How to Choose a Memory Care Facility?

Memory Care Facilities are long-term assisted living that are especially designed to meet the needs of residents who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other types of memory impairments.

When choosing the right Memory Care Facility for your loved one, your loved one’s well-being, and how to get them the best care possible within your budget are usually the main concerns. Memory Care generally costs more than typical assisted living, but studies have shown that around 75% of Memory Care residents experience a slowing in the progression of their symptoms. Memory Care Facilities typically offer a 24/7 staff that is highly specialized to interact with residents in ways that boost cognitive abilities. Choosing the right Memory Care Facility can be a slow process. They are not all created equal, and it’s important to begin this process while there is time to make careful, well-researched decisions. Whether you find yourself in the beginning stages of your loved ones diagnoses, or you find yourself in an emergency state of needing to find a long-term care solution in a hurry, there are some very important questions to consider before selecting a Memory Care Facility.

Considering Your Loved One’s Needs:

Almost everyone wants to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible, and that is totally understandable. While your loved one is still relatively independent, most physicians recommend home care. During these early stages, it’s important to begin discussions about long-term care solutions with your loved one. The first and most common mistake being made is not talking about long-term care while the loved one is still able to have these conversations.

When these conversations are had during the earliest stages of memory loss, the loved ones feels as though they have some control over their own lives, and the caregivers are more confident when they find themselves needing to make important decisions on their loved one’s behalf.

Ask Yourself:

  • How is my loved one’s mobility? Do they require a walker or wheelchair?
  • Are they able/prone to wandering away?
  • Is my loved one showing signs of aggression, or extreme behavior changes?
  • Does my loved one need help eating? Dressing? Using the bathroom?
  • Does my loved one require additional medial attention? Diabetes? Dialysis?
  • Does my loved one require 24/7 supervision?
  • Does my loved one like to be outside?
  • What activities seem to calm and comfort my loved one?
  • What activities seem to agitate or upset my loved one?

How to choose memory care facility
How to choose memory care facility

Considering Memory Care Facilities:

The level of care provided by a Memory Care Facility’s staff should go beyond basic comforts. A Memory Care Facility’s primary function should be to slow down the progression of dementia symptoms. Even though a diagnosis of dementia can be frightening, it’s important to remember that your loved one will still have many opportunities for happiness, laughter, and social interaction.

Dementia residents in regular assisted living homes are often isolated because of their internal estrangement. When they become frustrated or aggressive, nursing home will often administer sedatives that can speed up the progression of dementia. Memory Care Facilities should have a highly-trained staff  who knows how to keep their residents engaged in cognitive activities and social interactions. They should be trained to address issues with behavior and aggression to prevent the situation from escalating and doesn’t involve medications. Even if your loved one isn’t aggressive, you still want to know how aggression is managed when it arises in another resident.

When visiting a Memory Care Facility you are considering, bring your notepad and be sure to ask these important questions. We’ve presented them here for you because they are the questions that aren’t always addressed directly. They are designed to bring to light, subtle differences that are easily overlooked, but can be provide a major deciding factor when choosing the Memory Care Facility that is best for your family.

Asking about Memory Care Policies:

  • How does the fee structure work? Is there one flat fee, or additional charges throughout the month? What services are considered ‘extra’? What exactly is included in a flat fee?
  • How thorough is your assessment process before accepting a resident? Are they taking the time really get to know and understand the special needs of each individual?
  • How often are family members updated about their loved ones progress and overall well-being?
  • What type of training is required of the staff?
  • What is the staff-per-resident ratio during the day AND during the night?
  • Is there a nurse on staff 24/7? If not, what are the nurse’s hours?
  • How often are the residents visited by physicians?
  • Does each resident have their own individual care plan?
  • How is the facility secured?
  • How do you care for residents who are physically aggressive, or emotionally disruptive? Can an aggressive resident be discharged?
  • How do you handle an emergency situation?

Asking about Memory Care Features and Treatments:

The cognitive therapies offered by Memory Care Facilities are the reason why many residents experience a slowing in the progression of their symptoms. Make sure you know exactly what is being offered, and how often.

  • How much of a resident’s daily schedule is occupied by cognitive therapy
  • Is there access to nature?
  • Do they offer circular walking paths to encourage exercise and prevent wandering residents from feeling disoriented?
  • Do they have a specialized memory care dining program? Or is it cafeteria style?
  • What if the resident is still hungry? Are they provided seconds? Are snacks always available?
  • Is hydration encouraged and monitored?
  • Are residents grouped together by cognitive ability to avoid social isolation?
  • Do they offer pet therapy? Music therapy? Reminiscence therapy? Nature therapy?
  • Do they have light therapy treatments? If not, how do they prevent sundowning syndrome?
  • Is the facility color-coded to ease disorientation?

