As more and more seniors begin to require care outside of the home, a question that is often asked is “does my loved one need memory care or assisted living?” It’s also very common for family members to wonder whether their loved one will eventually need memory care, even if they don’t right now. These are important topics, so let’s dive into the memory care vs assisted living discussion in detail.
What’s The Difference Between Memory Care and Assisted Living
The best way to describe the difference between assisted living and memory care is to talk about the where senior care takes place. An assisted living community (as its name implies) helps seniors with their daily activities such as bathing, dressing, using the restroom and moving from point A to point B. Assisted living also helps with common chores such as meals, housekeeping and transportation.
Assisted living communities have a state license that tells them what care they can and can’t provide. And that license says that a community MAY NOT provide care to a person with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s unless they have a specialized secure area, specialized staff, specialized programs and required safety for those residents.
So, in this way, assisted living is NOT memory care.
However, if an assisted living community chooses to follow the extra licensing requirement for memory care, they may have a special section of their building that IS memory care. In this case, the “memory care” area will be separate from the assisted care area, and it will be secured for safety so residents are unable to leave on their own. The memory care area will have caregivers with specialized training in dementia care as licensing requires.
More On Memory Care vs Assisted Living
In addition to the type of facility above, two other settings can also be “memory care”.
The first is an entire building that calls itself Memory Care (also known as dementia care). In this case, an organization has decided they want to devote their entire business to caring for seniors with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, as you might expect, this organization is following not only licensing requirements to provide assisted living, but also the more detailed licensing requirements for the specialized care of seniors with cognitive loss.
So, in this way, memory care IS assisted living.
One More Place to Find Memory Care
A board and care home (typically 6 seniors in a homelike setting) may also choose to provide care to seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and most of them do. As a matter of fact, these small residential homes may be the best fit for someone with more advanced cognitive loss, especially if they have become unable to walk.
When a senior has dementia and is also non-ambulatory, a smaller environment where a caregiver can both see and hear a resident 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can be very helpful.
As with the larger memory care communities, board and care homes who care for seniors with memory loss also have to follow all state licensing guidelines for assisted living homes AND have specific dementia training for their caregivers. Their home also has to be physically secure for a senior’s safety.
How Can I Tell If My Loved One Will Need Memory Care In the Future?
This question makes the memory care vs assisted living question all the more important. And the answer is not easy. It really does depend.
If your loved one is already in their late 80s or 90s and has mild dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the chances of them progressing to needing full memory care is much smaller than for a senior in their 70s or early 80s who already has a primary diagnosis of dementia, even though it may be mild now. Let the care communities and care homes you visit help you with this important distinction.
How Do Care Communities Know If A Senior Needs Memory Care Or Assisted Living?
Memory care vs assisted living – how do care places know which type of care your loved one will need? There are 2 answers.
The first way a care facility determines if a senior needs memory care or not is by reviewing an important form your loved ones doctor fills out. It’s called Form 602A (also called a Physician’s Report). You can find a copy of the 602A here. The care home or care community will review the report and pay particular attention to questions 7,8 and 9 (primary diagnosis, secondary diagnosis and either MCI or dementia).
The second way a care home or care community determines if a senior needs memory care is by having their nurse or administrator personally meet and assess your loved one. The nurse will have a series of questions they ask that helps them determine if the senior has dementia or Alzheimer’s, and where they should be placed to receive the most appropriate care.
We hope this article will help your family understand a bit more about Memory Care vs Assisted Living. Please remember that Elder Answers can help you explore either assisted living or memory care options for your loved one, all at no charge to you. Just click below.