Memory Care vs Assisted Living: 5 Important Differences

You’ve been seeing signs for a while now, but maybe you didn’t want to face them. It started out small. Misplaced glasses here. A lost remote there. But then she started forgetting people’s names. Forgetting the words for things. Last week, she got lost coming home from the grocery store.  And she looks bad. Your once perfectly groomed mother now wears rumpled clothes. Her hair is unwashed. Then, this morning, when you came through the door, you realized that, just for a split second, your own mother didn’t recognize you.

You know you will need help. You know memory care experts are out there. But how do you find the services and staff that are right for your mom? Read on to learn more about memory care, assisted living, and the important differences between them.

A Rising Tide

It’s indisputable. Rates of dementia are skyrocketing in the US, with more than an estimated 5 million Americans currently living with some form of the disorder. As the population ages and life expectancy increases, that number is only expected to grow.

But statistics mean nothing when it’s your loved one battling this terrible disease. They mean nothing when you are the one trying to ensure that your mother, your father, your spouse or your sibling receives the care they need and deserve.

Constant Care

No one faces dementia alone. For every one of those five million Americans fighting with the disorder, there is a network of friends, family, and loved ones fighting right alongside. But caring for a loved one with dementia is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face. As the disease progresses, the patient will likely require constant assistance, continuous monitoring, just to keep her safe. And that is something that no one can do by themselves.

Caring for someone with dementia means marshaling the troops. It means building a strong and expansive network of dedicated experts to ensure that your loved one is treated with the skill, the compassion, and the respect he or she deserves. As painful as it may be to accept, providing the highest quality care for your loved one may ultimately be something you simply cannot do at home, particularly as the disease progresses.

But how do you know when it is time to consider assisted living, and how do you choose the facility that is right for your dear one?

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living

Many people assume that memory care and assisted living are virtually synonymous. However, there are important distinctions that have to be considered when choosing the facility that will best meet your loved one’s needs.

1. Memory Care is Always Assisted Living, But Assisted Living is not Always Memory Care

This may seem confusing, but it’s really quite simple. “Assisted living” is a more general term for an array of services that a facility might provide to help elderly and disabled residents with routine daily tasks. This may range from meal preparation and transportation to aiding in bathing, dressing, and toileting. This also typically includes assistance with medication and onsite medical support in the event of injury or illness.  Assisted living facilities, however, do not always provide memory care services. Indeed, memory care by definition refers to the specialized services of experts trained in the care of those with dementia and other cognitive impairments. Memory care, in other words, provides all of the services of the traditional assisted living facility, but with the important addition of resources tailored to the needs of patients with dementia and related disorders.

2. Memory Care Facilities are Smaller

Patients receiving memory care services require far more attention than do most patients in a standard assisted living. The needs of dementia patients are also often vastly different. Because dementia patients are vulnerable to agitation and anxiety, they tend to fare better in facilities that are smaller and more like a traditional home. This can help to reduce patients’ disorientation and desire to wander because they find themselves in surroundings they find comfortable and familiar. These smaller, more intimate spaces also help care providers to monitor their patients more effectively.

3. Memory Care Facilities Have Lower Patient/Staff Ratios

Because the needs of dementia patients are extensive and complex, patients require intense and continuous care. This means that if patients are to receive the quality of care they need and deserve, all the time, every time, then a low staff-to-patient ratio is essential. The best memory care facilities try to ensure that each staff member is responsible for the care of no more than two patients at any given time.

4. Memory Care Provides Specialized Services

The needs of dementia patients are unique and ever-evolving. The best memory care facilities use the latest in evidence-based practices, the most up-to-date research, to provide services that will support the physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of their patients. This can include everything from music and art therapy to baking classes and game nights. Such services are specifically, strategically, and expertly designed to serve two purposes: to boost the quality of patients’ lives and delay the progression of their disease for as long as possible.

The Takeaway

With dementia, what you and your loved one face now is truly a long goodbye. She may be slipping away, but your love for her will not. And while she remains, she deserves the happiest, healthiest, and most fulfilling life possible.

She deserves to be surrounded by caring professionals who will care for her with dignity and respect. She deserves to be surrounded by professionals who know that to accompany your loved one and her family into this last goodbye is far more than a job. It is an honor, a privilege, a sacred trust. She deserves to spend the remaining time she has in an environment that is warm, comforting, loving. She deserves a home-like atmosphere in which she can make a haven, a sanctuary.

There is nothing that can take away the pain of this disease, the ravages of the loss it leaves behind. But there is power in knowing that you have made the most of the time that remains for your loved one. There is solace in finding a place where she can be her happiest and healthiest self, while she can and for as long as she can.

Please visit our website to learn more about how our specialized memory care services can benefit your loved one.