How Is Memory Care Different Than Assisted Living?

Care for adults with dementia is often known as memory care. Learn more about these unique programs here.

A senior woman sitting with a cane and smiling.

When a senior loved one with dementia becomes difficult to manage at home, or family members are concerned about their quality of life, moving to a memory care community may be a solution. Memory care can be part of a nursing home or assisted living. But it is a distinct type of care designed to support older adults with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

In broadest terms, memory care provides a combination of safety, security, and personal care support. Here’s a more detailed look at these unique programs.

What Is Memory Care?

The secure environment offered by memory care helps reduce the risk that a resident with memory loss will wander away. For many families, this common behavior is one of the most frightening. For good reason, too. Six in ten people who have Alzheimer’s will wander and be unable to find their way home. The longer they are gone, the more likely they are to suffer an injury or even lose their life.

Caregivers who work with memory care residents also receive specialty training. The goal is to teach caregivers how to best care for and communicate with people who have a memory impairment. Training typically includes topics such as techniques to approach a resident so as not to scare them and positive ways to communicate with a senior whose verbal skills are diminished.

Life enrichment activities in memory care programs focus on working with the resident’s remaining abilities instead of on what they are no longer able to accomplish independently. This allows a person with dementia to maintain as much of their independence as possible for as long as possible.

Assisted Living versus Memory Care: What Are the Differences?

If you are debating whether assisted living or memory care is right for a loved one, here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Dedicated dining rooms: While well-balanced meals are a part of both assisted living and memory care, there are usually separate dining rooms for each of these two types of care. In memory care, meals are often comprised of finger foods and easy-to-consume menu items and protein drinks. This helps residents who may be struggling with dexterity to remain more independent at mealtime. Other best practices include serving food on plates in a contrasting color (making it easier to distinguish the food) and keeping clutter and noise to a minimum to avoid distractions. These strategies encourage residents to remain at the table longer.
  • Specialty programming: Activities and events geared toward those with memory problems are different than those found in traditional assisted living. Memory care residents often benefit from activities that involve repetitive tasks to soothe agitation or from art therapy, which provides a form of self-expression for those who struggle with verbal communication. Communities may also offer secure outdoor areas where memory care residents can safely garden and connect with nature. Both are known for having a positive impact on people with dementia.
  • Family support: Memory care communities recognize how difficult dementia can be for family members. Many offer on-site support group meetings to give residents’ families the opportunity to share their fears, sadness, and frustration with others who understand their struggles.

The best way to learn more about assisted living and memory care is to visit in person. The staff can help you evaluate your loved one’s needs and make an informed choice.

Get the answers to more questions about Memory Care on our Memory Care FAQ page.

If you are searching for care in the Saratoga Springs, New York, area, we hope you will consider the The Wesley Community. We offer a full continuum of care with options to meet every need. Call (518) 587-3600 to learn more!