Senior Living
Assisted Living vs Memory Care: A Total Comparison

Assisted Living vs Memory Care: A Total Comparison

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assisted living vs memory care


More than 5 million Americans have some form of memory problem. The most common of which is dementia. Dementia is a group of conditions that affects your memory, thoughts, and decision-making ability. These complications can result in mental as well as physical disabilities in the long run. And this leads to our discussion on memory care vs assisted living.

In the later stages of the ailment, a person with dementia may find it difficult to live independently and may put their health and safety at risk if they don’t have anyone to assist them. It’s a good thing that there are Senior Living options like Memory Care and Assisted Living.

More independent seniors usually opt for Assisted Living. But, there might be a time when they have to move to Memory Care, so it’s important to recognize the signs when that time comes.

Both types of care facilities accommodate patients with memory disorders. However, these facilities differ in their security, infrastructure, staffing, and overall level of care and services. Before you choose between the two, it’s vital to understand Memory Care vs Assisted Living to make sure that all your present and future needs will be met.

What Services Are Offered?

Assisted living and memory care provide a wide range of services to their residents. Let’s take a look at the differences: 

assisted living vs memory care

Assisted Living

Assisted Living provides assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as managing money, administering medication, cooking, using appliances, and shopping. They also help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, using the bathroom, dressing, grooming, moving about, and eating. These services are optional to residents.

During the early stages of dementia, most patients are still reasonably independent, so extensive assistance or supervision is not required. But staff members are available if you need help.

Memory Care

Seniors who have advanced stages of dementia are usually accommodated in Memory Care facilities because they require more intensive assistance with both IADLs and ADLs. Memory Care offers 24-hour care and supervision specializing in memory-enhancing therapies and behavior-modifying exercises.

Memory Care centers assess residents and carefully plan activities according to their needs. They also maintain a set schedule for each senior under their care so they don’t have to constantly adjust to new things.

Administration of Medication

Let’s see how the medication management regulations differ from assisted living to memory care: 

memory care assisted living

Assisted Living

The regulations regarding the administration of medication in Assisted Living differ between the different states. Some states allow residents to self-administer their medication, while others don’t.

Memory Care

In Memory Care, on the other hand, administration of medicines by trained staff should be part of their services. The specific regulations governing this practice may also differ between different states.

Safety and Security

Both types of facilities offer specialized security measures. However, Memory Care facilities require more significant resources compared to Assisted Living to ensure your safety.

Assisted Living

You are allowed to move freely through the facility, unsupervised.

Most facilities also have standard safety measures such as:

  • Perimeter access control
  • Fire detectors
  • Daily check-ins to ensure your well-being
  • In-room emergency buttons

Memory Care

Memory Care facilities also have all the safety features of Assisted Living facilities. Patients that have advanced memory disorders, however, have additional risk factors. Thus, the following additional security features are usually present at Memory Care facilities:

  • Entry and exit points are limited
  • 24-hour supervision
  • Restricted access in areas within the facility that require patients to be supervised
  • Staff do check-ins several times per day to ensure your safety
  • Tracking bracelets may be required

Layout and Infrastructure

Both assisted living and memory care have some differences in their layout and infrastructure or how they design their living spaces. Let’s have a look at them:

Assisted Living

In Assisted Living, there are private and shared studios and apartments available. The residential units have kitchens and general safety features such as non-slip mats and grab handles included in the layout. These are designed to prevent any falls or accidents from happening.

Memory Care

Residents may either stay in a private or shared living space, but these do not include a kitchen.

The facilities are similar to those offered in Assisted Living. However, access is more restricted due to safety concerns. The design should make it easy for residents to move around and should make them feel safe and calm. As with Assisted Living, it is crucial to structure the facility in such a way as to prevent falls and accidents. The design often includes color-coded floors or walls as well as a circular layout.


Staffing policy in assisted living and memory care can vary. While assisted living staff mostly provide help with daily activities, memory care may provide a higher level of care. Some other differences include: 

memory care assisted living

Assisted Living

In Assisted Living, the staff specializes in caring for seniors and help them with their daily tasks if needed.  This is ideal for someone who is independent but needs help with certain IADLs and ADLs at times. 

Resident-to-Staff Ratio

There is no required staff-to-patient ratio for Assisted Living. Each Assisted Living community will, however, determine an appropriate proportion to best meet their needs. But if there are state regulations available, then these the community must follow them.

Memory Care

Memory Care is available when you require a higher level of care and supervision around the clock to ensure your safety.

