Memory Care

Table of Contents

1. What Are Memory Care Facilities?

2. What Are the Benefits of Memory Care for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia?

3. Is Alzheimer's Treatment Available with Memory Care?

4. Is Alzheimer's Genetic?

5. What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

6. How Can I Tell If My Loved One Has Alzheimer’s Disease?

7. What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's?

8. What Activities are Provided with Memory Care?

9. How Is Memory and Dementia Care Different from Assisted Living Communities?

10. Is Memory Care Ideal for My Loved One?

11. What Is the Cost of Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care?

12. How to Pay for Alzheimer's Care and Memory Care

13. Questions to Ask When Researching Memory Care Facilities

14. How Can I Find Memory Care Facilities Near Me?

1. What Are Memory Care Facilities?

A memory care facility is a residential living community that serves older adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who need personalized care and assistance with performing everyday activities. These facilities place emphasis on improving the quality of life for people with memory conditions, and offer services and amenities that help slow the progression of dementia or that may help improve certain symptoms. Memory care facilities are highly similar to assisted living communities, but also offer 24-hour supervision, have simple layouts designed to minimize wandering, and are staffed with experienced healthcare professionals devoted to providing quality care to your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

2. What Are the Benefits of Memory Care for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can affect one’s thinking, behavior, and social skills in ways that disrupt the ability to function independently and perform essential daily tasks. Many relatives of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often unable to offer their loved ones the level of support and care they need as their memory conditions progress. Memory care facilities can help families relax and give them peace of mind by caring for their loved ones in safe, supervised environments designed to meet the needs of those with memory conditions.

Here are other benefits of memory care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Physical Safety

At home, people with dementia can easily wander outside at any time and get lost or walk directly into traffic while being unaware of their actions and surroundings. They may also leave on stoves and ovens after cooking, or forget to properly turn off and store hot irons after ironing their clothing. 

Confusion, wandering, and getting lost are common characteristics and signs of Alzheimer’s disease, but memory care facilities feature simple layouts that help minimize and prevent residents from wandering and putting themselves at risk. These facilities also offer 24-hour supervision and monitoring to manage other behaviors that may compromise the safety of your loved one and other residents.

Reduced Isolation

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are commonly accompanied by isolation, especially when communication becomes increasingly difficult and frustrating as the memory disease progresses. Long-time friends may lose patience or spend more time with others without dementia, while relatives may be preoccupied with managing their own jobs and households and lack extra time to spend with loved ones with dementia. 

Memory care facilities offer a wide range of activities that promote social interaction between residents, and that can minimize isolation. When left unaddressed, isolation can worsen dementia and trigger or worsen comorbid conditions such as depression.

Help with Daily Tasks

Nearly all memory care assisted living communities help residents perform essential daily tasks related to bathing, using the restroom, grooming, taking medications, and more. Cooking and housekeeping services are also provided by many of these facilities to make daily living easier and more enjoyable for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Stimulating and Therapeutic Activities

Dementia can grow progressively worse in those who stay inactive or who do not challenge their brains and memories with engaging and stimulating activities. Memory care facilities offer a variety of individual and group activities designed to enhance and stimulate cognitive activity in those with dementia. Live entertainment, arts and crafts, music therapy, dancing, and exercise are some of the many fun, stimulating, and therapeutic activities available at memory care facilities for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Focus on Nutrition

Many people with dementia struggle with maintaining good nutrition and a healthy diet on behalf of the symptoms associated with their condition. They may forget to eat, lack the energy and patience to cook, or feel confused about which foods are healthy and which are not. 

Certain foods and nutrients have been found to help prevent Alzheimer’s and improve symptoms of dementia, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and legumes. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that blueberries, leafy greens, and curcumin contain antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect the brain and boost cognition. Memory care facilities can help residents manage their diets and can serve nutritious meals that provide residents with the nutrients needed to benefit from improved cognition and overall health.

Highly Trained Caregivers

Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s often requires a great amount of experience, patience, and personal interaction, as well as the physical strength needed to help them bathe and perform other activities. Memory care facilities are staffed with highly trained caregivers and healthcare professionals who understand how dementia works and how it affects one’s daily living. These professionals are trained to recognize subtle changes in dementia and health, and they can collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure your loved one is receiving the level of care needed to effectively manage their memory condition.

