Assisted Living and Memory Care: What's the Difference?
As trusted senior care advisors, we are asked almost daily about both our assisted living and our memory care services. What is assisted living? How do the services in memory care differ from those in assisted living? What is the difference between the two services, and how do you know which option is the right one? These are all great questions – questions that can lead to making the best possible decision for your loved one.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living offers each resident the opportunity to enjoy an independent lifestyle while receiving the care and supportive services they need to thrive and enjoy life. We focus on meeting the individual needs of each resident and supporting them to achieve the highest quality of life possible.
The term “assisted living” is appropriately descriptive. Our team supports the resident’s opportunity to “live” in the best possible environment with the supportive services they require to be successful. Supportive services might include assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and transferring; tasks that become more difficult as we age, like medication management, cooking, and cleaning; and socialization in the form of activities, community involvement, and emotional and spiritual well-being. The resident chooses the level of assistance he or she receives from our trained caregivers based on needs and abilities.
The assisted living environment is based on a social model of care versus a traditional medical model. The social model used in our assisted living emphasizes the individual’s social and cultural influences, as well as general life experiences that can significantly affect a person’s overall health and well-being. The assisted living structure and philosophy are in direct contrast to the traditional medical model that is often associated with care received in a skilled nursing facility, where health care needs drive care and choice. The resident’s lifestyle and living choices drive care in assisted living.
Our team uses a person-centered care approach that puts the person first. This approach allows each resident to have greater control over his or her life by making choices about care and how it is delivered.
WHAT IS MEMORY CARE?
While assisted living is structured on independence, choice, and supportive services, memory care services are inherently more complex. This complexity is a product of the need to provide support, structure, safety, and security for individuals suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as peace of mind and trust for their family members. The progressive nature of Alzheimer’s and other dementias makes it very challenging to design and deploy approaches and programs that are effective in meeting the needs of our memory care residents, which are very different from those of our assisted living residents. The need for memory care depends on the type and stage of dementia, and the person’s physical ability and needs.
For many family members, the need for memory care services and support stems from the need to ensure their loved one is safe. Family caregivers are often dealing with tremendous stress, anxiety, and worry from the knowledge that memory loss affects safety, awareness, and decision-making. For many caregivers, a simple trip to the store or a doctor’s appointment can be a significant undertaking. Caregivers often find themselves overwhelmed with limited support options and a general lack of understanding about what the dementia disease process involves and how it affects each person differently.
Our Memory Care Neighborhood ensures that residents receive 24-hour supervision by staff trained to care for the specific needs and demands of residents with dementia. Additionally, our Memory Care Neighborhood offers similar care and services as those offered in our assisted living community, but with increased supervision, more focused activities, and an environment designed to ensure safety and security. Resident quality of life is improved through activities such as music, arts and crafts, and games that stimulate and engage the resident and promote a sense of well-being and involvement.
For families, the safety and security of residents in memory care are vitally important. Our neighborhood is secured and designed to create a sense of openness and space in which residents have freedom of movement. Our team takes the time to learn about each resident and understand their capabilities, their limitations, and what it takes to help each person be successful. Caring for a person with memory loss can mean making adjustments daily — sometimes hourly, depending on the situation — to enhance the person’s quality of life. We work with the resident and family caregivers to achieve positive, healthy outcomes for each person.
Many residents who live successfully in assisted living are in the early stages of dementia yet are still able to be very independent and enjoy an excellent quality of life with the support of our caregivers. They can still make many of their own decisions. As they age, and their dementia progresses, these residents may eventually require the more focused and specialized care provided in the Memory Care Neighborhood, such as safety and help making decisions. When the time is right, assisted living residents can smoothly and efficiently transition to the Memory Care Neighborhood as their needs shift from independent living with support to a level of care that provides more direction and supervision.
If you are wondering when the right time is to transition your loved one to assisted living and memory care, we invite you to take our quiz, “Knowing the Right Time.”
About the Author
Renee currently serves as the Executive Director of Oak Pointe Assisted Living and Memory Care in Rolla. Renee’s passion is caring for and serving the senior community through improving quality care and services. Her experience in serving the senior community includes training, presentations and educational workshops on topics that include dementia, person-centered care, Medicare, and processes related to continuous quality improvement in the long-term care setting.
She is currently in her second year as a member of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living National Quality Award Program’s Panel of Judges and has served as both a quality award Senior Examiner and Master Examiner. Renee has successfully led two skilled nursing facilities to Quality Award success, including two Bronze and two Silver awards and in 2014 her facility became the first and only Missouri facility to achieve AHCA/NCAL’s highest level of recognition by receiving the Gold-Excellence in Quality Award in 2014.
Renee is a licensed nursing home administrator (LNHA) in Missouri and holds a Master of Science in Health Care Administration. She has worked in the senior care industry as an administrator and as a regional business development director for skilled nursing facilities in Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and Illinois. She has been a frequent speaker for numerous senior care educational workshops and seminars in her local community. She has presented Quality Award training sessions for MHCA on a state level and nationally for AHCA/NCAL Quality Award program.