Remember, these advanced therapies and special features are WHY you are considering the extra expense of Memory Care as opposed to a regular nursing home. The most important factors to consider are how much effort is being made to understand each resident individually, and how often do the residents receive focused cognitive enhancement for their condition.

Considering Memory Care- What NOT to Do:

When you’ve done your research, you can usually trust your gut to tell you which Memory Care Facility is right for your family; however, there are some very common mistakes to look out for when considering Memory Care.

  1. Don’t wait until an emergency to start seeking a long-term Memory Care solution.
    Waiting until you are physically and emotionally exhausted beyond your limits to seek Memory Care, can put you and your loved one in danger. Many caregivers will also wait until an aggressive episode escalates into an emergency situation. Start having these conversations early, when your loved one can still have an opinion on the matter. Start visiting facilities and exploring options before your loved one requires 24/7 assistance, so you can take your time and make the best choice.
  2. Don’t focus just on the inside of the facility.
    Yes, you make to make sure that the facility is being updated, and that many simple measures are being taken to increase the quality of life for the residents. An example would be painting the doors different colors, so residents don’t get confused. A dedicated facility will find ways to make sure their residents are getting every opportunity to improve their quality of life both within the facility, and without. The view of a parking lot where some greenery could have been added, is a subtle but telling way of determining a facility’s dedication to Memory Care treatment.
  3. Don’t only show up at the facility during scheduled viewing times.
    You can avoid falling for a polished presentation and learn a lot about a facility, by showing up a few times when you aren’t expected. Leave your appointment, and then come right back an hour later. Show up during dinner time. Show up first thing in the morning. Observe the differences in both the staff and the residents. Are the staff playing on their cell phones, or are they engaged with the residents? Be sure to ask other visitors in the common areas about their experience and overall satisfaction with the facility.
  4. Don’t wait until you are settled in to start asking about a treatment plan.
    The extra costs of Memory Care Facilities are meant to include specialized care. Find out in advance, which therapies they would likely recommend for your loved one. Find out how often they will be receiving these specialized cognitive therapies. Find out how often the physician is on staff, and how often the residents will receive individual evaluations from the doctor.

How Much Does Memory Care Cost?

Depending on your location, the average cost of Memory Care is between $4,300- $5,700 per month. It can be higher or lower based on the region, the amenities, and whether or not your loved one is in a private room, or a shared living situation. Establish your budget at the beginning of your search, and make a list of every acceptable location where you would consider moving your loved one. Start by looking at the facilities closest to you just to get an idea of what is being charged in your area and what services are being offered.

What Will Insurance Cover?

Disability Insurance

Whether offered through employment or as an individual policy, there are many disability insurance plans that offer coverage should dementia interfere with a person’s ability to work. As with any insurance there is a lot of fine print. Not all disability coverage will cover Memory Care, and there are sometimes stipulations on how much and for how long coverage will be provided.

With the significant spike in individuals over 65 who are experiencing symptoms of dementia, many disability insurances have expanded to provide treatment and relief to their policy holders.

COBRA is another form of insurance typically offered during employment that will cover some expenses incurred for long-term care. If you or your loved one has COBRA, definitely look into your policy for assistance. The thing to keep in mind about COBRA is that it would need to have been purchased in advance, before the dementia diagnosis was received.

The Affordable Care Act/ Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions and treatment measures for people of all ages who have been diagnosed with dementia. If you are your loved one has Obamacare, and does NOT have Medicare, you should be able to receive financial assistance for Memory Care Facilities.


Here’s the bottom line: Original Medicare does not cover the most substantial costs for the advanced dementia care provided by Memory Care Facilities. If dementia is a concern, consider choosing a Medicare Advantage plan over the original Medicare. Here is what original Medicare will cover for a person with dementia:

  • Inpatient hospital treatment
  • Certain fees and medical items from physicians
  • Up to 100 days in a specialized nursing or rehabilitation center (conditions apply and aren’t dementia focused)
  • Hospice care for in-home residents, nursing homes, or inpatient care situations

At the end of the road, most people report that Memory Care is worth the extra expense. Consider your budget carefully, and learn more about the facilities in your area.

When choosing a Memory Care Facility, your loved one deserves specialized care that will help them have a quality of life that isn’t possible in a regular assisted living home.

Although making this transition is often difficult, you and your loved one stand to gain greater health, and peace of mind. Peace of mind is a wonderful thing when dealing with the challenges of a dementia diagnosis.

Knowing your loved one is in the best home possible, and receiving highly-effective preventative care daily, allows you to put your focus on being present for your relationship with your loved one.

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