If you have an aging family member or loved one, you are probably thinking about the different living situations available for senior living. You might have heard about nursing homes, assisted living facilities or assisted living communities, and memory care facilities or memory care communities. But what is memory care and how does it differ from the care given at a traditional nursing home? It is important to understand the differences in order to make the right decision for your senior loved one.

What is a Memory Care Facility?

A memory care facility is a long-term care option for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Memory care facilities are specially designed and staffed to meet the needs of residents with cognitive impairments.

In addition to providing personal assistance with daily activities, memory care communities offer various services and programs designed to help seniors with cognitive issues and improve their quality of life.

A Brief History of Assisted Living Facilities

In the 1970s, it became clear that senior care needed to be re-thought. When it came to getting care, seniors had few options:

  • Employ a medical professional, such as an hourly nurse or live-in nurse to offer memory care services.
  • Rely on a family caregiver to provide support in their own home.
  • Move into a nursing facility.

Seniors wanted to avoid going to a nursing home, especially after hearing about some of the mistreatment happening in some facilities. Luckily, as medical technology progressed, more elderly people were able to age in their own homes. However, they did still require some level of care, albeit maybe not to the extent they would receive in a nursing home.

Dr. Keren Brown Wilson is often credited as the “creator” of today’s assisted living facilities. She was originally challenged by her mother in the mid-1970s to help provide more options for seniors who required some assistance as they aged.

Dr. Wilson looked at how certain aspects of nursing homes were perceived as unfavorable or institutional environments, such as public restrooms and lack of privacy. She wanted to find a method for elders to maintain their independence and respect while simultaneously receiving the care they needed.

The first contemporary assisted living facility as we know it today was Park Place in Portland, Oregon. It opened in 1981. In this first-of-its-kind facility, residents had private rooms with bathrooms and lockable doors, 24-hour healthcare providers for medical emergencies, customizable custodial or personal care services, and communal facilities for social contact.

As senior living solutions evolved, they began to be designed for even more specialized care like skilled nursing facilities for those with several medical issues and facilities with distinct memory care units to offer specified dementia or Alzheimer’s care.

Having heard the early history of assisted living communities, let’s have a look at the differences between memory care facilities and nursing homes:

The Differences Between Memory Care Facilities and Traditional Nursing Homes

Memory care facilities and nursing homes have several distinctions. Here are some of the most notable differences:

  1. Personalized Care Plans

One of the major differences between a memory care facility and a regular nursing home is the level of personalized care provided.

Memory care facilities create individualized care plans for each resident, taking into account their specific needs and preferences. A personalized approach ensures that each resident receives the level of care and support they need to thrive.

  1. Structured Environment

Another key difference between a memory care facility and a regular nursing home is the level of structure in the environment. Memory care facilities are designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for residents with dementia.

The facility’s physical layout is often simplified, with clear signage and a focus on easy navigation. In addition, the daily schedule is typically more structured, with set times for meals, activities, and medication. Structure and routine can help reduce anxiety and make it easier for a person with dementia to adjust to a new environment.

  1. Specialized Staff

Memory care facilities also differ from traditional nursing homes in terms of employed staff. They have a higher ratio of staff to residents and all staff members receive specialized training in dementia care. This ensures that residents receive the best possible care and support.

  1. Engaging Activities

Another difference between a memory care facility and a regular nursing home is the types of activities that are offered. Memory care facilities offer a variety of engaging activities that are designed to promote cognitive stimulation.

These activities can help slow the progression of dementia and make it easier for seniors to retain new memories. Such activities include music therapy, art therapy, and reminiscence therapy.

  1. Secure Facilities

Memory care facilities are typically more secure than traditional nursing homes. Unfortunately, residents with dementia are at a higher risk of wandering and getting lost, which can pose a serious safety issue.

These specially designed facilities often have secure outdoor spaces with enclosed yards and gardens. They also typically keep all doors and windows alarmed so the staff gets an alert if they are opened. A high level of security helps keep residents safe and reduces the risk of wandering.

  1. Nutritious Meals

Memory care facilities place a special emphasis on providing nutritious meals since good nutrition is essential for brain health. For example, memory care facilities typically offer meals made of food known to promote cognitive function like fish, berries, leafy greens, nuts, legumes, and so on.

In addition, meals are often served family-style, which can help reduce anxiety and promote social interaction.

  1. Family Involvement

Family involvement is another big difference between a memory care facility and a traditional nursing home. Memory care facilities typically encourage heavy family involvement in the care of their loved ones.

A resident’s family members are often given access to the facility so they can participate in activities and spend time with their loved one. In addition, many memory care facilities offer support groups for families dealing with a senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s. A high level of involvement can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of community.

  1. Comprehensive Care

Another important divergence between a memory care facility and a regular nursing home is the level of comprehensive care provided. Memory care facilities offer a wide range of services, including cognitive therapy, physical therapy, and social activities.

A comprehensive approach to offering recreation and hobbies ensures that residents lead active and meaningful lives.

  1. Sense of Community

Finally, memory care facilities often create a stronger sense of community than nursing homes. This is achieved through various means, including family involvement, engaging activities, supportive staff members, group events, and special occasions. A sense of community can help reduce stress, promote social interaction, and improve quality of life.

These are just a few key differences between a memory care facility and a traditional nursing home. If you’re considering long-term care for a loved one with dementia, be sure to tour several different types of facilities to find the best fit. And always consult with a medical professional to get expert advice on the specific care your loved one will require.