3. Is Alzheimer's Treatment Available with Memory Care?

Nearly every memory care facility offers treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, though it’s important to confirm whether Alzheimer’s treatment is included before choosing a facility. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect each person differently at varying severity levels; therefore, it’s important to look for a memory care unit that develops individualized treatment plans for each patient. Look for an accredited and certified memory care unit that has been recognized for delivering safe, effective, and quality care to residents with cognitive impairments; these facilities will have an organized, evidence-based approach to the maintenance and treatment of memory conditions.

Additionally, ask each memory care unit about its unique Alzheimer’s treatment approach. Some facilities may focus on using medications, while others may focus on alternative medicine and healthy lifestyle changes. Knowing more about the different approaches to Alzheimer’s treatment can help you choose a facility with treatment practices that align with the healthcare preferences and needs of your loved one.

The caregivers and staff members at a memory care facility are highly familiar with all symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and will monitor your loved one closely for changes in health and behavior during their residency. Any changes or progression in symptoms will be noted and implemented into your loved one’s Alzheimer's treatment and dementia care plan.

4. Is Alzheimer's Genetic?

Scientists report that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors, or a combination of all three. The NIA reports that some physicians may use genetic testing to help diagnose early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and to test people with a strong family history of the disease. 

Though Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to genetic components, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease may not necessarily mean that others in the family will inevitably develop this memory condition. A JAMA study published in 2019 found that those with a high genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s were able to significantly reduce their risk of dementia by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors. Exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, not smoking, and consuming moderate-to-low amounts of alcohol were all linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s in those at high genetic risk.

5. What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease remain unknown; however, scientists have identified several risk factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing this condition. Researchers are also performing ongoing studies to identify certain brain proteins that may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Here are common risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Age

The CDC reports that age is the best-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s symptoms typically show up after the age of 60, and the number of people with Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Certain Lifestyle Behaviors

Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease share many of the same lifestyle-related risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of exercise. Poor nutrition has also been associated with both Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Many of these lifestyle factors affect blood flow—including that to the brain—which may explain their link to memory loss and dementia. 

Lack of Mental and Social Engagement

A low education level has been linked to Alzheimer’s, as well as low levels of mental and social stimulation. A Cerebrum study published in 2017 reports that keeping the brain active may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Reading, listening to music, creating art, and doing crossword puzzles can effectively stimulate and challenge the brain to stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Poor Sleep Patterns

Sleeping less than eight hours per night, experiencing frequent sleep disturbances, staying awake at night, and sleeping during the day have all been linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. These sleep patterns can disrupt the human circadian rhythm, along with certain important nighttime brain functions that contribute to good overall health.

Other Risk Factors

Down syndrome, past severe head trauma, gender, and mild cognitive impairment are other factors that may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Though some risk factors of Alzheimer’s may not be preventable, many are modifiable, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating more healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may go a long way toward preventing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

6. How Can I Tell If My Loved One Has Alzheimer’s Disease?

In 2014, Alzheimer’s disease affected at least 5 million people in the U.S. — or 1.6% of the population. Another report from the CDC states that by the year 2060, there will be at least 13.9 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s, or about 3.3% of the population. Given the estimated prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s highly possible that someone you know in your family or community is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease — but how can you tell?

Early Signs of Alzheimer's

Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, and one of the most common signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Your loved one may start becoming more forgetful, especially when it comes to remembering important dates and events such as birthdays and holidays.

Other early signs of Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Difficulty working with numbers, such as when budgeting and paying bills

  • Difficulty with solving minor problems, such as how to untie a shoelace knot

  • Difficulty with driving a vehicle

  • Difficulty with performing routine daily tasks, such as putting away dishes or taking a shower

  • Losing or misplacing items frequently

  • Problems with communication, such as forgetting certain words or repeating recent conversations

  • Changes to vision, such as vision loss or impairment

  • Problems with judgment and with making decisions

  • Decline in personal hygiene, such as neglecting to bathe or brush teeth

  • Avoidance of social events and spending more time in isolation

  • Sudden, extreme changes in mood and behavior

If your loved one has been exhibiting any one or more of the above signs, it’s possible they may be developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Common Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Many early signs of Alzheimer’s disease are synonymous with common symptoms of Alzheimer’s. As this disease progresses, memory loss gradually worsens to cause serious problems with one’s ability to adequately function at work or at home.

