Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Key differences to keep in mind


The senior living industry and the choices on offer are a bit overwhelming. Not only are there thousands of options in your town alone, but you will also need to make sure that your loved one gets all the care appropriate to the age. It is also vital to understand that older adults are often suffering from severe conditions like Alzheimer’s or Dementia. In such cases, you are left with two serious options to consider – memory care living and assisted living communities. Both options have their pros and cons, and in the following section, we have delivered an unbiased review to make up your mind.

The similarities

Let us first get the features that are similar for both the options out of the way. This will give you a better understanding of what to select. It is essential to understand that any old-people facility is as good as the staff. In this regard, both memory care and assisted living facilities have similar staff – with respect to experience, expertise, and staff strength. Keep in mind that these specialized staff members have expert training to aid them as best as possible.

The differences

There are several aspects where the two differ, and here are the following.

The cost

There are several variables for the cost of the services of these specialized living quarters for the elderly. Irrespective of the type of facility you choose, you need to account for the private room charges, shared space, amount of care required, and, above all, the facility’s geographical location and neighborhood.

However, as a general rule of thumb, remember that memory care will cost you more than assisted living facilities. However, with the recent updates in the Medicare laws in the U.S., you can now avail the savings benefits from your medical insurance for both assisted living and memory care facilities.

Physical differences

When it comes to the facility itself, you will find that memory care facilities are vastly different from assisted living homes. It is rather like a home away from home with assisted living, and independent older adults can opt for this service. Keep in mind the assistance is provided for medications, cleanliness, and food. However, if you are looking into memory care in Birmingham, Alabama, you will find that the building is architecturally different from an assisted living facility.

Remember that memory care facilities are all about caring for elderly individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s, so there is a need for specialized care. Every aspect of the design keeps in mind the unique needs, and therefore, you will find a circular layout, absence of barriers, the abrupt ending of hallways, and individual kitchens. This simple layout allows every elderly individual to walk around and enjoy a better quality of life in a completely stress-free environment. Memory care facilities are exactly what the doctor ordered in case of advanced dementia and associated disorders.

Medication management

State regulations deem it necessary for assisted living services to provide healthcare staff for administering regular dosages and medicines; however, most assisted living facilities allow self-administration of drugs. Keep in mind that for memory care facilities in Alabama and other parts of the U.S., it is compulsory to have staff and attendants all-round the clock for assistance to the elderly. Another vital piece of information to consider is the use of CBD or cannabidiol in certain residential services. So, always consult your physician before committing to a treatment protocol.  

Staff strength

The ideal situation is always a 1:1 ratio of staff to patients. However, in the absence of regulations, you will find around 1-staff member per 5-residents in an assisted living facility. However, it is quite common in the memory care facilities to find more staff members to help with the day-to-day operations. However, it is always vital to ensure that the service is adequately staffed and well-run before signing on the dotted line.

A few more points to note

Another vital aspect you need to consider is the safety checks performed by experts and legal bodies. Safety checks are quite frequent for memory care units, and in some cases, the service may even use safety bracelets for the residents to keep track of them at all times. Memory care units follow a strict regimen and schedule since this organized protocol allows them to experience normalcy. Residents who have Alzheimer’s suffer from a lack of appetite. Memory care facilities work extra hard to create a food platter with contrasting items and colors to excite and induce hunger. Additionally, you will also find added security layers around household chemicals, poisons, electric outlets, and medications. 

We hope that all this information enables you to make the right choice between an assisted living facility and a memory care unit. All the best!