The term “memory care” is being seen more often in the media. It is an important term to understand. Memory care refers to long term care for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia or other serious memory problems. It also specifically applies to people who need assistance with at least 2 types of daily self care tasks or ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). Examples of these are feeding, dressing, or bathing yourself.

These specialized units may be a care option for a loved one who has been at home. If they are engaging in increasingly unsafe behaviors at home, or are becoming more confused, or combative, memory care units may be an alternative level of care to consider. A loved one who needs 24 hour supervision to maintain safety and well being may be a candidate for a memory care unit.

Memory care units have risen in number in response to the increased numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of serious dementia. Here are the reasons memory care units are different from other assisted living programs:

  • They are specialized separate care units in assisted living programs.
  • Staffing is designed to offer additional help like nurses aides who can offer daily assistance multiple times a day to residents assisting them with self care tasks, safe mobility, and taking medication. The goal is always patient well being and safety.
  • There is additional staff in the dining room to assist residents with eating.
  • There is a strong emphasis on safety and quality of life.
  • These programs are designed with special alarm/security systems so residents cannot just walk out and leave without proper supervision.
  • There are activities on these units that are specifically focused on enhancing memory. These activities focus on helping residents with sundowners syndrome and other confusion or memory loss issues. They incorporate reminiscence type programming to enhance memory. Staff  tries to keep residents minds and bodies active through ongoing structured activities offered by trained staff.
  • Residents in memory care programs may be given special alarms so if they stand up from a wheelchair or get out of bed the alarm signals staff to check on a resident to ensure they are safe.
  • Memory care units offer special programs designed to try to slow down memory decline. This may include art or music therapy. They try to do group activities to enhance resident socialization opportunities in an environment that offers stimulation to the mind and body. Physical and Occupational Therapists may be involved in these programs.
  • The rooms are usually private or semi-private to maximize patient well being and care.
  • The cost of memory care is higher than regular assisted living units because of the enhanced special programming and the additional staffing needs of the residents.
  • This is a free site that offers information about Alzheimer memory care units in your area at
  • The cost of memory care can vary based on geographic location. It also is determined by a resident being in a private vs. semi-private room and the type and frequency of help needed. Medicare generally does not cover this type of program. There is also limited coverage in terms of Medicaid. Most of these programs are paid for by private funds. Some people may have long term care insurance that may offer some coverage. Be sure and ask about all costs related to care for your loved one in a memory care program.


It is a very difficult decision for a caregiver who is taking care of a loved one at home to consider  transitioning them into a long term memory care program. You need to be able to judge your ability to offer the level of supervision and support you are able to offer as realistically as you possibly can. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot do based on the frequency and type of help that is needed. Give careful consideration to your loved one’s care needs as well as your ability to offer ongoing safety and supervision given the help and resources you have.

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