Common Alzheimer’s symptoms include:

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly

  • Repeating the same statements

  • Forgetting conversations

  • Forgetting the names and faces of friends and relatives

  • Wandering and getting lost

  • Misplacing items and possessions

  • Inability to have conversations due to difficulty with remembering words and expressing thoughts

  • Inability to properly multitask

  • Inability to make reasonable decisions

  • Changes in sleeping patterns

  • Irritability and mood swings

  • Loss of inhibitions

  • Delusions

If you think your loved one may have Alzheimer’s disease, a doctor can properly diagnose your loved one’s condition using an Alzheimer’s test. An Alzheimer’s test typically includes a physical and neurological exam, bloodwork, mental status test, and brain imaging. 

7. What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are terms often used interchangeably to describe memory loss and impairment; however, these terms do not share the same meaning. 

Dementia is a general term used to describe a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in mental ability and the inability to perform normal daily activities. Dementia is characterized by memory loss and impairment, decreased focus and attention, poor judgment, and deficits in language, thinking, and communication skills. Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia.

The main difference between dementia and Alzheimer's is that Alzheimer’s is a specific disease, while dementia is not. Other types of dementia include Huntington's disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, and is a progressive brain disease that gradually causes memory impairment and cognitive decline.

8. What Activities Are Provided with Memory Care?

Most memory care facilities provide residents with activities that can stimulate the brain, slow disease progression, and potentially bring back long-forgotten memories. The activities available at memory care facilities can greatly improve your loved one’s quality of life; boost their self-esteem; and strengthen the connection and relationship between yourself and your loved one with dementia.

Here are activities that may be available with your loved one’s dementia care plan.

  • Browsing photo albums featuring photos taken throughout their life and of their friends and relatives
  • Rereading their favorite books and novels
  • Rereading old letters and cards
  • Listening to music, especially music from your loved one’s earlier years
  • Singing songs or playing musical instruments
  • Working on various puzzles, such as crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles
  • Playing board games with caregivers and other residents
  • Cooking their favorite meals or old family recipes
  • Engaging in outdoor activities such as gardening, walking, or golfing
  • Engaging in their favorite hobbies, such as bowling, knitting, and painting
  • Seasonal decorating for various holidays and celebrations throughout the year
  • Caring for pets or spending time with animals

9. How Is Memory and Dementia Care Different from Assisted Living Communities?

Memory and dementia care homes offer many of the same services and amenities as assisted living, but place more emphasis on improving the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

Assisted living is a senior living environment in which residents can receive assistance with performing normal daily tasks while maintaining their independence. Memory care offers the same assisted living services, but arranges for them to be carried out by staff members professionally trained to care for patients with dementia. Memory care units also feature simple layouts that help minimize wandering associated with dementia, along with activities designed to enhance the memory or slow down the progression of dementia.

Memory care provides 24-hour security and supervision services to help residents stay safe, while assisted living offers more privacy and independence for seniors who are typically more self-sufficient. Additionally, many rooms and apartments in memory care units lack kitchens to prevent kitchen-related accidents caused by those with dementia, while assisted living units provide many of the same amenities as a regular home.

10. Is Memory Care Ideal for My Loved One?

Memory and dementia care facilities are typically ideal for adults with dementia who cannot continue living safely at home due to the symptoms of their condition, and who could benefit from 24-hour supervision and access to health care. Memory care may also be ideal for your loved one if you want to slow the progression of their disease, or improve symptoms related to memory loss and cognitive functioning.

Here are signs that can help you determine whether it’s time to start exploring dementia care facilities for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

  • Your loved one needs help in administering their medication or remembering to take their medication on time.

  • You or your relatives are experiencing difficulty with helping your loved one safely bathe, use the restroom, and perform other necessary grooming tasks.

  • Your loved one has a tendency to wander outdoors and get lost or place themselves in danger.

  • You and your relatives cannot provide caregiving services to your loved one due to other obligations associated with managing a career, family, and household.

  • You and your relatives cannot provide caregiving services to your loved one due to living far away.

  • Your loved one is no longer able to operate a vehicle and has become a safety threat to themselves and others.

  • Your loved one is prone to becoming easily agitated and aggressive.