All of the staff members—medical team, administrative, or housekeeping—are trained extensively on responding and communicating with patients with memory disorders. They use specific dementia care techniques to calm patients and know how to redirect patients and recognize signs and symptoms of wandering.

Resident-to-Staff Ratio

Residents in Memory Care facilities usually require more attention. And thus, the staff-to-patient ratio will be better than in Assisted Living. Some patients may need more supervision than the average patient. When this happens, the family may have to pay extra for several hours of external assistance daily.


The main expense of patients with dementia and other disorders affecting memory is accommodation at long-term care facilities such as Assisted Living or Memory Care.

Memory Care vs Assisted Living: which is more expensive?

In general, Memory Care is more expensive than Assisted Living. Memory Care facilities employ highly trained staff to provide a specialized range of services 24 hours a day. The services provided and security measures are far more extensive than those in Assisted Living, which then adds to the cost.

The cost for long-term care facilities can be substantial. Factors such as the location, the room’s size, whether shared-space or private, and the range of required services affect the cost of both Assisted Living and Memory Care. But there are options available like Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap, or other insurance policies that can cover these expenses.

Here, we discuss the average costs of each type of facility.

Assisted Living

The base cost for Assisted Living includes room and board with three meals a day, most activities, housekeeping, and transportation to and from medical visits.

Some seniors require additional assistance performing their daily activities, which will be an additional cost that will depend on the amount of aid needed. The average cost of assisted living for a one-bedroom unit is $4,500 per month and can range from $2,000 to $6,000 per month. 

Memory Care 

The average cost for Memory Care is around $6,935 per month. However, some can be as high as $10,000 depending on the level of luxury and services provided. 

Dietary Care

Let’s see the dietary care and choices available in assisted living and memory care and if there is any difference: 

Assisted Living

Living units include a kitchen or kitchenette, so you may choose to make your meals. Facilities do, however, provide three set meals a day to residents who chose to use this option.

Memory Care

In Memory Care facilities, living units rarely have a kitchen as this presents safety issues. And so, residents are provided with meals. You may choose to eat in the dining hall or dine inside your room. However, unlike in Assisted Living, you will probably require supervision.

They often adopt special crockery and cutlery as residents may have difficulty using regular plates, knives, and forks. The kitchen provides bowls and spoons with all meals. Finger food is usually offered as an alternative to plated dinners. These modifications help you to maintain as much independence as possible. Meal arrangements can be flexible and, as much as possible, are tailored to match your needs and preferences.

Amenities and Activities

Both facilities offer a variety of amenities and activities to keep their residents happy and engaged. Here are some examples: 

memory care assisted living

Assisted Living


  • Beauty salon and barbershop
  • Spas and relaxation rooms
  • Arts and crafts centers
  • Gym
  • Courtyards and gardens
  • Transportation
  • Library
  • Game room


  • Exercise classes
  • Water aerobics
  • Book clubs
  • Bingo
  • Karaoke
  • Outings
  • Board Games
  • Movies

These activities may be according to a schedule; however, they can be more flexible in Assisted Living than in memory care facilities. You function independently and can decide which activities you want to join. These activities help you make friends and give off a sense of community.

Memory Care


Memory Care centers have the same amenities available as in assisted living. However, they need to have supervision, and access to some of the areas where these amenities are available is controlled to ensure safety. 

Some patient-centered activities by memory care 

The programs offered may be individual or group activities, some of which will be similar to those in assisted living. Memory Care facilities try to adopt a personalized approach when scheduling activities for you and consider your preferences, hobbies, abilities, and needs. The activities will also be appropriate to your capabilities. 

Here are some examples of these specialized activities/therapies: 

  • Occupational therapy 
  • Music therapy 
  • Art therapy 
  • Reminiscence therapy 
  • Pet Therapy 

Pet Care

Both assisted living and memory care have certain regulations to allow pets in the community. Let’s take a look at those: 

memory care assisted living

Assisted Living

The state housing laws permit residents in such facilities to have pets. But this may differ between states, so it is essential to check with your local office. Residents usually care for their own pets. However, staff may often assist them.

Memory Care

As with Assisted Living, you can be permitted to have pets. But, it still depends on your ability to care for it. In situations where pets are not allowed to stay, the family may be allowed to bring them over to visit. Although many memory care facilities also use pet therapy, it’s still up to the facility if they would allow the animals to live with the residents.

Memory Care vs Assisted Living: Are There Any Similarities?

