← Back to Blog

What is Memory Care

As people get older, they may choose to live in senior living communities to stay active and social in their golden years. These communities offer older adults a vibrant, comfortable atmosphere where they can engage in activities that promote wellness and healthy aging. For seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, there are specialized centers called memory care communities that are tailored to meet their specific needs. 

So, what is memory care, and how does it benefit those who choose to live there?

People living with dementia need personalized care that they might not receive in a standard senior living community. Dementia is a progressive condition with a number of symptoms — the most prevalent being memory loss. Older adults with the condition may become more irritable, anxious, or prone to outbursts. They may also struggle with day-to-day tasks or get lost in familiar places.

Senior memory care communities provide a safe environment for older adults with memory issues. They can get the same quality of care and amenities provided by other long-term senior communities but with some key differences and added benefits. Memory care communities offer programs and activities specific to residents living with dementia, along with additional safety measures. Most importantly, staff members in these communities are trained to work with adults with dementia.

As you can see, there are several reasons why loved ones of people living with dementia choose memory care communities after a dementia diagnosis. Let’s take a look at who can benefit most from memory care, the associated costs, and some tips for choosing the right community for your loved one.

Who Needs Memory Care?

Friends and family members of older adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s may provide assistance at home as best as they can for as long as possible. This allows the individual to stay at home or in a familiar environment where they can live independently. They can stay connected to their community and preserve their sense of dignity and quality of life. Unfortunately, as their conditions get worse over time, it may become too difficult for family and friends to provide the level of care they need.

If you think your aging parent is reaching this stage, there are some signs to look out for. For example, you might notice that they aren’t keeping up with basic housework or personal hygiene. This can be because they’ve forgotten how to do simple tasks that were once routine. Similarly, you may observe that they aren’t caring for their health as they should, such as following a medication schedule or going to medical appointments. It isn’t because they’ve stopped caring but because they don’t remember.

It’s natural to start to forget things as you age. However, people living with dementia may forget a lot of things, such as what day or year it is. Some individuals may even revert to childhood, completely forgetting what phase of life they’re in. They might want to go home, which could mean their childhood home and not their current home. This longing to go home can be the reason for an adult with dementia to wander off and possibly get lost when they don’t recognize their surroundings. They might even get confused when walking around their neighborhood or wander at different times of the day, which can be especially dangerous at night.

At a certain point, some older adults with dementia aren’t safe in their homes anymore. Besides wandering, seniors with the condition are more susceptible to falls as they become more disoriented in their own homes. On the flip side, you might worry about your own safety if your loved one lashes out or becomes aggressive in a state of confusion. Caregiving is a really hard job, so it’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel like their personal life takes a hit during the process. Caregivers often feel like they don’t have enough time to sleep or take care of their personal needs, on top of the difficulty of seeing their loved one get worse over time.

Memory care is an option for older adults diagnosed with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common condition, but here are some other conditions that may require memory care:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Vascular dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia 
  • Encephalopathy 
  • Parkinson’s disease

To be considered for long-term memory care, the older adult must have a diagnosis and a specific need for constant care. The diagnosis helps the memory care community build a care plan for the individual, especially considering the symptoms of the diagnosis.

Benefits of Memory Care

A memory care community offers people living with dementia a safe place designed specifically to meet their needs. These communities promote social activities to encourage interactions and stimulation, give residents easy access to outdoor spaces, and allow them to live as independently as possible. At the same time, there are systems in place to prevent residents from wandering away from the community, which can be a safety hazard. Here are other benefits of memory care:

Access to Trained Professionals

Memory care communities hire highly trained professionals to work with people with dementia. This ensures that your loved one has access to around-the-clock care from a team that understands the ins and outs of the condition. These healthcare workers can better monitor residents’ health progress and keep an eye out for any changes in their overall well-being.

Personalized Care Plans

Dementia affects individuals differently. That’s why memory care communities create personalized care plans for each resident to meet them where they’re at and ensure the care provided is specific to their life and needs. Care plans can include activities and programs that encourage residents to participate in daily social activities. These social interactions help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for both residents and staff. 

Community programs are designed to promote overall health and cognitive stimulation while warding off boredom and loneliness. Residents can find fulfilling activities that engage their mind, body, and soul.

