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What is Memory Care?

What is Memory Care?

In the U.S., approximately 5 million older adults are living with dementia. Many of these dementia patients have Alzheimer’s which is a type of dementia that leads to difficulty remembering, thinking, and living independently. Seniors who are in the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s often require expert care and a special environment to make sure that they are safe. Many families make the decision to transition their loved one to a memory care community. Memory care communities may exist as part of a nursing home or assisted living facility or they may exist as stand-alone facilities. Memory care communities, sometimes referred to as Special Care Units (SCUs), offer many of the same services as a nursing home or assisted living facility. However, memory care units also offer special services and unique features that are specifically tailored to the needs of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Learn more about nursing homes by reading our blog post.

Key Features of Memory Care Communities

Structured Lifestyle

For seniors with dementia or Alzheimer, having a structured lifestyle with set routines is very important to maintaining a stress-free environment. Dementia patients can often become overwhelmed or agitated when faced with new activities or environments; memory care communities have regular schedules to ensure that the residents feel a sense of familiarity with their daily activities. Many memory care facilities offer special amenities like libraries, movie theaters, and lounges to create a relaxing environment for the residents. One common symptom of dementia or Alzheimer’s is a decreased appetite. The dining staff at memory care units are aware of these needs and often create menus and environments to address this issue and encourage healthy eating for the residents.

Safety and Security

Safety and security at a memory care community is extremely important as dementia or Alzheimer patients may wander and not remember where they are. Memory care units put a special emphasis on alarmed doors so residents don’t accidentally leave the community. Additionally, many facilities have enclosed outdoor areas so residents can enjoy the outdoors without leaving the campus.

Staff Members

To appropriately meet the unique needs of their residents, memory care facilities employ highly trained and qualified staff members. Compared to assisted living facilities, memory care facilities have much higher staff to resident ratio. An ideal ratio is about 1 staff member for every 5 residents, though some memory care facilities operate at 1 staff member for every 7 residents. These staff members are able to help residents with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and meal preparation, but they are also specially trained to address the special needs of dementia or Alzheimer’s patients. For example, memory care staff members know how to understand the actions of a dementia patient, how to respond to their actions or emotions, and how to communicate with them to make them feel calm and less overwhelmed.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care Community


  • How much is the monthly cost?
  • Do different services or amenities have additional costs (e.g. private vs. semi-private rooms)?
  • What happens if a patient runs out of funds?
  • Does this facility accept Medicaid?


  • What are the staff’s qualifications?
  • How often are medical professionals on duty (nurses, physicians, etc.)?
  • What is the staff to resident ratio during the day and at night?
  • How much coordination is there between the care team and the patient’s family?
  • How are medical emergencies handled?


  • Are residents able to take supplemental medications (e.g. vitamins) or just their prescription medications?
  • What is the security system?
  • Is the facility able to accommodate special needs such as chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes) or mobility issues?
  • Does this facility offer hospice care?


  • What types of meals are provided? Is the facility able to accommodate dietary restrictions?
  • When are visiting hours?
  • What types of additional services are provided and how often (bathing assistance, laundry services, housekeeping, etc.)?
  • What types of programs (entertainment, physical exercise, cognitive exercise, social activities) are offered?


  • How much personal assistance is there for each resident?
  • Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
  • Is there a discharge policy?
  • How many/what personal belongings can a resident bring to the facility with them?

Memory care units are often a part of skilled nursing facilities. View our skilled nursing facility provider page to learn more about skilled nursing facilities or click here to browse the skilled nursing facilities near you.