Let’s now look at how memory care facilities take care of the patients in their care.

Memory Care and Your Loved One

As your loved one’s memory begins to decline, you might need consider memory care a viable option. Memory care is specialized care for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive impairments.

While deciding to place your loved one in a memory care facility can be daunting, it is important to remember that memory care is designed to provide your loved one with the best possible quality of life.

Memory care facilities are staffed by trained professionals experienced in dealing with cognitive impairments. They will be able to provide your loved ones with the care and support they need to continue living a fulfilling and meaningful life.

The Signs Your Loved One May Need Memory Care

It’s important to be aware of the signs that may indicate your loved one requires memory care. These signs can include:

Frequent Forgetfulness

If your loved one has started to forget things more often than usual, it may be a sign that they are starting to experience memory loss. They might frequently forget recent events, people’s names, familiar words, etc.

Difficulty in Completing Familiar Tasks

If your loved one is having difficulty completing everyday tasks that they used to do, it may be a sign of cognitive decline. This can include trouble driving to a familiar place or being unable to follow a favorite recipe.

Changes in Mood or Behavior

Is your loved one is exhibiting sudden changes in mood or behavior? Do they get upset over small things? Are they acting strangely? These issues may signal that their cognitive abilities are declining. It can include becoming more agitated, withdrawn, or depressed.

Trouble With Language

Sometimes a person in the early stages of dementia has trouble understanding or using common words. They might have trouble speaking, writing, or reading. They might start using a simpler vocabulary or having issues with sentence structure.

Disorientation to Time and Place

If your loved one is becoming frequently disoriented, it may be a sign that their memory is declining. This can include getting lost in familiar places or not knowing what day it is.

Poor Judgment

Poor judgment happens when someone is making bad decisions or exhibiting risky behavior. It may be a sign that their cognitive abilities are getting worse. Often, this includes giving away large sums of money, driving recklessly, or spending time with unfamiliar people.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Changes in sleep patterns may also be a sign of dementia. If your loved one has started sleeping during the day and staying awake all night, it could mean there is something going on in their mind.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies or Activities

Someone may no longer be interested in their favorite hobbies or activities when they are experiencing memory loss. They may not want to go to church or no longer feel like playing cards with friends.

If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, it is important to talk to their doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of cognitive impairment can help delay the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for your loved one.

Specific Diagnoses for Memory Care

There are many types of memory care, and the type your loved one will need will depend on their specific diagnosis. Two of the most common diagnoses are Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory, thinking, and behavior issues. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically develop slowly and get worse over time. Eventually, people with Alzheimer’s will need 24-hour care.


Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability due to disease or injury. There are many different types of dementia, and each one has its own set of symptoms and characteristics. Symptoms of dementia can range from mild to severe and usually get worse over time.

Memory care facilities are staffed by trained professionals experienced in dealing with cognitive impairments, specifically Alzheimer’s and dementia. They will be able to provide your loved one with the individualized care and support they need while suffering from memory and behavioral issues.

When choosing a memory care facility, it is important to find one accredited by the Joint Commission. This accreditation means that the facility meets certain standards of quality care and safety.

Working with Your Loved One’s Healthcare Providers

Now that you know the signs and symptoms of cognitive decline, you will be able talk to your loved one’s healthcare providers about the next steps.

Your loved one’s primary care provider is an excellent resource when figuring out the level of care your loved one will need. They can evaluate your loved one and make referrals to specialists if necessary.

You should also talk to your loved ones about their own wishes for future care. This can be a difficult conversation, but it is important to have sooner rather than later. Be sure to document their preferences in a healthcare directive so you can refer to it later if there is are any doubts. You can also discuss memory care costs and whether it will be covered by Medicare Advantage plans or if you’ll need to arrange financial assistance. Having a plan in place will help take away some of the stress later.

Two Hearts Home for Seniors

Looking for a senior living facility for your loved one that feels like home? Look no further than Two Hearts Home for Seniors. Our unique approach to assisted living provides personalized care to seniors who need help with the activities of daily living, such as meal preparation, cleaning, personal hygiene care, medication reminders, and much more. Although we are not a specialized memory care facility, we do offer support services for general memory care. Almost everyone experiences some level of memory loss or forgetfulness as they age.

Our purpose is to provide seniors with the highest quality of life possible in an environment that feels like their home. Our assisted living facility is designed to promote independence and socialization while providing the level of care our residents need. We only have up to 16 residents at a time, so you can be confident that your loved one is getting the attention they deserve and that they are surrounded by people who feel like family.

Our Philosophy Towards Memory Care

We believe that each resident is an individual with unique needs and preferences. Therefore, we take the time to get to know each of our residents so that we can provide the best possible care for them. We also offer engaging activities to help with memory and brain function to all our residents in order to help keep their minds sharp and bodies active.

Day-To-Day Living for Your Loved One

We know you want the best for your loved one and we are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care possible. Our senior living home is designed to feel as intimate as a regular home, where the residents can still have their personal spaces yet have the supervision and assistance they need. We truly have a family atmosphere and a strong sense of community.

Services Provided to Your Loved One

We offer a variety of services to our residents, including, but not limited to:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Medication reminders
  • Personal care
  • 24-hour supervision
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Nutritious meals and snacks

If you would like your aging loved one to be in an assisted living facility that feels like home, come visit Two Hearts Homes for Seniors. We’d be happy to give you a tour and answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to call us at 219-600-2200 or contact us online.