According to researchers, more than 28 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, is considered by some as the defining disease of that generation. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but more importantly, the disease presents very real challenges in care. Alzheimer’s or memory care is a specialized form of long-term care that’s designed to meet the specific needs of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia with 24-hour supervised care, personal care services, and more.
What is Memory Care?
Memory care is a specialized form of care that includes a range of services depending on the severity of a senior’s symptoms. While people with early Alzheimer’s disease may just need cues to help them perform tasks, others require a secure setting to prevent them from wandering away and getting lost or hurt. Security is essential as an estimated 60% of people with Alzheimer’s will wander.
Memory care exceeds the level of services and security traditionally offered in a long-term care facility. While assisted living and memory care both include housekeeping, meal preparation, and laundry services, memory care also increase more advanced help with daily activities. In many cases, activities offered in a memory care facility are designed to help the person reconnect with favorite interests.
Many assisted living and nursing home facilities today offer entire neighborhoods or wings devoted to residents who need memory care. These centers are usually designed in a way to reduce stress and prevent wandering. Many have natural light, a circular design for safe wandering, and door alarms, and memory boxes outside each room to help residents find their home.
Most memory care treatment centers can accommodate people in the early, middle, and late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia with a low staff-to-resident ratio for greater supervision.
Services Offered in a Memory Care Facility
Memory care centers may offer a range of therapeutic, leisure, and medical programs that differ from assisted living. This may include:
- Leisure programs. Most memory care communities offer leisure programs and activities designed to reduce stress among residents. These programs may include listening to soft jazz and classical music, aromatherapy, sensory games, and puzzles.
- Therapeutic programs. These programs can address memory impairment, wandering, and behavior typically associated with dementia for improved quality of life.
- Behavioral management programs to address harmful behavior common among people with Alzheimer’s.
- Uniquely designed community with circular design for safe wandering, brightly color-coded sections to help residents find their way, and memory boxes.
- Security with door alarms/locks, a lower staff-to-resident ratio, and other strategies to reduce injuries and elopement.
The Cost of Memory Care
Assisted living and memory care can both be costly options, although the cost of long-term care will depend on many factors like geographic area, the size of a room or apartment, whether the space is shared with another resident, and what services are needed.
Assisted living usually has a base monthly rate that covers room and board and two or three meals each day. On average, a one-bedroom assisted living apartment costs $3,300 per month. Additional services like housekeeping and laundry are extra. Because memory care is a specialized service, the cost tends to be much higher. A home in a dedicated memory care facility costs about $5,000 per month on average.
On both cases, there are options to help pay for memory care and reduce out-of-pocket expenses. This may include Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, and long-term care insurance.
Is Memory Care the Right Choice?
Assisted living may be a great choice if a loved one is still relatively independent and able to perform some activities. When a loved one has more complex care needs with memory impairment, dedicated memory care is typically the best option. A memory care community can come with many benefits over assisted living, including:
- Reduction in the use of medication and medication side effects.
- Decreased injuries and falls through greater supervision.
- Fewer incidents involving violence from other residents due to behavioral programs.
- Greater independence and social interaction through a uniquely designed community, a community dining room, and social and leisure programs.
- Improved or maintained cognitive functioning in many patients.