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Understanding Memory Care: What It Is and How It Helps

It happens to everyone – a set of misplaced sunglasses, forgetting a name or being unable to remember the name of the star of a favorite movie. As people age, memory lapses become more common. While it is expected, people begin to worry as the years go by. Memory lapses can be frustrating but are not necessarily cause for concern because memory loss is not the same as dementia.

Age-associated memory loss is a normal part of aging and does not mean a person has dementia. Everyone experiences changes to their brain as they age; however, seniors with dementia experience far more significant changes. The quick test is to recognize that memory loss due to aging does not cause significant problems in a person’s life, while brain changes and memory loss due to dementia cause issues in day-to-day life. The symptoms and signs can vary depending on the type of dementia. If there are concerns about a loved one potentially having dementia, it can help to identify the signs. The symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble understanding others when they speak
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts
  • Losing the ability to read or write

The more that’s known and understood about dementia, the more support a family can find. Many people do not know that dementia is not a specific disease; it is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is also helpful to know how memory care can support adults with dementia, the benefits of memory care, the memory care requirements and how much memory care facilities cost.

What Is Memory Care?

What is the meaning of memory care? In the simplest terms, memory care is a specialized form of care for people with memory loss. This type of specialized care provides a safe and supportive environment to help those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Some nursing homes and senior living communities have special memory care neighborhoods on-site. Other memory care communities are stand-alone communities that specialize solely in caring for seniors with cognitive impairments.

Within memory care facilities, residents are supported at all times by memory care professionals. Staff members in memory care communities receive specialty training to provide quality care for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to specialty staffing, some notable features of exceptional memory care facilities include:

Specialized activities and programs

Daily games, crafts, outings and activities are essential in caring for someone with cognitive impairment. These activities can help the person to maintain abilities, improve their cognitive function and get more happiness each day.

Uniquely crafted features and designs

There are special touches within memory care facilities that put the residents’ safety first. For example, wall colors and décor are selected to be soothing, hallways avoid dead ends so they do not confuse, and safety measures are taken to prevent wandering. These safety touches are not present in other senior care communities.

Personalized care

While almost 7 million Americans over the age of 65 have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, every person’s experience with memory loss is different. Because of this, the care treatments and therapies each senior receives should be personalized to their individual needs.

While there are no legal requirements for a candidate to qualify for memory care, most memory care communities have a set of criteria they apply when considering potential residents. To qualify for memory care, a senior must be diagnosed with one of many forms of dementia or cognitive impairment. Due to the progressive nature of these diseases, seniors who qualify for this form of care often exhibit symptoms like:

  • Lack of awareness in terms of time and place
  • Trouble communicating their needs or expressing emotions
  • Difficulty processing information or making decisions
  • Memory loss that impairs daily functioning
  • Confusion about times, seasons and people
  • Changes in personality and behavior

Benefits of Memory Care

Family Caregiver Alliance reports that there are more than 15 million people in the U.S. serving as family caregivers for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. While family members can offer love, companionship and some levels of health care, in most cases, they will move their loved one to a memory care facility at some point in their journey.

Why do people go to memory care? 

The life-improving aspects of memory care are apparent to family members and loved ones when they see how residents thrive in the safe, supportive environments created within memory care facilities. It is also helpful for family members to know the daily benefits and advantages for a senior loved one living with dementia. Here are some of the top benefits of memory care:

24-hour support

Dementia is a progressive disease that grows more serious over time. By the late stages of dementia, many people require full-time support. Memory care facilities offer security and assistance through the day and night, with specially trained caregivers ready to help with daily needs.


Memory care facilities make it easy for residents to interact and build relationships with peers and neighbors. An active social life is an important part of maintaining cognitive health, and residents in memory care have access to many more social opportunities than seniors who live alone.

Personalized care plans

Everyone’s challenges and experiences with dementia are different. Memory facilities create care plans that address each specific need and preference. The care team works with each resident daily and adapts the plan as needed, achieving the best possible results for each resident.

