As a caregiver, watching your loved one struggle with memory loss is heartbreaking. When it's time to explore care options, it's essential to fully understand memory care, the costs involved, and how to choose the right facility. With the proper memory care, your family member can thrive. In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about memory care as you start your research.
Memory care is a specialized form of care for seniors struggling with memory loss due to dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or other cognitive impairments. Specially trained staff deliver personalized care focused on keeping your loved one comfortable, engaged, and safe.
Services and activities focused on stimulating your loved one cognitively and physically are an essential part of memory care. Keep in mind, each senior has a different level of capability. These activities should provide stimulation, not stress:
While the average stay in memory care is two to three years, memory loss is a progressive disorder that affects each patient at a different pace. This means the length of stay in memory care can be as short as a few months or as long as a decade. The severity of symptoms, the senior's overall health, and the caregiver's ability to provide proper care to their loved one affect a senior's need for memory care.
As you interview local memory care facilities, be mindful of these questions and considerations:
Memory care red flags you should never ignore:
Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are a lot more common than you might think. Know that if you're seeking memory care for a loved one, you're not alone. Below is a breakdown of the prevalence of dementia in the U.S. based on a 2020 report from the Alzheimer's Association.1
According to Genworth's 2020 Cost of Care Survey, the monthly median long-term memory care cost for a semiprivate room is $7,756, and a private room is $8,821. Memory care costs will vary depending on the level of memory care required, the setting, and the geographical location. For more detailed information on the cost of memory care, visit our state-by-state memory care cost guide.
Did You Know: The need for memory and long-term care is staggering. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning 65 today has almost a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care service and support in their remaining years.2
Over 50 million seniors aged 65 and over are enrolled in Medicare. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover everything needed for memory care, and the costs can be significant. Individuals can pay for memory care through private insurance, Veterans Affairs healthcare, or out of pocket.
While both skilled nursing and memory care facilities offer 24-hour medical care and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as personal care and medication management, skilled nursing focuses on short-term care and rehabilitation.
Many times, once a senior is released from the hospital, they require additional care before returning home. Skilled nursing facilities provide in-patient medical care, along with physical, speech, or occupational therapy. Patients in need of post-surgery wound care, physical therapy after a hip replacement, intravenous medications, or speech therapy post-stroke will benefit from skilled nursing.
Memory care is specialized long-term care focusing on patients with memory loss.
The major difference between assisted living and memory care is the overall need of the resident. As the name suggests, assisted living is designed to “assist” your loved one. Within assisted living communities, you'll find seniors who remain largely independent. While residents may need help with specific ADLs, they do not require 24-hour medical attention.
Memory care is for seniors living with memory-related challenges such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Memory care facilities provide round-the-clock care for seniors experiencing memory loss.
Did You Know: In addition to stand-alone memory care facilities, you can find special care units (SCUs) for memory care in assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes.6
Many older adults make the move from assisted living to a memory care facility as they enter new stages of life and their needs change. But when exactly is the right time to move from assisted living to memory care? It may be time to move your loved one to memory care if they:
Family members and caregivers can experience immense emotional stress when trying to find the right memory care facility for their loved one. While this is a challenging time, it's important to remember you are not alone. There is an abundance of resources to help during this journey. The U.S. Administration on Aging offers an Eldercare Locator tool to find memory care facilities in your area. You can also check with your state Department of Social Services. We'd also suggest asking your loved one's doctor to see if they have any local recommendations.
Dr. Abby Altman is a geropsychologist and a consultant for SeniorLiving.org on the subjects of senior mental health and healthy aging. As a daughter of an occupational therapist working in nursing homes, Abby Altman, Ph.D., learned from a young age to appreciate… Learn More About Abby Altman
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt
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Alzheimer's Association. (2020). 2020 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures.
LongTermCare.gov. (2021). How Much Care Will You Need?
Alzheimer's Association. (2021). Medicare.
Medicare.gov. (2021). Inpatient hospital care.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2021). Geriatrics and Extended Care.