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What is memory care?

Memory care — also known as memory support, dementia care or Alzheimer’s care — offers housing and around-the-clock supervision and caregiving for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 

Memory care facilities offer services and amenities similar to assisted living facilities, including apartments with accessible bathrooms, meals taken in a community space, light housekeeping services and help with activities of daily living (ADLs).

But they also offer some unique services geared toward residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, like 24/7 caregiving from specialized staff member and secure environments to prevent injury and wandering.

Though a senior living in a memory care facility may also require skilled nursing care, the two are not the same. Skilled nursing facilities (also familiarly known as nursing homes) are residential facilities that offer around-the-clock medical care. Some nursing homes do offer wings or “neighborhoods” that offer increased levels of memory support for residents with dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a collection of symptoms connected to declining skills in memory, logic or other cognitive skills. It is a progressive condition.

A woman smiles at the camera while a man leans his head against hers and looks off-camera.

Alzheimer’s disease falls under the dementia umbrella and is the most common cause of dementia: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.

When to transition into memory care


Only a medical professional will be able to properly diagnose a dementia patient’s progression, create a comprehensive dementia care plan and ultimately recommend around-the-clock memory care as cognitive ability deteriorates. 

But there are some visible signs that it may be time to consider 24-hour memory care — or, at the very least, ask for a closer evaluation from a trusted doctor:

  • Agitation or aggression that puts others or themselves at risk
  • Increased slips or falls, or unexplained bruises and cuts
  • Tendency to wander or get lost
  • Inability to manage medication scheduling or dosage
  • Unexplained weight loss or nutrition problems

It’s also completely valid to consider memory care for a loved one with dementia if you’re a caregiver who feels burned out, concerned for your safety, or unable to focus on your own needs.


Transitioning from assisted living to memory care

Seniors already living in assisted living communities are surrounded by caregiving staff who get to know residents and can keep an eye on their cognitive abilities on a day-to-day basis.

Caregivers, outside doctors, family members and the residents themselves will collaborate on a dementia care plan and determine together when a move from assisted living to memory care is necessary. 


Learn more about when it may be time to transition to memory care.
A resident and an employee laughing.

How much does a memory support facility cost?


Much like independent living and assisted living communities, the average cost of memory care varies by a number of factors, including geographic location, staff credentials, and the services and amenities offered within the facility.

According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), the average monthly cost of rent in a standalone memory care facility in 2021 is $6,935.

Of course, standalone memory care facilities aren’t the only source for memory support services: There are also home care providers that offer memory support, and some retirement communities — including Continuing Care Retirement Communities — and assisted living facilities also offer memory care. The costs associated with those environments will vary.

How to find a memory care facility


With so many facilities available, finding the right memory care for yourself or your loved one can feel intimidating. 

It can help to start small and take the search step by step, beginning with leaning on your personal network:


  • Members of an Alzheimer’s support group
  • A trusted social worker
  • Your doctor (or your loved one’s)
  • Friends or family with shared experiences
People standing and laughing.

From there, you can look up the recommended facilities on sites like Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare and The Joint Commission’s Quality Check.

Then call your short list to ask questions and set up some times to visit.

Create a plan to get the care you need


If you’re taking early steps to proactively plan for care, you might consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community, also known as a CCRC or Life Plan Community. 

In these communities, seniors begin in independent living but may transition to assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care as the need arises, often with little to no increase in monthly costs. 

So whether you’re considering a CCRC, need support now, or are simply doing some proactive research, Vi’s team is ready to answer your questions. 

Contact us today.

A multigenerational family outside a Vi at The Glen villa

Memory support in Vi communities

Nine of 10 Vi communities across the United States offer dedicated residential memory support. Each care center’s staff takes a collaborative approach, alongside residents and their families, to develop unique care plans that we re-evaluate every six months to ensure residents are getting the support they need. 

And because most residents in our care centers start in an independent living residence, Vi employees get to know them on a deep level through the years. This allows them to provide more intimate and personalized care once they have a greater need in memory care or anywhere along the continuum of care.

FAQs about Memory Care

What is memory care?

Memory care, also known as memory support, dementia care or Alzheimer’s care, offers housing and 24-hour supervision and care for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Memory support facilities offer specialized activities designed to stimulate seniors in cognitive decline, including puzzles, music, and reminiscence therapy.

They also have enhanced safety features such as 24-hour security staff, automatically locking doors and facility-wide alarm or emergency alert systems to protect residents who are prone to wandering.

Is memory care considered skilled nursing?

Though a senior may need memory care as well as skilled nursing (especially in cases of highly advanced dementia), memory care and skilled nursing are not the same.

Memory care facilities offer highly specialized care and therapies designed to help seniors thrive as much as possible despite their memory loss and other cognitive decline.