Focus on diet and wellness

A healthy diet and daily routine are important at any age. For those with dementia, getting the proper nutrients can help support overall health. Delicious dining from professional staff members allows memory care facility residents to eat healthy daily with menus full of options to meet each resident’s specific needs.

Uniquely designed programs

The activities and programs available in memory care facilities are tailored to the interests and preferences of the residents. They are also designed to eliminate boredom, increase activity and stimulate cognitive health.

Specially trained care teams

Care providers who work in memory care facilities are educated in the best practices for caring for people with all forms of dementia. Not only do these caregivers understand the ins and outs of the disease, but they can pick up on subtle changes in health and adapt the individual’s care plan for the best results. Caregivers trained in dementia care also understand the emotional challenges experienced by loved ones and their families.

Families can return to their roles

Once family members feel confident and secure that their loved ones are safe and well cared for in a memory care facility, they can enjoy simply being together. Visits with loved ones can consist of spending quality time together, enjoying meals and having fun without the stress of needing to provide care.

When to Move to Memory Care

Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss, confusion, personality changes and a gradual loss of independence. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. At first, people with this disease have only a tiny amount of memory loss and confusion; however, the symptoms become more severe over time. It can be helpful to think of dementia progressing in three stages – early, middle and late. These stages are sometimes called mild, moderate and severe because this describes how much the symptoms affect a person. While each person with dementia will have a unique experience, basic tenets represent each stage of dementia.

Mild dementia

People with mild dementia have symptoms such as memory loss, confusion about the location of familiar places, taking longer than usual to accomplish routine tasks, trouble handling money and paying bills, mood and personality changes, and increased anxiety.

Moderate dementia

Seniors with moderate dementia exhibit symptoms that can include things like increased memory loss and confusion, shortened attention span, difficulty recognizing family and close friends, challenges with language (reading, writing, numbers), difficulty organizing thoughts, repetitive statements or movements, occasional muscle cramps, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, tearfulness and wandering. 

Severe dementia

People in the severe stage of dementia will continue to exhibit symptoms that appeared in the earlier stages. However, they may also reveal additional symptoms, such as weight loss, seizures, skin infections, difficulty swallowing, increased sleep, moaning or grunting and lack of bladder or bowel control.

It is common for seniors and their families to transition to a memory care facility during the moderate stage. However, there is no wrong time to make the move. Moving earlier can often make the transition easier, allowing the senior to enjoy the benefits of memory care for extended periods. Talking to seniors with dementia can be more accessible in the earlier stages, so making the critical decision to move can be done collaboratively if it is done earlier. No matter which stage of dementia a senior is in, there are some basic signs it is time to move to a memory care facility:

Changes in behavior

If a senior’s behavior begins to change, it can make their everyday actions unpredictable. This makes it more difficult for loved ones to feel confident that the senior will attend appointments, take care of health matters and make safe choices.

Safety concerns

Safety concerns can range from mild to severe – from concerns about trips and falls to worries about wandering away from the house at night. No matter what, if there are safety concerns, it is likely time to discuss living arrangements.

Family caregiver stress

Because dementia is a progressive disease, caring for someone with dementia becomes more complex over time. For many family members, the strain of providing this level of care cannot be sustained for the long term.


Lack of socialization is hazardous to the health of any older adult. For seniors with dementia, a lack of connection and engagement can speed up the symptoms of dementia and put the senior at risk for depression and anxiety.

Overall health is declining

If an older adult’s home is no longer clean, they are no longer paying attention to hygiene or household chores are falling behind, these could all be signs that it is time to consider moving to a memory care facility.

While Alzheimer’s disease and dementia cannot be cured, care providers and loved ones often focus treatment in a memory care facility on slowing the progress of the disease and ensuring a good quality of life for everyone involved.

About Holly Hill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Holly Hill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center provides rehabilitation, memory care, respite services and skilled nursing care designed to support and nurture each resident’s emotional, spiritual, mental and physical wellness. We are committed to creating a unique experience for each resident and supporting their family as they work toward their goals.

Ready to learn more about Holly Hill? Contact us today to schedule a tour and get answers to your questions.