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When is the right time to move from assisted living to memory care?

by Alliance America
October 5, 2023


Assisted living facilities offer support for people who require some assistance with daily tasks but are still relatively independent. However, as cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer's progress, the needs of affected individuals can surpass what's provided in assisted living. The transition to memory care becomes essential when safety, specialized care and enhanced supervision are paramount.

Memory care units are designed specifically to cater to those with cognitive decline, providing structured routines, secured environments and staff trained in dementia care. Recognizing worsening memory issues, increased confusion or escalating health concerns in a loved one can be indicators that it's time to consider this transition for their well-being.

What is memory care?

nurse assisting elderly couple

Memory care is a specialized form of care tailored specifically to individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. It provides a safe and supportive environment where residents receive round-the-clock assistance and supervision from trained professionals who understand the unique challenges associated with memory loss.

Unlike assisted living, which generally offers more generalized support for seniors, memory care facilities are specifically designed to cater to the needs of individuals who require specialized attention due to their cognitive decline. In memory care communities, staff members are well-versed in managing behaviors commonly associated with dementia, such as confusion, agitation and wandering.

They undergo extensive training to provide compassionate care while maintaining a secure environment that minimizes potential safety risks. These communities are equipped with features like secure entrances and exits, alarm systems and carefully designed layouts that promote familiarity and reduce disorientation.

Furthermore, memory care programs emphasize creating engaging activities that stimulate cognitive function and promote social interaction among residents. These activities may include music therapy, art classes, reminiscence therapy sessions, physical exercises adapted for seniors with cognitive impairments or even simple tasks like gardening or baking.

The aim is not only to enrich the lives of those in memory care but also to slow down cognitive decline through mental stimulation. Considering the progressive nature of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, memory care becomes essential when the individual's needs surpass what can be adequately provided in an assisted living setting.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living is a specialized form of housing designed for older adults who require some level of assistance with their daily activities but are still able to maintain a certain degree of independence. This type of living arrangement provides individuals with a supportive environment that promotes their overall well-being, while also offering various services and amenities to enhance their quality of life.

In an assisted living community, residents typically have their own private apartments or rooms, which they can personalize with their own belongings. These spaces are designed to be comfortable and accessible, taking into consideration the needs and mobility challenges often associated with aging.

Common areas such as dining rooms, recreational facilities and outdoor spaces are also available for residents to socialize and engage in group activities. One key aspect that sets assisted living apart from other forms of senior housing is the availability of personal care services.

Trained staff members are on-site 24/7 to assist residents with activities such as bathing, dressing, medication management and mobility support. This level of assistance helps older adults maintain their independence while ensuring they receive the necessary support for a better quality of life.

Assisted living communities also offer various social and recreational activities tailored to meet the diverse interests and abilities of their residents. These programs promote engagement and overall well-being by providing opportunities for intellectual stimulation, physical exercise, social interaction and spiritual fulfillment.

Additionally, many assisted living facilities may offer transportation services to enable residents to attend medical appointments or participate in off-site excursions. Overall, assisted living provides a middle ground between completely independent living arrangements (such as retirement communities) and more intensive care settings (such as nursing homes).

How do memory care and assisted living compare?

When considering the question of how memory care and assisted living compare, it is important to understand the distinct differences between the two. While both options provide support for older adults, their focus and level of care vary significantly.

Assisted living facilities are designed for individuals who require assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, medication management and meal preparation. These communities offer a more independent lifestyle compared to nursing homes or memory care units.

Residents in assisted living often have private apartments or shared living spaces where they can maintain their autonomy while receiving necessary support. On the other hand, memory care units specialize in providing comprehensive care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

These units are specifically tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges associated with memory loss. Memory care communities typically have a secure environment to ensure residents' safety and prevent wandering.

They also offer specialized programming and activities that promote cognitive stimulation and emotional well-being. While assisted living facilities may have staff trained in dementia care, memory care units employ professionals who are highly skilled in managing the specific needs of individuals with cognitive impairments.

These professionals receive additional training on understanding and responding to behaviors associated with dementia. The staff-to-resident ratio is usually higher in memory care units to ensure proper supervision and personalized attention.

In terms of expenses, memory care tends to be more expensive than traditional assisted living due to the specialized services provided. Memory care costs can range from $4,000 to $8,000 per month depending on the location and level of amenities offered.

It is important for families to carefully evaluate their financial resources, potential insurance coverage (such as long-term care insurance), Medicare or Medicaid eligibility, as well as any available retirement income when considering a move from assisted living to memory care. Ultimately, when comparing memory care and assisted living options for an individual experiencing cognitive decline or diagnosed with dementia, it is essential to consider their specific needs and level of support required.

While assisted living can be suitable for individuals who need assistance with daily activities but still maintain a certain level of independence, memory care provides specialized care and a secure environment for those facing memory-related challenges. Making the right choice requires careful evaluation of the individual's condition, preferences and available resources to ensure their well-being and quality of life.

What are the activities of daily living?

elderly man reading the newspaper

Activities of daily living (ADLs) refer to the fundamental tasks that individuals perform on a daily basis to take care of themselves and maintain independence. These activities are essential for maintaining one's overall health, well-being and quality of life.

ADLs can be categorized into two main groups: basic ADLs and instrumental ADLs. Basic ADLs include self-care tasks that are crucial for personal hygiene, mobility and nutrition.

These activities encompass bathing or showering, dressing, grooming (such as brushing teeth and hair), toileting (including using the toilet independently) and eating. Basic ADLs are essential indicators of an individual's ability to function independently.

