Differences Between Assisted Living and Memory Care – How to Know Which Facility Your Elderly Parent Needs

The decision to move your elderly parents into a long-term care facility is a very difficult one for everyone involved – for your elderly parents, who might feel that moving to a care home means that they lose all independence and are abandoned, as well as for you, the caretaker, who wants the best for your aging loved ones. The situation is usually further complicated by the difficulty of finding a suitable home and by the complexity of the process of evaluating the facilities in your area. If the decision to move has been made and you are currently in the process of identifying the right facility, you have surely noticed that some nursing homes call themselves assisted living facilities, while others use the name “memory care” – here are some of the features that help you make the difference between the two types of facilities to figure out what is best for your parents.

The Residents’ Health Profile

While both assisted living and memory care facilities provide help with daily activities, such as eating, grooming, dressing and administering medication, the services provided by assisted living facilities are more suitable for people who can collaborate in a conscious and responsible way and for people whose health problems do not include severe cognitive and mental impairment. In assisted living facilities, the residents need some help, but they are fairly independent and able to handle many daily tasks safely on their own. Memory care homes, on the other hand, provide much more intensive care, including all the services available with assisted living facilities, plus the intensive, around the clock care services required for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.


Safety is a key feature in both types of facilities and advanced safety systems, such as in-room emergency alert systems, special bathroom equipment to prevent falls and non-slip surfaces are typical features in both types of homes. The residents of memory care facilities, however, are faced with special challenges, slip and falls, wandering and aggression being typical behaviors for sufferers of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Memory care facilities have a wide range of security features and amenities to address these special challenges, such as keypad entries to prevent wandering, design elements to mark spaces in order to prevent confusion and spaces decorated to promote calming, thus minimizing the confusion and the tension that the residents might experience. Memory care homes also feature special safety solutions in the outdoor areas – the landscape around these homes is developed to prevent wandering and slip and fall accidents, but also created to reduce the residents’ feelings of confinement and confusion.

assisted living

Staff Qualifications

Both assisted living facilities and memory care homes have medical staff on the premises, composed of nurses and doctors providing help and care to the residents, but the staff in memory care homes have received special training to handle the specific situations that might arise during care for a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, such as aggressive behavior, aggression directed against one’s own. Memory care homes also have a higher staff-to-resident ratio, ensuring that the care is always person-centered and that the residents who go through an episode of confusion receive the best type of professional attention.