Assisted Living or Memory Care: Which is the Better Fit?

Assisted Living or Memory Care: Which is the Better Fit?

Mike's Blog

When families start searching for a Senior Living Community on Long Island for an elderly loved one, they're faced with choosing which level of care will be required.

As a Long Island Senior Living Advisor (Mike McClernon, 516-254-9481), I find that some families find it a bit challenging choosing between Assisted Living and Memory Care. Part of my role is to meet the older adult and get an initial impression of their particular needs.

For example, Memory Care is designed for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. When families discover that their loved one has dementia, they often conclude that Memory Care is the best placement. However, where they will thrive involves looking beyond memory issues and gauging how they interact with the world on a day-to-day basis.

Their level of engagement with others might suggest that they would thrive better in Assisted Living, where they would enjoy a more active lifestyle compared with Memory Care which provides a less active but more attentive and regimented experience. While Assisted Living does not offer the right level of care for everyone, it can be a starting point for some individuals.

As their condition progresses, they can move into Memory Care when they need that level of programming, supervision, and anxiety management.

That's why the choices we make today need to ensure that the resident has the best senior living experience possible for what they need today, not months or years down the road.

Here are some of the more significant differences between Assisted Living and Memory Care to consider when deciding on placement:

Cost of care

Assisted Living on Long Island, even with additional services, is typically less expensive than Memory Care. Assisted Living, even with a busy plan of care, costs $6,000 - $8,000 a month. Memory Care here on Long Island is, with a couple of exceptions, in excess of $9,000/month. For economic reasons, families choose to place an elderly relative into Assisted Living if they have only minor memory problems and no risk of wandering.

Safety

No matter where your loved one resides, strict safety protocols to prevent falls and other mishaps are built into every aspect of daily life. In Memory Care, security measures are in place to prevent wandering and ensure that residents are safe and accounted for at all times. Protecting staff, visitors, and other residents from people experiencing dementia-related challenges and frustrations is also a prime concern in Memory Care, where staff is trained to address the situation calmly and with empathy.

Care for physical needs

There are qualified aides on staff around the clock in both Assisted Living and Memory Care (indeed, aides ARE the “assistance” part of Assisted Living). Nurses create care plans, supervise the aides, and act as a backup if a resident becomes ill. In many communities, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are also available.

Caring for the physical manifestations of dementia

As already noted, someone with relatively minor dementia symptoms can thrive in Assisted Living. However, as the condition progresses, sometimes residents become more appropriate for a formal Memory Care placement. The physical manifestations of dementia that will necessitate the move include an inability to manage any of their personal care needs, difficulty speaking for themselves, and mobility problems associated with cognitive decline.

Staffing levels

Memory Care typically has a staffing ratio of 8:1, while Assisted Living can have as low as 12:1 or as high as 16:1. These numbers are based on the average care needs for the residents. For example, some people in Assisted Living need a high level of care, whereas many others need very little and will rarely see a home health aide.

Types of accommodations

Accommodations in Memory Care are typically somewhat smaller and simpler than in Assisted Living. They're specially designed for easy navigation to help someone with a cognitive impairment move around safely. Memory Care residents also feel more comfortable in smaller, organized, single-occupancy spaces. Shared apartments are available in both levels of care.

Staff interaction styles and methods

Treating residents with kindness and respect is key in both care communities. However, an elevated level of patience is used in Memory Care when a resident is confused or struggles to stay “in the moment”. Staff will often use redirection as a tactic to divert the person's attention. For example, the resident can be reminded of a favorite song they like and encouraged to sing it or play it on the piano.

Resident happiness

Resident happiness is paramount to both communities, but providing a relaxing, peaceful day is the primary goal in Memory Care. There are no deep discussions or physical/mental challenges for people with dementia beyond routine stimulation exercises. Instead, the staff strives to help residents find comfort where they can.

Family communication levels with staff

Families are encouraged to be involved on both sides. Most Senior Living Communities are proactive about keeping families updated on any incidents, such as a fall or behavioral issues.

How to know when it's time for Memory Care

Assisted Living communities will often initiate the idea of elevating someone into Memory Care. For example, the family will be notified if the resident refuses to come down for meals, doesn't participate in activities, or rarely changes their clothes. Assisted living staff can help the person with these issues, but at some point, they will recommend a move to Memory Care, where getting residents up, bathed, dressed, and led to the dining room are all part of daily living.

It's also important to remember that care in most Assisted Living communities is charged separately from rent. When extra care costs start creeping toward the all-inclusive price of Memory Care, the move makes good financial sense.

My last point is the most important: Senior Care Communities take resident care needs and overall well-being seriously. Take their feedback and recommendations to heart while respecting the care wishes of your elderly loved one.

Find Assisted Living or Memory Care on Long Island

The first step to finding quality Senior Living Communities on Long Island is researching all available options. However, that can be a long, cumbersome journey fraught with frustration for many families.

Call Mike McClernon of Assisted Living Locators of Long Island when you're ready to start the process. Mike will take the time to learn all about your needs and present a list of recommendations best-suited for your elderly loved one's health requirements and lifestyle.

Start exploring senior living community options on Long Island by contacting Mike at 516-254-9481 or mikem@assistedlivinglocators.com. We're always happy to help!