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Assisted Living, Memory Care

The Difference Between Assisted Living and Memory Care

As our parents and other loved ones age, it’s inevitable that concerns about living arrangements and care needs arise. While in-home care seems appealing, the fact is a trained team of caregivers can provide a far greater range of care for your loved one, giving you peace of mind and freeing you to enjoy just being a family together.

But how do you know what’s best for your loved one? Even with so much information available on the internet, there remains a lot of confusion about various senior living options. Even more perplexing is knowing which care options to choose, when extra help is needed with activities of daily living (ADLs), or when memory loss is involved. This article will help clarify the key features and differences of assisted living vs. memory care.

What Is An Assisted Living Facility?

There are almost  29,000 assisted living facilities available in the United States. Typically, these places are focused on helping residents maintain their independence by providing assistance with day-to-day tasks like meals, medications, and personal care such as toileting and bathing, as well as housekeeping and laundry. Assisted living would not be suitable for a senior requiring round-the-clock care. In such cases, a long-term care facility with skilled nursing must be considered.

If your loved one has mild to moderate memory impairment, but still has the capacity and desire to live independently (can do most ADLs on their own, is aware of good safety behavior, etc.) assisted living can be a great option.

Nurse talking with senior woman sitting on a bed

Many, but not all, assisted living facilities are set up as secure wings with monitored and/or locked entrances for residents with dementia who might need extra supervision. Many also offer additional help with medication and special therapies to stimulate mind and body. If these types of services are important to you and your loved one, be sure to ask if there are additional charges beyond the standard monthly fee.

In general, the cost of assisted living is paid for out of pocket. However, if an individual has long-term care insurance, the monthly fee for assisted living may be partially covered for a limited time, depending on the policy.

Assisted living facilities range in size and services typically include:

  • 24-hour supervised assistance by nursing staff and health aides
  • Wellness programs and a calendar of social activities
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Meals and dining services
  • Medication management or assistance
  • Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
  • Complimentary transportation

What Are Memory Care Facilities?

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia progress at different rates in different people. But at some point in the disease, it will probably become apparent to family members that a loved one needs more care and supervision than they can receive in an assisted living setting. Choosing assisted living vs. memory care can be difficult, consider consulting a geriatric doctor or your loved one’s physician for an expert opinion. But when the time comes, a memory care facility will provide your loved one with a safe environment and give you peace of mind.

In a senior living community like Friendship Village of Bloomington, there is no need to leave familiar surroundings and friends in order to receive memory care services.

Memory care is typically a warm, caring, family-like setting where mentally stimulating activities, socialization and familiar routines are critical to caring for your loved one. Residents are encouraged (but never forced) to participate in music therapy, arts and crafts, and games with schedules tailored to individual needs.

Residents in memory care are supervised 24 hours a day by staff members specially trained to attend to the symptoms and behaviors associated with advanced dementia, and the staff-to-resident ratio is lower than in assisted living.

Senior woman holding hands with a nurse outside

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Similarities & Differences

As you explore assisted living vs. memory care, you’ll see there are many similarities and crossovers in services. For example, help with medications, physical and occupational therapies, and a slate of activities and social programs are available.

Assisted living team member duties are geared more to ADL needs, while memory care staff typically have training specific to working with the special emotional and mental behaviors of residents with dementia. Another key difference is the presence of secure, monitored entrances in memory care units to help prevent wandering and keep residents safe. Assisted living residents are free to come and go as they please as long as they are safely able to do so.

When it comes to costs, 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, this type of insurance must be purchased well in advance of the need.

Making the Right Choice: What to Consider

So how do you know whether your loved one is ready for assisted living vs. memory care? And how do you determine if they need the level of dementia care that a memory care facility provides? As you begin to consider these questions, it’s also important to talk to your loved one’s physician to help guide your decisions.

Some of the questions to ask yourself and discuss with your loved one’s physician include:

  1. How much supervision will it take to help keep your loved one safe and well-cared for? Would a little extra help make a difference, or does your loved one need constant eyes on them for safety?
  2. Can they still manage many of their ADLs, or are you noticing less attention to personal hygiene, for example?
  3. Have they begun to wander at odd hours?
  4. Are they still able to adequately communicate their needs?

Learn More About Assisted Living and Memory Care in Bloomington

As you begin to look at the choice of assisted living vs. memory care for your loved one, we’d like to invite you to explore the options at Friendship Village of Bloomington. We have so much to offer here, and in 2021, we’ll be increasing our assisted living and memory care residences to provide families with even more options. Our caring, well-trained staff is dedicated to helping our residents lead their best life comfortably and safely. To learn more, simply complete the form below and we’ll reach out to you shortly.


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