Alzheimer’s Care

When a senior receives the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia, it impacts the entire family. It is an emotionally and physically challenging condition for the seniors and those who love them. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, an older adult might be able to remain in their own home or move in with a loved one who acts as a caregiver. However, as the conditions progress, safety, security, and quality of life might decline. 

In these cases, it’s often recommended that the senior move to a dedicated memory care community. These communities are specifically designed for the safety of people with memory impairment, and the staff are specially trained to handle the challenges that often accompany Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

We know family members of seniors with dementia might be unfamiliar with this type of senior care and how it differs from traditional senior living. This overview will provide you with a better understanding of the specific benefits of memory care, what memory care offers, and how to find a memory care community that meets your loved one’s needs.

What Is Memory Care?

Memory care is a special type of senior housing designed to meet the unique needs of adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The focus of memory care programs is on improving the quality of life for people with dementia while also keeping them safe and secure. 

Some memory care communities are standalone facilities, while other memory care programs are attached to an assisted living community or a nursing home. In both cases, these dedicated memory care communities offer residents a secure, thoughtfully designed environment that helps reduce the risk that an adult with Alzheimer’s will wander or otherwise get themselves into a dangerous situation. In addition to the safety aspect, memory care communities offer many other health, physical, and emotional benefits.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Memory Care?

When an adult with dementia moves to a memory care program, they benefit from various dedicated services. Each is designed to help residents live their best quality of life and maintain their health as much as possible. Memory care benefits include:

Specialized Dining Program

Adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often struggle to use utensils and eat independently. Memory care dining staff create healthy menus that work around these types of challenges. Healthy finger foods and smoothies, for example, allow residents to feel successful at mealtime while also getting the nutrition their bodies require. Adaptive utensils and dinnerware also help, as does a dining room that is calm and free from distractions.

Life Enrichment Activities

A quality memory care unit also caters to the physical and wellbeing of residents. Instead of focusing on the limitations caused by the disease, these curated activities promote and support remaining abilities. Music therapy and art therapy are staples you will find on most memory care activity calendars because they allow for self-expression and joy. Low-impact fitness programs such as gentle stretching from a seated position or chair yoga are popular. Many memory care units have dedicated outdoor areas to allow for activities like nature strolls and raised bed gardening.

Experienced Caregivers
Alzheimer’s and dementia care facilities may assign the same caregivers to work with residents each day. This consistency allows residents and staff to get to know one another in more meaningful ways. Caregivers receive dementia-specific training to help them learn how to provide the right amount of assistance to keep residents safe while allowing them to feel independent. Training programs also include communicating with residents who have memory loss and may have limited verbal skills. Memory care communities typically also employ a nurse practitioner or gerontologist that specializes in dementia. 

What Are Typical Memory Care Services and Amenities? 

People living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have unique needs concerning safety, nutrition, and meaningful activity. Memory care programs are designed to meet those needs and give residents opportunities to live empowered, engaged lives. To that end, these communities offer specialized services and amenities, some of which are listed below. 

Common Alzheimer’s Care Services

Memory care services are similar to those offered in assisted living facilities. The main difference is that caregivers in these communities must have specialized training. There may also be more medical staff on-site to help meet the complex needs of seniors with memory impairment. Other services, like scheduled activities, may also be modified to accommodate seniors with these memory conditions. Some of the most common services offered in memory care communities include: 

  • Specially-trained caregivers and medical professionals on-site to assist residents 24-hours a day 
  • Assistance with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and eating 
  • Dedicated dining program featuring nutritious foods that meet the unique needs of those with cognitive impairment 
  • Housekeeping and laundry services 
  • Transportation services 
  • Life-enrichment activities designed for those with cognitive impairments such as music and art classes 
  • Basic medical care, including assistance with medications 

Common Alzheimer’s Care Amenities

Memory care communities strive to create a safe and engaging environment for seniors living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The list below reflects both standard safety features and lifestyle amenities one can expect at a memory care facility. 