Some Assisted Living facilities have separate Memory Care units as part of the same facility. These units have additional security measures, additional appropriately trained staff, and more extensive services. The residents in this part of the facility can’t move around freely as the rest of the seniors in the Assisted Living community, as they would require round-the-clock care and supervision.

Memory Care vs Assisted Living: When to Move?

The progression of dementia may differ for each person. However, when you require 24-hour care to remain healthy and safe, you need constant help with ADLs and IADLs, or your current level of care is not considered sufficient, you should consider moving to a Memory Care facility. Listed below are a few more examples of when you should consider a change in long term care:

1. Participation in Assisted Living Lifestyle

Within assisted living communities, seniors are active participants in social activities as well as other forms of entertainment. When there is a change in their behavior, whereby a resident starts to retract socially in addition to changes in personality, it may be a sign of cognitive decline.

2. Requiring Help Beyond Assisted Living Services

Moving into a Memory Care facility should be considered if a resident with dementia needs more help than what is provided in their current assisted living facility.

3. Regular Confusion and Losing Track of Life Activities

Seniors in assisted living still maintain a significant amount of independence. They still tend to their own personal affairs and arrange their own social activities. When a senior has increased forgetfulness and is unable to perform these tasks, they may need increased care.

4. Maintaining Relationships with Seniors and Staff

When there is a progressive cognitive decline, seniors need staff who are trained to understand their behavior and interact with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Staff in assisted living may not be trained to deal with wandering, aggressive behavior, or other personality changes that may be brought upon by dementia.

When residents are unable to interact with other seniors due to their mental decline, this may cause them an immense amount of distress. It is better for them to be in an environment with individuals who have the same needs.

5. Confidence and Happiness.

It is essential that we recognize signs that seniors lack confidence or feel unhappy in their environment. This is by far the most important factor to consider when deciding whether memory care would be more appropriate for your loved one.

Top 3 Points

1. There might be a time when seniors have to move from Assisted Living to Memory Care, so it’s important to recognize the signs when that time comes.

2. Both types of care facilities accommodate patients with memory disorders, but they differ in their security, infrastructure, staffing, and overall level of care and services.

3. However, some Assisted Living facilities have separate Memory Care units as part of the same facility.


Most people with early or middle stages of dementia may still be able to function at home with the assistance of others. However, as the complications progress, it may become challenging for family members, who may also need to work and have other responsibilities. That’s when you need to compare between Memory Care vs Assisted Living

Assisted living offers more independence with assistance with daily activities, while memory care is specifically designed for those with memory impairment. It’s also vital to comprehend the type of care you will need in the future as there may be a chance of developing progressive memory loss, personality changes, and aggression with age. Ultimately, the best decision depends on your loved one’s individual needs and preferences. If you’re not sure which option is right for you, consult with your doctor or a trusted eldercare professional.

At BoomersHub, we aim to supply you with all the information you need to aid you in making an informed decision regarding the type of care that’s right for you. Give us a call! One of our skilled advisors will be happy to assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Medicare cover Memory Care? 

Medicare does not cover all the costs associated with Memory Care. However, Medicare has special needs plans (SNPs) available, such as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage allows you to designate Memory Care facilities as your “home.” Generally, Medicare covers home healthcare, which will significantly decrease costs. 

To qualify for assistance from Medicare, one must first get admitted for 72 hours in a hospital and have intensive nursing care or rehabilitation. 

Are There Other Health Insurance Options Available to Cover Memory Care? 

Memory Care is usually privately funded. However, this is not always possible. Resources such as Medigap and Medicaid are available to help cover services that Medicare does not cover. Medicaid coverage also differs between states and your income bracket will be the main factor affecting the differences. 

Other options to consider include: 

  • All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) 
  • Long-term care insurance policies 
  • Chronic care management services (CCMR) 

When to move from assisted living to memory care? 

Signs that it may be time to move to memory care from assisted living include increased forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty completing normal tasks. If you are concerned about your loved one’s ability to live safely and independently, talk to their doctor or care provider about the possibility of moving to a memory care unit. However, the decision should be made carefully and should be based on the individual’s needs. 

How to decide between assisted living and memory care? 

When considering assisted living or memory care, it is important to understand the difference between the two services and the care needs of your elderly loved one. If you or your loved one does not require assistance with basic activities, assisted living may be the best option. However, if you or your loved one requires extensive assistance, memory care may be a better fit. It is also important to consider the level of care needed and the cost associated with it. 

Is assisted living and memory care tax deductible? 

Memory care costs can be tax deductible for eligible seniors while medical expenses in assisted living are typically qualified for tax deduction. 

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