  • Your loved one has been forgetting to eat meals or is eating lots of unhealthy foods.

  • Your loved one has a higher number of unexplained bruises and injuries.

  • Your loved one no longer has a social life or regularly interacts with others.

  • You feel that your safety or that of your family is compromised due to your loved one’s unpredictable behavior.

  • Your loved one is neglecting their finances and experiencing difficulty with paying bills.

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it may be time to start exploring your options for nearby dementia and Alzheimer's care facilities.

11. What Is the Cost of Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care?

The cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia care will vary from one facility to the next based on factors such as amenities and services offered, the level of care needed, and geographical location. According to AARP, dementia and memory care costs an average of $5,000 to $8,000 per month. 

12. How to Pay for Alzheimer's Care and Memory Care

Alzheimer’s and memory care may be costly for some. Fortunately, a variety of financial assistance options are available for individuals unable to fully pay for these services out of pocket. 

Although they generally do not cover costs associated with room and board at memory care facilities, Medicare plans may pay for medical care services provided by the memory care unit. Medicaid may offer more flexibility in regard to providing coverage for room and board, though beneficiaries may want to confirm coverage levels with their state.

War veterans and their surviving spouses over the age of 65 may be eligible to receive veterans benefits. Private insurance, employee benefits, retirement benefits, reverse mortgages, loans, and nonprofit organizations are other possible options. Personal assets such as jewelry, artwork, property, and investments may also be used to help pay for Alzheimer’s care and memory care.

When researching your options for dementia and Alzheimer's care facilities, ask upfront about the facility’s available payment and financing options. Most memory care facilities will work with you to find a feasible financial solution so your loved one can receive the level of care they deserve and need.

13. Questions to Ask When Researching Memory Care Facilities

The right memory care facility will give you and your relatives peace of mind in regards to the health and well-being of your loved one with dementia. The best dementia care facilities will offer a wide range of services, amenities, and activities, allowing your loved one to thrive and feel comfortable while receiving the health care they need to slow the progression of dementia and experience improvements in memory and cognitive function.

Here are questions to ask when researching your options for memory care facilities.

  1. Is your facility accredited by a major accreditation body, and is it certified to treat and care for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia?

  2. Are all your staff members professionally trained to care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia?

  3. Does your facility experience high turnover rates with medical staff, caregivers, and other employees?

  4. What types of activities do you offer for residents, how often do they occur, and when are they available?

  5. Which services and amenities are provided to residents in memory care units?

  6. Which services and amenities are included with the monthly rate, and what types of extra costs can I expect to pay?

  7. Will my loved one receive a personalized care plan?

  8. Will my loved one be monitored and supervised around the clock?

  9. How often will I be notified about my loved one’s health status and disease progression?

  10. What is the staff-to-patient ratio at your facility?

  11. Will my loved one have access to healthy foods and regular meals?

  12. Are rooms completely private, or are they semi-private?

  13. How does your facility handle medical emergencies?

  14. Are there any circumstances under which my loved one would be discharged from your facility and, if so, what are they?

  15. Will my loved one be kept safe from other residents who may be aggressive or violent?

Another way to learn more about the reputation and quality of care offered by a memory care facility is to search for online reviews about the facility written by family members of residents. Online reviews can often provide you with valuable insight surrounding how the facility treats its patients and whether it has helped patients improve or slow the progression of their dementia. To find online reviews about a memory care facility, type the name of the facility along with “reviews” and browse results.

14. How Can I Find Memory Care Facilities Near Me?

Visit FindContinuingCare.com and click on “Find Communities” at the upper right corner of the page to browse nearby senior living communities. Using the "Find Communities" button search for a location of interest and narrow your search using "Community Types" field. You can search for Memory Care in your specific area. Once you have done your research, see if the community has a red button "Request Tour/Brochure" here you can request a phone call, tour of the community or a brochure for more information.

The Internet is home to many senior housing directories that serve as efficient, convenient tools for locating facilities that offer care for dementia patients. Launch the Internet browser on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, and use search phrases such as “dementia care near me,” “Alzheimer's care facilities near me,” and “assisted living memory care near me.” These search terms will bring up a list of dementia care facilities near you.

FindContinuingCare.com is a directory of senior citizen housing options that can help you or your senior loved one to find memory care, assisted living, and other senior living communities.