As your loved one’s health declines, you may start to wonder when is the right time to move them from assisted living to memory care.

Many factors can go into when it’s best for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related illness to leave assisted living and enter a specialized home for seniors with memory care. We hope we can help answer some of your questions about when the right time to move to memory care is.

What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Memory Care?

Yes, there is a big difference between simple assisted living and memory care. Although assisted living facilities cater greatly to older adults of all needs and stages of various diseases, memory care specifically focuses on those with dementia.

People in assisted living may have some semblance of independence. They are similar to a senior apartment but with added assistance with basic needs due to aging and other chronic illnesses. On the other hand, memory care allows patients to get dedicated care from staff highly trained in working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Some of the benefits of a memory care facility include:

  • Safer Facilities: Memory care facilities are equipped with alarms and locks that only the staff can open when authorized, which keeps patients who wander safe from harm. Memory care specialists can help maintain a safe environment for those who have dementia by watching out for potential dangers such as kitchen knives, sharp objects in bathrooms, or other hazards.
  • Cater More to Sensory Issues: As the disease progresses, dementia patients often suffer from hallucinations or confusion when their sensory system starts to degrade. Memory care facilities are designed to accommodate these issues with features such as soft, soothing colors and textures throughout rooms and hallways, “sensory” boards or toys, and comfortable clothes and shoes to prevent anxiety.
  • Additional Socialization Activities: Socialization is vital in memory care. Since those with memory loss have difficulty remembering when to eat, how to use the bathroom, or when/how they got somewhere, it is important that they stay as social as possible. Therefore, memory care facilities take extraordinary measures to incorporate all kinds of activities and events for their patients to combat feelings of loneliness and depression associated with the disease.

dementia socialization

  • More Care Coordination: The staff at a memory care facility must pay more attention to coordinating care with physicians, dentists, and even things like haircuts and group events. Those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s can be easily triggered by changes such as doctor visits or getting dental work, and the staff knows best how to handle and schedule these events. This can help alleviate some burden off of family members who handled scheduling before.
  • Lower Patient to Staff Ratio (5:1): The advanced care required in memory care units requires a lower patient to staff ratio (ideally 5 patients to 1 staff), so they can offer more curated, dedicated care to those individuals.
  • Highly Experienced in Dementia: To piggyback off that, the memory care facilities staff is focused solely on those patients dealing with dementia. They are highly trained in all things dementia and Alzheimer’s and can offer the best possible care to those patients.

What Types of Services Come With Memory Care?

In addition to those benefits we’ve laid out above, memory care offers an opportunity for more services, particularly those that can get covered via elderly waivers and other state programs. This chart shows which services may be offered in memory care but not other senior care facilities.

memory care comparison

When Is It Time for Memory Care?

There are some tell-tale signs that may indicate it’s time for you or your loved one to make a move from assisted living to memory care. Some are more obvious than others, but it’s crucial to know the signs so you can make the right decision before the situation is dire.

It may be time to transfer into memory care if:

  • Your relative shows increased signs of agitation and aggression.
  • Managing their dementia behaviors is becoming overwhelmingly difficult.
  • They struggle to manage their daily hygiene.
  • They cannot sleep or sleep too much.
  • Your loved one has wandered away from home or tends to wander.
  • There are other signs of safety with leaving your loved one unattended.
  • The current living situation increases the risk of falls or accidents.
  • Caregivers can no longer appropriately manage their loved one’s medications or treatments at home.
  • Their weight and eating habits fluctuate.
  • The needs of your loved ones go beyond your ability to care for them. Or likewise for a facility.

dementia patient

Tips for a Stress-Free Move to Memory Care

If you notice any of the signs, there are a few key steps to take right away to get the ball rolling for your loved one to find the right memory care facility for their needs. 

Do your research on facilities in the area.

Schedule tours of local memory care units. If possible, schedule some test times when your loved one will be lucid and in a good mood to view the facility, or keep an eye on the facility for their specific care needs. 

Talk to your existing living facility staff.

If your loved one already lives in an assisted living facility, chances are they can recommend the best in the area and ones that offer specific care for them.

Look into financing options.

Paying for memory care will be more expensive than your current situation, so it’s essential to look at your options from Medicare to Medicaid or state programs and elderly waivers. Start those applications as early as possible to get additional coverage for memory care services.

financial help for dementia patients

Talk with a local senior living advisor.

If you are currently in an in-home care situation, contact a local senior living advisor. They can offer recommendations for memory care facilities, help schedule viewings and appointment times, and go over a list of must-haves to try and find you a place that suits every need.

Notify your loved one’s doctor.

This is when you would want to let their primary care physician know that they will be moving into memory care and what facilities are in consideration, so the two of them can work together when preparing for this transition.

notify doctor

Pack their belongings early on.

This is when you would want to start packing up your loved one’s belongings and getting them ready for the move. If possible, try to find a facility that will accept their furniture and personal items when they arrive, so there isn’t any additional cost or hassle of transporting all those things once moving day comes around.

Your loved one deserves the best care when it comes to their needs, and memory care is an excellent option for continuing that personalized care and attention. In addition, memory care will facilitate specific therapies that can help alleviate the stress and anxiety that come with the disease.

Make sure you take all of these steps when considering this next step in their senior living journey. If you have any questions about moving your loved one from assisted living to memory care, reach out to Sunflower Communities today!