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Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: What’s Best for Your Loved One?

We often receive emails from community members asking questions about residential care. They usually want information and advice on how to determine the best option for themselves or their loved ones. Here’s a recent example:

“I’m looking for a place for my mother to live. She has mild dementia. I’m not sure if assisted living or memory care is better for her. Can you help?” – L.S., New Rochelle

Yes, we can! Making a big life change can be stressful, especially if you’re not familiar with all of the terminology and types of care. Here’s what you need to know to understand the differences between assisted living and memory care. 

What is assisted living? 

Assisted living gives seniors help with daily living, companionship, independence, privacy, and security in a home-like setting. Many assisted living communities provide apartment-style living with housekeeping and maintenance services, community spaces, communal meals, and activities. 

Residents can take care of themselves, but may require support with medication, dressing and grooming, bathing, or walking. If you or your loved ones struggle with any of these activities, assisted living communities have professional caregivers on staff who can provide as much or as little help as you need. 

One of the biggest benefits of assisted living is the opportunity for socializing. Communities typically offer an array of activities designed to suit a variety of tastes, such as musical entertainment, game nights, films and history lectures, art classes, exercise, holiday celebrations, and faith-based activities. 

What is memory care?

Assisted living and memory care communities share many of the same features, including apartment-style living, common areas, and communal meals. But memory care offers a more specialized form of assisted living to meet the needs of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Communities are designed with additional safety features to ensure that residents with cognitive impairments are cared for in a secure environment. 

Memory care also offers support with activities of daily living. Memory care communities have staff who are specially trained to understand the challenges and frustrations of those suffering from dementia. They have skills and strategies in handling difficult behaviors and supporting residents so that they can enjoy a meaningful life. 

Enrichment activities are also offered in memory care communities, but they have a more therapeutic focus. For example, in addition to musical entertainment, music therapy may be offered, as music has been shown to trigger memories and enhance communication for those with dementia. 

Making a decision 

If you or a loved one needs just a little help, assisted living may be a good option. If your elderly parent has significant memory impairment and needs support most of the time, or requires 24/7 supervision, memory care is your best bet. What if you’re somewhere in between? 

Perhaps you have a new memory impairment diagnosis or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. You may want to consider a community that offers both assisted living and memory care. For example, on United Hebrew’s campus at Willow Towers Assisted Living, we offer both assisted living and memory care services, where residents enjoy a home-like environment in a secure unit in the building. Our freestanding facility, Willow Gardens Memory Care, is fully dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. For those individuals with dementia and advanced medical needs, consider the memory care unit in our skilled nursing home. 

When making your decision, it is critical to note that not all assisted living facilities are licensed. Licensed facilities are held to rigorous safety standards to maximize residents’ care and comfort. Both Willow Towers and Willow Gardens are licensed by the New York State Department of Health as an Assisted Living Residence with dual certifications: Enhanced Assisted Living Residence (EALR) for people with extra health needs, and a Special Needs Assisted Living Residence (SNALR) for persons living with dementia. That means that our residents may live with us for a long time after they arrive because of the full spectrum of clinical support we offer.

Finally, you may want to consider moving to a community that can meet your changing healthcare needs. While one community might be right for you today, it may not be the right fit in the future. Since change is hard, better to move to a community with both options. Selecting a community where you can age in place may be best.  

We’ll be happy to help guide you through the many options in senior care. Contact us today!