Navigating Assisted Living and Memory Care with an Alzheimer’s or Dementia Diagnosis

With the complexity of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, another layer of careful thought and attention is needed before deciding to move to an assisted living or memory care community. In this article, we will examine helpful answers to four common questions frequently asked by family members and caregivers throughout this decision-making process. If you find yourself preparing to make a move or are at the crossroads of deciding assisted living or memory care for a senior loved one, read on for guidance from our team of Edgemere senior living and memory care experts.


“My loved one has an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.”


First, know that you are not alone. Growing numbers of people across the world are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, dementia is not a specific disease but an overall term that describes a specific group of symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association notes common symptoms characteristic of dementia include difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills. 


These symptoms continue to evolve and change as the disease progresses through each stage, which can make it more difficult for family members or caregivers to know which senior living option is best for a senior loved one with dementia. Concerns about safety, security, personal care and support, cost, and social and cognitive engagement are widely shared, beginning with four of the common questions mentioned below.


Can a traditional assisted living community provide support for my loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia care needs?


This question is a starting point for those searching for additional support in caring for an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. And while a simple “yes” or “no” answer would be most helpful; this question is a bit more complex. Traditional assisted living communities can provide support for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia care needs. However, each community’s ability to care for the changing or progressive needs of the disease can vary. 


In the early stages of the disease, individuals with mild symptoms/cognitive changes may be able to live safely in a community and benefit from the frequent social interaction, structure, routine, and oversight available from nursing and wellness staff. As personal care needs increase, or an individual begins to need more frequent redirection for their daily routine, wander, or exhibit unsafe behaviors, it could be a sign that a more supportive lifestyle is needed. A memory care community with added security measures can provide a greater level of safety and peace of mind in these instances.


For an individual with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, how would the lifestyle of a memory care community differ from a traditional assisted living community?


For seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the lifestyle of a memory care community can provide more comprehensive personalized care and support, additional safety and security measures, and enhanced resident programming to meet changing cognitive needs.


Along with the thoughtfully designed physical environment that defines memory care communities, wander protection technology adds additional security – indoors and out, which may not be provided in a traditional assisted living community.


Staffing levels in memory care communities are often higher than in assisted living, with more team members available to provide direction and assistance with the daily routine, one-on-one visits, social interaction, and personal care. Resident programming in memory care communities is similar to assisted living but enhanced for those with memory impairments. Programs incorporate specialized technology to stimulate memory and cognition while offering purposeful activities that draw on past experiences, ample learning opportunities, and essential social connections. 


What are some of the meaningful ways community staff engage residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia?


Many memory care communities have expanded programming, activities, and events designed for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Central to these programs is the importance of human connection, positive social interactions, and meaningful engagement with people, which research has shown may be more effective at promoting health and well-being than exercise!


The Alzheimer's Association reports that it's important that interaction be done "with – not to or for – the resident," so one-on-one caregiver-to-resident interaction and resident-to-resident social activities are essential. The list below includes a few of the offerings you may see facilitated specifically for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia:


  • Baking activities that draw from residents’ culture and traditions.
  • Simple arts and crafts that encourage creativity and minimize frustration.
  • Listening to music, playing music together, and enjoying musical performances.
  • Group exercise and fitness classes that include indoor/outdoor walks.
  • Regular visits with pets or other animals can provide a therapeutic sense of touch. 
  • Working on puzzles or looking through photos.
  • Reading or listening to books together or one-on-one.
  • Nurturing activities for providing a connection to caring for someone or fulfilling a need.
  • Social gatherings and events for sharing memories, stories, songs, and laughter.


How does the cost of personal assistance and care services at a memory care community compare with a traditional assisted living community?


While the cost of traditional assisted living varies greatly by community and location, it generally includes the monthly rental of the apartment, along with several key amenities, such as utilities, meals, housekeeping, laundry services, maintenance, and social activities. Assistance with personal care needs such as getting dressed, taking a shower, and managing medication may or may not be included in the monthly rate. 


Memory care communities follow a similar monthly rental model but often include personal care, assistance, and support with activities of daily living (ADLs), or routine daily activities, as part of the monthly fee. Personal care services are provided by a team of specialized caregivers who are trained in dementia care best practices to support the health, independence, and dignity of individuals challenged by Alzheimer’s or dementia. These services are typically structured into an “all-inclusive” rate. Rates can vary widely by community and some incorporate tiered pricing for additional services. Depending on the location of the community, individuals can usually expect to pay an additional amount per month for the more supportive lifestyle of a memory care community. 


Speak with an expert first.


Ultimately, families choose to speak with a senior living or care counselor before choosing to move a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia into an assisted living or memory care community. This helpful step can provide great insight and experience to ensure the transition is beneficial and not disruptive for your senior loved one. Having an option that allows for additional support as care needs change is paramount. 


Edgemere’s senior living options are designed to fulfill these changing needs with award-winning offerings in independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care. Their relationship-centered environment fosters well-being, social connections, health, and independence, and earned them distinguished titles in Newsweek’s 2024 America’s Best Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Rely on Edgemere’s trusted name in senior living.


Contact us today to schedule a tour and learn more.