What Is the Difference Between Memory Care vs. Assisted Living?

The need for long-term care is a reality for nearly 50% of seniors over the age of 65. A decline in both physical and mental health makes it difficult for some seniors to care for themselves. This is an emotional burden for family members who want to help preserve their loved one’s dignity and quality of life. That’s where assisted living and memory care facilities come into play. These communities are designed specifically to provide aging seniors with the care and support they need. Choosing the best facility for your family member means understanding the difference between memory care vs. assisted living.

While the differences are subtle, memory care facilities offer additional services for seniors battling cognitive decline.

Let’s explore the main differences between memory care vs. assisted living so you can make an informed decision about the future.

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living Explained

Elders meeting in assisted living facility

Assisted living and memory care facilities offer a lot of the same services and resources for aging seniors.

These include:

  • Housing
  • Meals
  • Support with ADLs (activities of daily living) including bathing, grooming, and using the facilities
  • Activities and amenities

In addition to these services, memory care facilities offer extra support for residents battling memory loss including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

According to the CDC, nearly 5 million seniors over the age of 65 have dementia. This number is projected to grow to nearly 14 million by 2060.

A memory care facility specializes in caring for seniors with memory loss. Staff members are trained in helping patients maintain their cognitive skills, independence, self-awareness, and quality of life.

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living: Differences in Accommodations

Now that you understand some of the key differences between memory care vs. assisted living, let’s take a closer look at what each type of facility offers.


Amenities will differ from one facility to the next, but most communities provide residents with an active lifestyle that preserves their independence and dignity.

Many facilities have the following amenities:

  • Gym and fitness classes
  • Outdoor grounds (gardens, courtyards, parks)
  • Beauty salons and barbershops
  • Transportation
  • Arts and crafts
  • Library and game room
  • Cafeteria or dining hall

Memory care facilities also take extra precautions to ensure resident’s safety and happiness.

All outdoor spaces are enclosed to prevent wandering, but large enough that residents don’t feel confined.

Indoor spaces are either color-coded or clearly defined and marked to lessen confusion and help residents feel more orientated with their surroundings.

Safety and Security

Speaking of wandering, safety is of utmost importance at a reputable memory care facility.

While residents of an assisted living facility are relatively independent, seniors with memory loss may find it difficult to navigate both indoors and out. This increases their risk of becoming disorientated and potentially injuring themselves or others.

Extra precautions are taken at these facilities to keep residents happy and safe.

Daily check-ins and emergency alert systems are common in both facilities. Memory care communities have added keypads for entry, obscured exits, and more frequent welfare checks.

Aggression and outbursts are too unfortunate side-effects of dementia. Many memory care facilities offer calming therapies and spa treatments to promote relaxation and reduce agitation which may lead to self-harm.

Activities and Therapy

Activities are an important part of any assisted living or memory care facility. It’s what keeps residents active, engaged, and happy.

In fact, social activities are one of the main staples of most assisted living communities. Active seniors need plenty of interaction and stimulation, with minimal support and assistance.

Common activities include exercise groups, outings, clubs, games, dances and other social gatherings.

While you may find some of these events at a memory care facility, activities are geared more towards therapy than socialization.

All activities are scheduled to offer a sense of comfort and routine. They’re also designed to support cognitive skills, while still being fun!

Some common therapies including music, art, pet, and reminiscence. Both music and art therapy promote calm and are said to slow cognitive decline.

Pet therapy offers a sense of companionship and appeals to the childlike innocence of some dementia patients.

Reminiscence therapy is especially important for patients with memory loss. Using the scenes (smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound), staff members help residents recall memories and events including people and places.

Staff Experience and Training

Elder woman upset from having dementia

One main difference between memory care vs. assisted living is that memory care staff specialize in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.

Staff members receive specialized training in providing supervision and 24-hour care to those with memory loss.

Dealing with dementia patients takes a certain level of patience and compassion. It can be difficult to manage dementia behaviors like aggression, disorientation, and wandering.

Staff members are trained in striking a balance between supporting dementia patients and promoting self-worth and independence.

Memory care facilities offer patients more one-on-one care and attention versus assisted living communities where residents are relatively independent.


The cost of memory care vs. assisted living varies greatly depending on your location and the type of insurance coverage you have. Other factors that affect the cost of care include the size of the room, if it’s a private room, and what services are offered.

In general, memory care facilities cost more than assisted living facilities based on the level of care. Dementia patients need more one-on-one attention, more frequent daily check-ins, and may have other medical conditions that require attention.

Welcome Home

Your health, happiness, and safety are of utmost importance as you age. Maintaining a sense of self and independence means living an active, fulfilling life as long as possible.

When it comes time to ask for help, the differences between memory care vs. assisted living are subtle but important.

If you or your loved one are struggling with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, a memory care facility can offer the support you need without compromising your quality of life.

At Brooking Park, we respect your individual preferences and strive to accommodate your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Click here to find out what other patients are saying about Brooking Park or contact us today to learn more about what we have to offer.

We can’t wait to welcome you home!

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