Millions of Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will increase each year as the size and percentage of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to grow. The number will accelerate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages.
With so many adults aging that suffer from some form of dementia, there are specialized care facilities that are specifically designed and staffed with skilled memory care providers.
What are memory care facilities?
Memory care or dementia care facilities are especially designed to care for people who have been diagnosed with memory loss and need help with activities of daily living (ADLs).
Memory care environments are intended for those that need help with ADLs, such as bathing, feeding, grooming and dressing, but still want a level of independence. They provide a safe and secure living environment with professional staff that is trained to care for those with memory loss.
These facilities are usually a part of an assisted living community but kept separate due to the specialized needs of their patients. Memory care units have 24-hour support staff and are usually on a locked and alarmed premise to assure no one wanders off.
Additionally, select residential care homes offer this specialized service in a more intimate, less crowded domestic environment as to be able to address the individual needs of the memory care patients.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most well-known memory-loss conditions that patients suffer from at Alzheimer’s facilities. This specialized care covers a range of services depending on the symptoms presented —from basic reminders to requiring a secured setting for safety.
Dementia facilities will have common areas for meals, activities and socialization. Daily activities are planned that help residents with their memory.
Some activities may include:
- Memory and trivia games
- Exercise and physical activities
- Music or pet therapy
About Memory Loss
As we age, it sometimes affects our ability to remember a name or remember where we left our keys. These are often referred to as signs of "just getting old." It is a normal process of aging, but significant changes in our memory can also be a sign of something else.
When the term memory loss is used, it's usually associated with Alzheimer's disease which occurs in approximately 5 million Americans. The general term for memory loss is dementia, which is the loss of memory from stroke, brain trauma or a degenerative disease. Dementia affects your mental and eventually your physical abilities to care for yourself. People with dementia usually have trouble solving problems, performing daily tasks, and may even have difficulty controlling their emotions or become agitated.
Other diseases categorized under dementia include:
- Vascular or mixed dementia
- Parkinson's Disease
- Huntington's Disease
- Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
- Frontotemporal Dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, is an "irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks." It accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease.
Memory Care Facilities
Some Alzheimer's care facilities have controlled environments that residents find safe, relaxing and nurturing. They are often designed with calming colors, soothing sounds, comfortable chairs, blankets and a peaceful environment.
Memory care goes beyond what is customarily offered in an assisted living environment and residential care facilities. Meal preparation, housekeeping, laundry services, medication management and assistance with medication administration are provided but the level of assistance with ADLs is increased. Often the daily activities are specially developed to allow residents to associate with some of their favorite interests or hobbies.
What are the services provided in a memory care facility?
At a memory care community, the staff manages all of the daily responsibilities. Assistance with ADLs and medication management and administration are provided as a standard service.
Memory care services typically cover everything included in a standard assisted living home or residential care home environment, but go beyond that to also provide treatment for conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s and other types of dementia.
Advanced healthcare services, such as skilled nursing services, are usually not offered unless the facility is part of a larger community.
The services offered in an Alzheimer's care community will vary depending on the type of facility. Assisted living will generally provide basic services, residential care homes will offer similar services but in a more intimate residential setting and skilled nursing care facilities will typically offer more.
In general, basic services provided by all memory care communities will include:
- Private or semi-private rooms in a secured area designed to keep residents safe from wandering
- Daily meal preparation
- Housekeeping and laundry service
- Medication management and assistance with taking medication
- Exercise and physical therapy activities
- Recreational and social activities
- 24-hour staff and personal assistance
Dementia care staff members are specially trained in working with the physical and cognitive needs of residents that suffer from a form of dementia. Larger facilities, such as assisted living homes, offer onsite registered nurses that manage and oversee the needs of the residents. Smaller, private residential care homes may provide an on call or onsite registered nurse. Licensure and certification requirements of personnel will vary from state to state.
Because Alzheimer’s and dementia requires a higher level of care, memory care costs are greater than those of assisted and residential care homes. The cost of memory care varies with the type of care provided and the geographical location. So if the general cost of living is higher in a specific area, you can expect the cost of memory care to be higher as well.
According to Genworth’s 2014 Cost of Care Survey, the median annual cost for assisted living is $42,000, and the median annual cost for 24-hour nursing care in a semi-private room is $77,380. These are median averages for assisted living facilities nationwide. However, facilities specializing in memory care may cost more.
The monthly rate for most memory care facilities includes the cost of rent and services; utilities may also be included in that cost. In addition, most assisted living residences require an additional fee before you move in. These initial fees may be called “entrance fees” or “community fees.” They can range from a hundred to thousands of dollars and are usually not refundable.
How care costs are determined varies by type of residence and community. Some facilities may offer different care packages, ranging from basic care to hands-on assistance. This setup allows families to decide and choose the level of care which meets their loved one’s needs. Other communities allocate care points to the resident’s level of need and charge according to the care points, in addition to the monthly fee.