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When adult children consider long term care facilities for their elderly parents, they will undoubtedly consider assisted living vs memory care. This is especially true if the parent has memory loss problems. So what is the difference between the two?

Memory care facilities offer specialized care for seniors with some form of dementia. To prevent seniors from wandering, they are highly secure and are heavily structured with routines to assist the residents. Forbes notes that memory care facilities typically have a smaller staff to patient ratio, as a senior citizen with dementia needs more time and attention.

Assisted living facilities are long term care facilities that allow seniors to remain independent in their day-to-day activities while providing them with help when they need it. Residents are provided with small apartments cleaned by staff and three meals in a community setting each day. Outdoor activities are also offered to improve the quality of life for residents in an assisted living facility. Although seniors in assisted living have their memory and reasoning skills intact, they may need help with some of their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) as they age.

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Dementia and Assisted Living

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Dementia and assisted living have become more associated with each other in recent decades.

In recent decades, there has been a strong correlation between dementia and assisted living. According to the National Library for Medicine, as many as 68% of assisted living residents have dementia, out of the estimated one million adults currently residing in assisted living facilities.  Assisted living facilities are known by a variety of names, such as “residential care,” “sheltered housing,” and “domiciliary care.” These facilities often use long term care EHR software to better track the care provided.

Unfortunately, sometimes, assisted living is not enough for dementia patients. The Gerontological Society of America cites a study where of the 165 persons with dementia in an assisted living facility, the most common reason for leaving was the need for more care. Still, further research about the needs of assisted living residents with dementia and the efficacy of an assisted living facility’s approach to their care is necessary.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Memory Care or Assisted Living

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There are seven key differences between assisted living vs memory care.

When adult children are considering memory care or assisted living for their elderly parent, they should take into consideration certain important matters, as noted by A Place for Mom:

1.    Safety: For senior citizens with memory loss, safety is a major concern. Hence, environmental security comes as standard, as part of the memory care requirements in a memory facility. This means:

  • Locked entrances and exits
  • Keypads on doors to prevent wandering of residents
  • Floor plans that are simple and minimize confusion of residents

2.    Staff training and care: When it comes to staff in assisted living vs memory care facilities, both train their staff to support residents with their ADLs through their LTC software. However, the staff in memory care facilities go much further. For example, nurses in a memory care facility are trained to provide 24-hour support to residents. In addition, they create personalized care plans that help seniors maintain cognitive skills, a feeling of independence, and give them a sense that they have a higher quality of life.

3.    Amenities: Memory care facilities are designed uniquely to help minimize confusion among residents. Their design elements include color-coded walls, clearly defined common areas, outdoor gardens, and memory boxes. Meanwhile, assisted living facilities offer certain amenities that may not necessarily be available in memory care facilities, including:

  • Gyms
  • Arts and craft centers
  • Library and game rooms
  • Spas and relaxation rooms

4.    Activities and therapies: Memory care facilities offer group and individual therapy for seniors with memory loss. These therapies are not typically available in assisted living facilities. The therapies provided are intended to enhance memory, and they include:

5.    Cost: When considering when to move from assisted living to memory care, the cost is a significant factor. AARP notes that memory care has a monthly rent of $6,935, which is more than that of assisted living ($5,380). However, memory care is still cheaper than a nursing home, which has an average cost of $10,562 per month.

Assisted Living vs Memory Care

Assisted living is an excellent place for a loved one if memory loss is not a problem. However, to determine the best choice in assisted living vs memory care, one should ask themselves the following questions:

Assisted Living vs Memory Care
Always examine the symptoms when deciding between memory care or assisted living.
  1. Does the elderly relative with Alzheimer’s or Dementia wander frequently?
  2. Are they combative (hitting or yelling) due to memory loss?
  3. Do they need constant supervision?
  4. Do they get lost in familiar places?
  5. Do they forget to turn off the stove or lock the doors?
  6. Do they misplace objects?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, one should consider memory care.

For more on recent trends in long term care, read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast.

Elijah Oling Wanga