Instrumental ADLs involve more complex activities that enable individuals to live independently within their communities. These tasks require higher cognitive functioning and problem-solving skills.

Examples of instrumental ADLs include managing personal finances, shopping for groceries or other necessities, meal preparation, housekeeping and maintenance (cleaning, laundry), medication management (organizing medications as prescribed by health care professionals), using transportation services or driving oneself to appointments, managing communication (answering phone calls or emails), and utilizing technology effectively. The ability to complete both basic and instrumental ADLs is crucial in determining an individual's level of functioning in their daily lives.

In the context of memory care versus assisted living, assessing a person's ability to perform these activities can help determine whether a transition from assisted living to memory care is necessary. Declining performance in these tasks may suggest an increased need for specialized care tailored specifically toward individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

It is important to note that while some individuals with mild dementia may still be able to complete their basic ADLs independently with minimal assistance from others or assistive devices such as grab bars or shower chairs; as the disease progresses, more support may be required. It is during this stage that caregivers should consider moving their loved ones to memory care facilities that are equipped with specialized staff and resources to cater to their unique needs.

What are the common signs of dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects cognitive functioning, memory, behavior and the ability to perform daily tasks.

Recognizing the signs of dementia is crucial for early intervention and appropriate care planning. While every individual's experience with dementia may differ, there are some common symptoms to be aware of.

One of the most prominent signs of dementia is memory loss. This can manifest as forgetting recent conversations or events, struggling to remember names or places, misplacing items frequently or relying heavily on reminders and written notes.

Additionally, individuals with dementia may have difficulty finding the right words during conversations or lose track while speaking. Changes in mood and behavior are also common indicators of dementia.

Personality shifts such as increased irritability, agitation, confusion, anxiety or depression can occur. These changes may be noticeable to family members and caregivers who are familiar with the person's typical demeanor.

Furthermore, impaired judgment and decision-making skills are often present in individuals with dementia. They might struggle with problem-solving tasks that were once routine for them or make poor choices financially or in matters related to personal safety and hygiene.

This decline in cognitive abilities can lead to potential risks if left unaddressed. Recognizing the signs of dementia plays a crucial role in ensuring appropriate care for individuals experiencing cognitive decline.

Memory loss, changes in mood and behavior, as well as impaired judgment and decision-making abilities are some common indicators to watch out for. By being vigilant about these symptoms and seeking professional guidance when needed, families can provide their loved ones with the necessary support during this challenging journey associated with aging-related disorders like Alzheimer's disease.

How to pay for memory care?

medicine, stethascope, money and a long-term care insurance booklet

Paying for memory care can be a significant concern for families considering a move from assisted living. The cost of memory care varies depending on factors such as location, level of care required and amenities offered.

Understanding the available payment options and potential sources of financial assistance can help alleviate some of the financial burden. One primary source of funding for memory care is through private pay.

This means utilizing personal income, retirement savings or other assets to cover the expenses associated with memory care. Families should assess their financial situation and consider if they have sufficient funds to cover the long-term costs.

Another option to explore is long-term care insurance. This type of insurance policy is specifically designed to cover expenses related to assisted living, nursing homes and memory care services.

However, it's important to review the policy carefully as each plan may have different coverage limits, waiting periods and conditions that need to be met before qualifying for benefits. For individuals with limited income or resources, Medicaid can provide a crucial safety net when it comes to paying for memory care.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that offers health coverage for low-income individuals including long-term care services such as nursing home care or home-based services. Eligibility requirements vary by state but typically consider income levels and assets.

Paying for memory care necessitates careful planning and evaluation of available options. Private pay through personal income or retirement savings remains a common method; however, long-term care insurance can also offer substantial support if properly understood.

For those with limited resources or income, Medicaid can provide essential financial aid in covering the costs associated with memory care services. It's recommended that families consult with financial advisors or elder law attorneys to navigate these options effectively while ensuring the highest quality of life for their loved ones in need of specialized dementia-focused assistance.


The decision to move from assisted living to memory care is a deeply personal one that requires careful consideration of various factors. When faced with the challenges of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, it is crucial to assess the individual's specific needs and evaluate whether assisted living can adequately meet those needs.

While assisted living facilities offer a range of services and support, memory care specializes in providing tailored care for individuals with cognitive impairments. The transition from assisted living to memory care may become necessary when an individual's dementia progresses to a point where their safety and well-being are at risk.

Signs such as wandering, confusion, increased aggression or agitation, difficulty with basic activities of daily living (ADLs) and an inability to participate in social activities may indicate that memory care would be more appropriate. Furthermore, if an individual requires round-the-clock supervision or specialized medical attention, memory care can provide the necessary level of care.

When considering the financial aspects of moving from assisted living to memory care, it is vital to explore potential funding options. Long-term care insurance may cover some expenses associated with memory care.

Additionally, Medicaid could be an option for eligible individuals based on income and asset requirements. It is recommended that families consult with financial advisors or elder law attorneys who specialize in navigating these complex matters.

While moving from assisted living to memory care can be a challenging transition for both seniors and their families, it is important to remember that this change often signifies access to more comprehensive support tailored specifically for individuals with dementia. Memory care facilities prioritize maintaining quality of life through various therapeutic programs designed to stimulate cognition and provide engaging activities suited for residents' abilities.

Ultimately, making the decision to transition from assisted living to memory care requires careful evaluation and consideration of each individual's unique circumstances. By focusing on their safety, well-being, and quality of life as primary factors when evaluating available options and utilizing resources such as insurance coverage or Medicaid eligibility when necessary, families can find solace in knowing they have made the best choice to support their loved ones through their journey with dementia.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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