Relief for Families

One benefit people often overlook is the opportunity for families to regain balance in their lives. When parents have dementia, their children often step in as caregivers, reversing the roles between parent and child. This can cause friction on both sides and isn’t always easy to navigate. 

As mentioned, caregiving is hard work on top of the stress and helplessness from seeing your loved one’s dementia get worse over time. Moving into a memory care community can help alleviate the burden on family members. Families can have peace of mind, knowing their loved one is receiving the care they need. At the same time, they can be involved in their parent’s life on a daily basis without the stress of being a caregiver. Families of older adults with dementia can simply enjoy being in their loved one’s presence whenever they see each other.

Cost of Memory Care

Senior memory care can be a valuable asset to many families, but the question of cost needs to be carefully considered before making a decision. Costs vary depending on several factors, including:

  • The level of care that the individual needs
  • Location, such as the city and state where they live
  • The living situation (private room or shared) and size of space
  • If the community has any additional fees on top of the base cost
  • If there is a minimum stay time or fees associated with breaking the contract

What’s the average cost of memory care?

In 2023, the average monthly cost of a memory care community in the United States was $6,160. This is higher than the national average for standard senior communities, which had an average monthly cost of $4,500. Even if memory care is available inside a standard senior living community, the cost will still be higher to accommodate for the level of specialized care that the resident will receive. The total cost takes into account the tailored programs and skilled professionals necessary for the proper care of residents with dementia.

These can be pretty high numbers for the average family. For most, memory care expenses aren’t covered completely by one source. Many families have a combination of funding sources to cover the costs of this vital care. In most cases, programs like Medicare and Medicaid can help cover some of the cost, which can be a big help. In 2022, these two programs covered two-thirds of the national cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment, leaving individuals and their families to cover the remaining third out of pocket.

How can you cover the costs of memory care?

Here are some ways American seniors can pay for dementia care:

  • Medicare, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance
  • Retirement benefits, like IRAs or annuities
  • Personal savings and investments
  • Government assistance
  • Community support services

Some senior communities also have financial aid available for those who qualify. This is on an individual basis, so it never hurts to ask the memory care community you’re interested in if financial help is available.

Costs also vary greatly in different parts of the country. Most people want to stay close to home to be near family, so look into different options in your area to get a feel for costs in your city or state. Memory care communities in big, urban areas tend to be more expensive. 

You’ll also find higher costs in communities that have more amenities. While all communities aim to make their memory care centers comfortable and dynamic, those with extras like beauty salons, recreation centers, or organized activities off-site will be more expensive than those that don’t have these amenities.

How to Choose a Memory Care Community

Choosing the right memory care community is a big decision, so don’t feel rushed to commit to the first place you see. When deciding where your loved one should live, start by making a list of things that are most important to you. Some things you’ll want to consider are:

  • Location: Is the community close to home so friends and family can easily drop by? Does the location impact the price?
  • Amenities: What facilities and features should the community have?
  • Price: What’s your budget, and how will costs be covered?
  • Living arrangement: Is having a private room important for your loved one, or is sharing a better option to be social? Is apartment style a possibility?

These are just some things to think about. Once you’ve made a list, start researching to find memory care communities in your area that tick the boxes. It’s important to check a variety of communities to get a feel for each one. If you’re looking for a community for a parent or aging adult, make sure that they are present for the visits. It’s important to gauge their reaction to each community and hear their thoughts and feedback.

Just like making a list of criteria to narrow down your search, you should also prepare a list of questions to ask during the tour. Some important questions to ask include:

  • Who is in charge? During your tour, ask if you can meet the executive director. Ask them about important policies that affect you and your loved one, such as security and visitation rules. You can also ask if they are accredited.
  • What medical care is included? Besides dementia-specific care, ask about what other health resources are available.
  • What’s the total cost? Ask about how costs can be covered, if financial aid is available, and what factors affect the overall price.
  • What is living here like? Ask to see a room, take a look at the dining options, and see residents in action.
  • What specific activities do you have for residents with dementia? Ask how often activities are scheduled, especially cognitive stimulation activities.

Senior Memory Care the SRG Way

Choosing a memory care community for a loved one with dementia is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. SRG has several luxury senior living communities across the U.S. with memory care options. These communities have all the amenities your loved one needs in this phase of life. Beyond the high-quality care you would expect from a community, our senior residents can take part in many engaging activities that promote healthy aging. Reach out to SRG today to discover healthy aging our way!