a wealth of events and activities.
In general, the cost of assisted living is paid out of pocket. If an individual has long-term care insurance, the monthly fee for assisted living may be covered for a limited time depending on the policy.
Assisted living facilities range in size, but regardless of size, services typically include:
- 24-hour supervised assistance by nursing staff and health aides
- Exercise; wellness programs; and a calendar of social activities, classes and activities
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Meals and dining services
- Medication management or assistance
- Assistance with ADLs
- Complimentary transportation
What Are Memory Care Communities?
Knowing that many seniors who move into assisted living are dealing with the earliest stages of some type of dementia and memory loss, it’s not surprising that a percentage of them will eventually need to move into a memory care community.
Today’s most advanced memory care communities like Horizons at Oaks Senior Living feature dementia-friendly designs complete with the sights, sounds and scents of home and community. They’re bright and welcoming places with easy-to-navigate layouts meant to reduce confusion and stimulate the senses in calm, soothing ways.
So how are memory care and assisted living different in their level of care? In a memory care community, residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia receive much higher levels of care and supervision, along with important therapies to stimulate their minds and bodies. Special monitoring and security measures are also in place to keep memory residents safe from harming themselves as well as from wandering, which is common among dementia patients.
Some assisted living facilities have secure locked wings for the safety of their dementia residents. There are also stand-alone memory care communities. In both cases, residents receive 24/7 supervision from a compassionate staff specially trained in managing the symptoms and behaviors associated with all stages of a variety of dementia forms, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Most importantly, the staff-to-resident ratio is lower than in assisted living.
While it may seem kinder to care for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s yourself, the needs of someone with these diseases are significant. It’s best to let trained health care providers take charge of what needs to be highly personalized care.
In addition to dementia-friendly surroundings such as those offered at Horizons at Oaks Senior Living — featuring bright and comfortable common areas, secure but with a sense of unrestricted movement and a sense of home — below are the features you want and need for your loved one in the later stages of dementia:
- Dedicated memory care nurse and certified nursing assistant 24 hours a day
- Personalized plan, developed with resident, resident’s loved ones, and our caring team
- Specialized memory care programming
- Assistance with medication management
- Professional, friendly assistance with activities of daily living
- Laundry and housekeeping
- Memory care coordinator to assist residents and families through disease challenges
Similarities and Differences to Know
Here’s a quick look at the key differences between memory care and assisted living:
- Assisted living staff duties are geared more to ADL needs.
- Memory care staff members typically have training specific to working with the special emotional and mental behaviors of residents with dementia.
- Assisted living communities are open with residents free to do as they please when they want.
- Memory care communities have secure, monitored entrances to help prevent wandering and keep residents safe.
- Memory care is more expensive than assisted living due to heightened supervision.
- Neither memory care nor assisted living are covered by Medicare.
- Long-term care insurance can cover some of the costs, depending on the policy, but this type of insurance must be purchased well in advance of the need.
Our Family-Operated Community Puts Your Family First
Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between memory care and assisted living, we’d love to show you how our family-centered community is a wonderful choice for senior living. Our community is designed to welcome seniors at their most independent and vibrant through all the stages of aging — from our energetic assisted living to our compassionate memory care. If you’d like to learn more, complete the contact form and let us know. We look forward to meeting you and your loved one soon.