  • Safe environment specially designed for those with memory impairment
  • Secure entry and exit points and security cameras monitoring doors to prevent wandering 
  • Enclosed atrium where residents can enjoy fresh air in a secure environment 
  • Community-wide use of personal emergency response systems like medical alert devices 
  • Fitness area with professionally-guided classes 
  • Activity areas such as game rooms, libraries, and resident lounges 

What is the Average Cost of Memory Care? 

If you’re exploring Alzheimer’s care options on behalf of a loved one, two questions that probably top your list are how much Alzheimer’s care will cost and how you will pay for it. It can be confusing to figure out the cost of monthly fees and accepted types of payment.

First and foremost, you should note that memory care is indeed expensive. Because of the specialized staff training, higher presence of medical professionals, and specially-designed facilities and programs required for memory care communities, they tend to cost about 20-30% compared to assisted living. With a national average cost of $4,300 per month for assisted living, one can expect to pay approximately $5,375 per month for memory care in the United States. Keep in mind that this is the national average, so actual costs in your area may be much higher or lower. 

Determining Memory Care Costs

Factors other than location can also impact the cost of memory care for your loved one. Even in the same city, different communities can have very different costs or pricing structures. It’s important to keep all of the below situations in mind as you budget for Alzheimer’s care and compare communities. 

  • Base Fee Versus Cost of Care: Be sure you have a thorough understanding of all the costs you are likely to incur each month. In some communities, the standard base fee includes room rental, meals, housekeeping, utilities, and transportation. Care charges are assessed on an individual basis and added to the base fee. Other memory care communities utilize a flat fee structure where all services are bundled into one flat fee. Make sure you ask each community you consider what is included in the monthly fee and how much you should expect to owe in additional fees.
  • Rate Increases: As is true for any business, the costs of operating a memory care program typically increase each year. As a result, monthly resident fees also increase. Ask staff how often and by how much rates typically rise. Also inquire about how much notice management gives families before rate increases go into effect.
  • Changing Care Needs: Because your loved one’s care needs might change, you should also investigate the costs associated with higher levels of care. When your loved one needs additional care and services, how much will the rate increase? Will that still be a financially feasible solution for your family? It’s essential to be able to answer “yes” to that question so your family member won’t have to move again.

Financial Assistance for Alzheimer’s Care

Most seniors are eligible for health insurance benefits through Medicare, but unfortunately, Medicare does not cover residential memory care. It does cover certain services that may be useful for seniors with dementia, such as doctor’s appointments and prescription drugs. Still, families looking for assistance paying for memory care should seek alternative assistance programs. Some of the most common financial assistance options available include: 

  • Medicaid: Medicaid will not help finance memory care in a traditional residential community, though it does cover skilled nursing facilities. Many states offer a Medicaid waiver program, typically a Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver, that expands Medicaid coverage to memory care services (though not room and board). 
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance often finances memory care in the senior’s choice of community, not just skilled nursing facilities. These policies typically provide a daily or monthly stipend to use towards memory care expenses. If your family member has an LTC insurance policy, be sure to review it carefully or call to clarify what levels of care the policy applies to.
  • Life Insurance Settlement: Some seniors and their families decide to cash-out the senior’s life insurance policy to use the funds to pay for memory care. In these situations, a life insurance settlement company can buy the policy from them. In return, the person receives a lump sum payment. While they won’t receive the policy’s full face value, life settlement companies typically pay more than the surrender value. Seniors usually receive 50% to 75% of the policy’s face value.
  • Reverse Mortgage: For many seniors, their home is their greatest investment and asset. Reverse mortgages are loans borrowed against the home’s value, allowing seniors to use some of their home equity to pay for long-term care like memory care without having to immedaitely sell their home. 
  • Aid & Attendance Benefit: The Aid & Attendance benefit is a monthly payment designed to help qualifying veterans and surviving spouses finance senior care. The veteran’s medical condition doesn’t need to be service-related, but all beneficiaries must meet a medical qualification for eligibility. Veterans and surviving spouses with dementia may qualify for financial assistance through this program. Visit the VA website to learn more about eligibility and current benefit amounts. 

How Do I Choose a Memory Care Facility? 

