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Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Understand the Difference (and How to Choose)

When the time comes to look for long-term care for an aging family member, choosing the right option can be challenging. Senior living communities differ greatly in terms of type and level of care, amenities, staff capabilities, cost, and so many other factors. It’s normal for caregivers to have questions—especially when memory and cognitive struggles play a role in long-term care.

Assisted living and memory care are two popular types of senior living, and while some of their services overlap, there are significant benefits – and differences – to each level of care. 

Read on to discover the differences between assisted living and memory care, so you can determine which option is best for your senior loved one.

What is assisted living, and what is memory care?

Assisted living and memory care communities share many of the same characteristics and offer many of the same services. However, memory care communities take things a step further to specifically offer specialized care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other forms of memory loss. Below, we’ll break down some of the benefits that come with these two types of senior living arrangements and the care they provide.

The benefits of assisted living

Assisted living communities offer the right amount of support for seniors who are mostly independent but may need some help with daily care. Here are just a few of the benefits senior adults enjoy when they move to an assisted living community:

  • Safety and security: The overall goal of assisted living is to help seniors live independently while ensuring they stay healthy and safe. Assisted living communities have on-call staff that helps residents with activities for daily living, including dressing, hygiene, medication assistance, and more. With 24/7 professional and compassionate care, seniors are empowered to thrive and pursue their passions.

  • Focus on fun: Moving to an assisted living community gives your senior loved one more free time, allowing them to put aside housework, yard work, and other burdens of homeownership. Assisted living communities are hassle-free and offer plenty of opportunities for residents to enjoy activities and hobbies, as well as to socialize with other residents.

  • Planning in the future: When seniors move to assisted living communities, it opens up a full range of options for their future should their needs change over time. Residents receive individualized custom care plans that are consistently evaluated by team members, so any health changes are noticed as they happen. This results in early diagnoses and, in turn, better treatment options.

The benefits of memory care

Your loved one can enjoy significant benefits when they become part of a memory care community. These include:

  • Independence: When your senior moves into a memory care community, they’ll still be able to participate in their favorite hobbies and activities, with team members on hand to provide emotional and physical support when needed.

  • Specialized services: Memory care communities have a knowledgeable staff ready to provide specialized services specifically designed for individuals living with a range of cognitive conditions, including dementia, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s.

  • Medication and mobility assistance: Worried about your loved one missing medications or becoming disoriented? The staff at memory care communities assist with medication management, ensuring your senior loved one takes their medications on time. They also ensure your loved one is in a secure, safe environment at all times.

How to choose the right type of care for your loved one

Wondering whether assisted living or memory care is the best fit for your senior loved one? If memory loss isn’t an immediate concern, assisted living is a great choice. It’s an ideal option for seniors who are relatively independent and just need a bit of extra help throughout the day. If cognitive decline is a concern, though, you may want to consider memory care for your senior loved one.

Questions to ask before making a decision

If you’re concerned about the cognitive decline of an aging relative, here are some of the questions you should ask to determine the best fit for your senior loved one:

  • Is my loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia?

  • Do they wander, get lost frequently, or become disoriented even in familiar places?

  • Does my loved one need a significant amount of help or direction throughout the day?

  • Would my loved one benefit from 24-hour supervision and/or assistance?

  • Is cognitive impairment forcing poor decisions in speech, dress or behavior?

  • Does my senior loved one seem withdrawn, or do they exhibit combative behavior?

If you answered “Yes,” to any of the questions outlined above—or you’re worried about your loved one’s cognitive health and overall safety—consider exploring memory care options for your senior family member.

How to make the transition from one type of care to another

Assisted living and memory care are similar, but memory care provides additional services that address the needs of senior adults living with forms of memory loss like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

If you’re still unsure about which option is best for your senior loved one, reach out to the caring team at The Blake for expert guidance. We’ll help you make a long-term care decision that’s best suited to your loved one and leaves you with lasting peace of mind. 


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