On the other hand, nursing homes are residential facilities that offer around-the-clock medical care. Some nursing homes do offer wings or “neighborhoods” that offer higher levels of memory support for residents with dementia.

At what point do dementia patients need 24-hour care?

Dementia is a progressive condition. A doctor will be able to diagnose a dementia patient’s progression and recommend around-the-clock memory care.

But in general, dementia patients should likely move into dedicated memory care if the condition has advanced to a point where it can’t be managed at home.

Signs that someone needs 24-hour memory care include:

  • Agitation or aggression that puts others or themselves at risk
  • Increased slips or falls, or unexplained bruises and cuts
  • Tendency to wander or get lost
  • Inability to manage medication scheduling or dosage
  • Unexplained weight loss or nutrition problems
  • Caregiver burnout

How can I care for someone with dementia?

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging and taxing — but it can also be rewarding and bring you closer to that loved one, particularly in early stages of cognitive decline.

Depending on your loved one’s stage of dementia, your caregiving may come to include assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), including eating, grooming, toileting and walking.

But here are five universal tips for offering the best care possible to a loved one with dementia:

  1. Offer structure. Dementia patients benefit from daily routines that include a healthy diet, exercise or other physical activity, and social and mental activity.
  2. Create a safe environment. Make home a safe place by removing items that could cause slips or falls, adding locks to cabinets that contain potentially dangerous items, and more.
  3. Be a companion. Talk to your loved one, engaging them in conversation even as their cognitive capacity declines.
  4. Model patience. Some tasks may take longer than they used to — and may cause frustration for you or your loved one. Your loved one may also grow frustrated as their memory loss worsens.
  5. Foster independence. Rather than taking over difficult tasks immediately for loved ones, offer assistance and be a partner in jogging their memory or encouraging them to keep trying whatever they’re struggling to do.

How can I help my loved one transition into memory care?

Getting a parent into memory care is a difficult situation that requires some delicate conversations and heady emotions.

Here are some tips to smooth the transition wherever possible:

  • Work with your parent’s doctor to get a proper dementia diagnosis and lean on their trusted expertise when necessary.
  • Start the conversation about memory care as early as possible so you have the best chance of allowing them to be part of their own care decisions while they still have the cognitive capacity to do so.
  • Include adult siblings and other loved ones in as many discussions as possible.
  • Create a script around memory care that you and others can stick to.
  • Listen to them and validate whatever emotions they’re experiencing.
  • Tour facilities yourself, without your parent, and with them later on.
  • Pack for your parent and make the move as painless as possible.
  • Help them personalize their space in the facility.
  • Visit often to ensure they’re getting the care they need.
  • Find support for yourself, including dementia caregiver support groups or one-on-one therapy, if necessary.

When should seniors move from assisted living to memory care?

A senior’s doctor is the best resource to determine exactly when a move from assisted living to memory care is necessary.

However, some indicators that seniors currently living in assisted living should relocate to a dedicated memory support wing or standalone facility include:

  • Increased agitation or even aggression
  • Increased slips or falls
  • Tendency to wander off and endanger themselves

How much do memory care services cost?

However, the cost of memory care services varies by a number of factors, including whether you’re seeking home care, adult day care services, a standalone memory care facility or care within a retirement community or assisted living facility.

Other factors that may affect the cost of memory care include:

  • Geographic location
  • Size of residence
  • Services and amenities offered
  • Staff credentials
  • Medical support required by resident

What is the average cost of memory care?

According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), the average monthly cost of rent in a standalone memory care facility in 2021 is $6,935.

Does Medicare cover nursing home care for dementia?

In general, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans do not cover room and board in assisted living or memory support facilities. However, they will typically pay for the medical care a resident receives while living in the facility.

Is memory care tax deductible?

Under the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), memory care falls under the category of “long-term care services.” That means the costs of memory care are tax deductible, with a couple of caveats:

  • You must be considered “chronically ill,” defined as requiring help with at least two activities of daily living (ADLs) or requiring substantial supervision because of a cognitive impairment.
  • You must be receiving care from a licensed medical professional who has prescribed a specified plan of care.

Most Alzheimer’s or dementia patients will meet these requirements.

It’s always best to speak with your CPA or other tax professional to find out which specific expenses related to memory care will be tax deductible, and how much you can deduct in any given year.

Does insurance cover memory care?

In general, for adults under 65 who are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s or other dementia, private insurance may cover some of the costs associated with memory care.

Medicare and Medicare Advantage do not cover room and board in memory support facilities, but they do cover necessary medical care administered in memory care.

Long-term care insurance may also offer some coverage for memory care, including adult day care, home care, assisted living and skilled nursing. (However, seniors who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia will not be eligible for long-term care insurance at all.)