There are many factors to consider when arranging memory care for a loved one, and starting the process can be overwhelming. A great place to start is to talk to your loved one’s physician. They may be able to recommend the type of memory care that’s best suited for your loved one, such as a memory care wing within a skilled nursing home or a dedicated memory care community. 

You can search for all types of memory care providers using our senior care directory. To see what providers and communities are in your area, enter your zip code at the top of this page. You’ll see a list of top memory care providers in your area. After doing some online research, it’s a good idea to schedule in-person or virtual tours of your top choices. You should also have an in-person or phone conversation with community staff. This will give you the opportunity to ask some critical questions and get a sense of the management’s communication style. 

What Should I Look for in a Memory Care Community?

All families will have different priorities when it comes to selecting the best memory care community. Still, there are some things that everyone should look for, like safety, a well-trained staff, and transparency from management. Before selecting a memory care facility for your loved one, be sure to ask the following questions: 

  • What is included in your monthly rate? Pricing structures can vary between different communities, so make sure you have a clear understanding of what is and is not included in the stated monthly rate. If there are extra fees, ask what they are and how much extra you can expect to pay per month on top of the monthly rate. 
  • What is your staff-to-resident ratio? Some, but not all, states mandate a staff-to-resident ratio. Beyond that, facilities may have their own policies regarding how many caregivers must be present at all times. Make sure that a community’s approach is one you feel comfortable with. 
  • How often do you update your care plans? The health of someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can change rapidly, and so can their care needs. Ask how frequently the community updates individual care plans and who conducts the assessments. 
  • Will my loved one be able to stay if they need a higher level of care in the future? Most dedicated memory care communities provide medication assistance and basic medical care but do not offer skilled nursing care. Some may allow residents to hire their own nurses if their needs increase in the future. If you want to avoid having to move your loved one again in the future, find out the community’s policy and care offerings. 
  • What safety measures do you have in place? Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may be especially prone to wandering, falls, and aggressive behavior. To keep residents safe and healthy, a memory care community should have special safety measures in place, such as widespread use of medical alert systems, secure entry and exit points, and regular monitoring. 
  • Do you offer any life enrichment programs? All memory care communities should offer some activity programming, but the offerings will differ. Ask if the staff develops its programming specifically for those with memory impairment. This question is especially important if you’re considering a memory care unit within an assisted living facility and want to be sure memory care residents have their own specialized programming. 

How Do I Find Memory Care Facilities in My Area?

If you have questions about memory care or how to find a memory care program that’s the right fit for your loved one, our senior care advisors can help. Call us at 800-304-7152 to talk with an experienced senior care advisor about your options and for guidance every step of the way, at no cost to you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Yes, there is a difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms related to impaired thinking and memory loss, often related to cognitive decline from aging. Common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington’s Disease, or Parkinson’s Disease. Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia; however, it is the most common form.

What are the care options for people with Alzheimer’s disease?

The care options for people with Alzheimer’s include in-home care, residential memory care, and assisted living. The best care type depends on the individual and what stage of the disease they are in. Early-stage Alzheimer’s disease might be safely managed at home with family support, but as the disease progresses it becomes more difficult for families to provide at-home care. A memory care unit in an assisted living community or a dedicated memory care community oftentimes offers better care for seniors in the advanced stages of memory impairment. 

What are Alzheimer’s care facilities?

Alzheimer’s care facilities are residential senior care communities that specialize in caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. These facilities offer specially-trained Alzheimer’s caregivers, a secure environment, medical care, and life enrichment activities designed for adults with memory impairment. 

How much does memory care cost?

Memory care costs an average of $5,375 per month in the United States based on data from the Genworth Financial 2020 Cost of Care Survey. The cost of Alzheimer’s care varies greatly depending on the city and state and whether care is provided in a residential community or at home. 

How much does Medicare cover for Alzheimer’s care?

Medicare plays a limited role in paying for Alzheimer’s care. If a senior with the condition is hospitalized or needs short-term rehab, Medicare will usually help pay for some of these expenses. The same is true for physician appointments, lab services, and physical therapy. Medicare does not provide any financial assistance with personal care and assistance with activities of daily living, such as help with bathing, dressing, and medication reminders. These types of care are considered custodial and not medical.

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