Memory Care vs. Nursing Home: Know the Difference

memory care vs nursing home

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Those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia will require assistance with day to day tasks as the disease progresses. Besides offering around the clock care in the home as dementia progresses, there are other housing options such as memory care center and nursing homes.

You may be looking for dementia care assisted living communities for your senior loved one who is exhibiting symptoms of cognitive decline. However, you should know that there is a significant difference between a memory care community and a nursing home for people with dementia as you explore your options for residential care.

Remember that there are key differences between assisted living communities and nursing homes while making your decision.

Both long-term care facilities can assist older people who are experiencing memory loss. Residents of both memory care facilities and nursing homes are  provided with assistance for day to day tasks, and given medical care as needed.

In contrast, memory care is specialized care that is only given to people who are experiencing memory loss. This secure care improves the quality of life for dementia patients. This is done by minimizing the occurrence of both disorientation and the dangers associated with wandering.

Nursing homes are places where older people who are unable to care for themselves can get care and medical support. Nursing home residents don’t require the kind of medical intensity/attention provided in hospitals. When someone lives in a nursing home, they typically require the assistance from staff for basic activities of daily living and the more complex tasks like medication management, laundry, etc. They can be confined to a bed, require regular use of a wheelchair, or walker, or be dependent on constant nursing care.

In this article, we will examine the differences between the care a person might receive in a conventional nursing home and the specialist treatment available in a memory care facility.

Nursing Homes

Various titles have known Nursing Homes during the course of their history. A skilled nursing facility, care facility, and even an old age home are a few examples. In general, a Nursing Home’s purpose is to assist people who are coping with particular persistent health conditions.

These issues do not require hospitalization but cannot be treated satisfactorily at home. The nursing staff in these facilities typically works 24/7, 365 days a year.

In addition, the majority of people who live in nursing homes require assistance with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). ADLs include taking baths, eating, getting dressed, using the restroom, and moving around the facility.

Depending on a person’s needs, nursing homes can be used for either temporary or permanent care. A fractured hip, for example, may require rehabilitation in a nursing home.

In contrast, they offer housing and care for those who are unable to live independently or care for themselves.

Nursing homes consist of nursing staff, dr’s and other healthcare professionals. Other healthcare professionals like occupational, physical, and speech therapists typically work in nursing homes. Also, nurses provide primary medical care by administering medications, treating wounds, and providing intravenous and tube feedings.

There is a wide variety in the types of trained care workers, the staff-to-resident ratio, and the size of nursing homes. Each nursing home is required to get a license from its respective state. The healthcare field of nursing homes is regulated by the federal government.

Nursing homes usually offer a greater quality of care than assisted living facilities. They provide residents with meals, housekeeping services, and help with personal care and medicine. Nursing homes & Assisted Living Facilties  also offer their residents the opportunities to participate in social activities.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are both conditions that can be found in Nursing Home residents and in memory care. Typically, in a memory care, they have a unique design in a locked unit that allows for wandering around safely. They may even have certain features to it like an  outdoor garden or indoor relaxation area that can be more nostalgic for that individual.

Memory Care

Memory Care communities serve seniors with cognitive disabilities. In particular, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Memory Care is tailored to meet residents’ physiological and psychological needs at every stage of the cognitive illness continuum, from early onset to late-stage dementia.

The primary distinction is that they focus solely on the needs of those suffering from memory loss. With dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in mind, they work to provide the highest level of care in a safe setting.

The residents of a Memory Care unit receive care that is tailored to each person’s unique need. These amenities are designed to help residents regain a sense of self-worth and purpose in their life. People with dementia do better in stimulating environments. Because such places also encourage routine and provide for their unique requirements.

The residents’ ADLs (bathing, eating, getting dressed, using the restroom, and moving) are also taken care of.

Memory Care residents enjoy engaging in activities and outings designed with them in mind. This is how they are most likely to spend their time and receive the stimulation they need to maintain or improve their cognitive abilities.

Activities such as arts and crafts, games, card-writing, fundraising, dress-up day, movie nights, group exercise programs, and a wide variety of other events are frequent in Memory Care locations. This gives residents the opportunity to interact and connect with their community.

Keeping people safe is always a top priority in Alzheimer’s and dementia care centers. Approximately 6/10 people living with dementia will wander in the middle stages.

The staff in a memory care facility has received specialized training to ensure the safety of its patients.

The nursing staff at these facilities can provide care to seniors with dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment.

How do You Pay For Care?

Your living condition, the type of care facility you go to, and your level of financial stability will determine how you pay for medical assistance. Personal funds cover a significant portion of the expenses for many families.

Approximately $299 per day, or $109,000 per year, is the average cost of a private nursing home room. For around $263 per night or $96,000 per year, you can have a semi-private room (on sharing basis). Memory care costs $83,220 per year or $6,935 per month, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

Help with personal care tasks like getting dressed and showering is considered custodial care, but Medicare does not pay for it. This level of attention, however, is standard in nursing homes and Alzheimer’s care centers.

Some post-hospital skilled nursing care is covered by Medicare, but only within the first 100 days. Similarly, hospice care may be funded if it is offered in a long-term care or memory care setting. However, residential treatment is not covered.

Long-term care insurance policies often pay for medical care obtained in nursing homes and possibly some memory care faciltiies..

Medicaid pays for a large portion of nursing facility and long-term care costs in states that participate in the program. Care, income, and asset thresholds must be met before you may apply for this insurance. State regulations differ on this matter. These costs could be covered through benefits for veterans.

Memory Care vs. Nursing Home – How to Select One?

Memory care is for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss. People with progressive memory loss who require supervision 24 hours a day, or people with cognitive impairments that are hard to manage, usually benefit from the skilled and empathetic approach at memory care facilities.

The term “assisted living facility” can be used interchangeably to describe these types of establishments. These centers enhance the quality of life for seniors with memory loss. They provide therapies that are specifically geared toward memory care, memory-focused design, and safety features.

On the other hand, older people who have major medical problems and who need supervision around the clock may benefit from nursing homes. They provide competent nursing care as well as rehabilitative therapy.

Still unsure of the best care for your loved one? Consult your family, your loved one, and their doctor to understand their care and support needs. When exploring the different options  and considering memory care vs nursing home, I would make sure and ask the memory care facility if they are able to provide assistance as dementia progresses into the final stages. Since individuals with dementia will require 24/7 assistance in the later stages, it’s important to find out whether they can accommodate for hospital beds, hoyer lifts if/when applicable and other necessary DME that would be beneficial as the dementia progresses.

Final Thoughts

There are several considerations to make while determining the appropriate amount of care for your loved ones. Memory care services will benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and those who are struggling with memory impairments, and require assistance for day to day tasks.

Nursing homes offer long term care stays, which can also be beneficial for those with memory impairments.

Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia may not require immediate around the clock assistance. With a home health aide, many early-stage patients can still reside in their own homes safely.

If you see that they are becoming more anxious, their condition is advancing,  or they are at risk of injuring themselves, or they  require more assistance with completing day  to day tasks, then you should get them professional assistance.

The facility’s location is important when selecting a nursing home or memory care service. It’s always more convenient to have a loved one nearby so you can make frequent visits and spend quality time with them.

The issue of who would cover the cost of the treatment is also crucial. Residents of a nursing home can get help paying for their care through government programs like Medicaid and Medicare. But, those living in an Assisted Living facility may have to use their own funds or their insurance to cover the cost.

Making the decision about how much care an older person needs can be difficult and stressful. Research your options and determine what will provide your family member & your family with the most comfort.


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