As the baby boomer generation continues to transition into retirement, modern concepts such as assisted living and memory care are becoming more and more common. They represent an attractive option for seniors who need more assistance than an independent senior community can offer, but don’t require the round-the-clock care of a skilled nursing facility.
Of course, with more options comes more questions. What is the difference between assisted living and memory care, and how do you know when a senior needs to transition from assisted living to a memory care unit?
To help you understand the distinction, we’ve put together a quick guide on assisted living versus memory care that addresses the following questions:
- What kind of care is provided in assisted living communities?
- What qualifies a senior for assisted living?
- What does memory care consist of?
- How do you know when it’s time for memory care?
- Can patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia live in an assisted living community?
Care Provided in Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living is intended to bridge the gap between independent living and skilled nursing care. It’s an ideal solution for seniors who need a little help getting through the day, but don’t need 24/7 medical monitoring.
Generally speaking, assisted living residents need some assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, and toileting. Many assisted living residents need some assistance walking, and some need help transferring to and from bed.
In addition to providing assistance with activities of daily living, most assisted living communities offer the following services:
- 24-Hour security
- Emergency call systems
- Exercise and wellness programs
- Laundry and linen service
- Medication management
- Nutritional meals and snacks
- Scheduled transportation
- Social activities and recreational programs
Some assisted living communities feature an on-site nurse, medical clinic, and rehabilitation, eliminating the need to visit the doctor and physical therapist several times a week. Most facilities have residents’ prescription medications delivered, and some even have an on-site pharmacy.
For added convenience, some assisted living communities also offer an on-site beauty salon and general store. You’ll also often see amenities like a movie theater, game rooms, billiards, computer labs, and libraries, all of which are available for group activities and family gatherings.
Qualifying for Assisted Living
You don’t need a doctor’s note to qualify for assisted living. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice that’s based on how much assistance the senior needs and how important their sense of independence is.
In cases where a senior can manage their activities of daily living but would benefit from a care-free living arrangement where the housekeeping, maintenance, cooking, and transportation are covered, an independent senior community is often the best choice. Seniors can enjoy living in an active community that often comes with resort-style amenities along with 24-hour security, emergency alerts, and basic assistance.
When a senior begins to need regular assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating, it’s time to consider upgrading from independent living to assisted living. Fortunately, many independent senior living communities include assisted living accommodations, providing a seamless transition without cutting social ties or seriously altering the senior’s lifestyle.
Once a senior reaches a point where they need assistance with most activities of daily living and require careful monitoring by a nurse or doctor, assisted living is unfortunately not a viable option. In this case, a skilled nursing home is the best solution.
Memory Care for Seniors
Memory care is a special type of assisted living arrangement for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. There are some standalone memory care facilities, but most of the time there will simply be a memory care unit within a larger assisted living community.
Memory care facilities and units offer all of the standard services of an assisted living facility, including assistance with activities of daily living like showering, dressing, eating, and toileting. They also promote a socially active lifestyle by planning regular activities, though memory care patients are often kept separate from regular assisted living patients to avoid upsetting them with too many new faces and environments.
Difference Between Memory Care and Assisted Living
The primary difference between assisted living and memory care is that with memory care, the staff is specially trained to work with Alzheimers and dementia patients. Memory care units apply clinically proven programs and best practices to promote a safe and healthy environment, carefully crafting and reinforcing daily routines that help the patient feel comfortable and confident.
Knowing When It is Time for Memory Care
You don’t need a doctor’s note to qualify for memory care, but the senior’s doctor will probably recommend specialized care when the need is apparent. This generally occurs when a senior’s Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses to moderate or severe memory loss, and they can no longer safely live on their own.
F.A.Q. about Memory Care and Assisted Living in Arizona
Q: Can patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia live in an assisted living community?
Patients with early-stage or mild Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can, and often do, live comfortably in a regular assisted living community. Specialized memory care is typically reserved for moderate to severe cases.
If you’re questioning whether a senior will be better off with assisted living or memory care, the best solution is to find an assisted living facility that also offers a memory care unit. The senior can start with regular assisted living accommodations, and the staff will let you know when it’s time to transition to the memory care unit.
Q: Is memory care covered by Medicare?
In most cases, Medicare does not directly cover the cost of assisted living or memory care. However, it may cover certain healthcare-related aspects of an assisted living facility, such as medication management and rehabilitation.
Most assisted living and memory care facilities are well-aware of the limitations of Medicare, so they’ll break out the qualifying costs that may be covered. This makes it easier to see exactly what federal health insurance will cover, and how much personal funds will need to cover.
Similarly, Medicaid may not be used for assisted living or memory care. Medicaid is usually reserved for skilled nursing care where the patient has a medical condition that requires round-the-clock monitoring and care.