Understanding How Memory Care Homes Differ From Nursing Homes

If you have older loved ones, one of your main concerns may be which type of senior home will suit their needs best. There are several clues that will tell you if memory care is the way to go. For instance, memory care for seniors is the ideal option if your loved one starts exhibiting signs of dementia. Signs can range from disorientation, agitation, incontinence, unusual behavior, memory loss, and the like. 

Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, currently afflicts around 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and above. Placing your loved ones who start displaying these telltale signs in a memory care facility can give you the assurance that they will be well taken care of by experts themselves. 

What Are Memory Care Nursing Homes? 

Memory care homes offer specialized services with varying levels of intensive care for those who suffer from cognitive decline. These homes are for those who have Alzheimer’s or who suffer from different types of dementia. The facilities offer 24-hour care by staff who have been specially trained to handle the unique needs and demands of those who have dementia.  

How Are Memory Care Homes Different From Nursing Homes?   

The main difference between memory care homes and nursing homes is that memory care is specifically for individuals with dementia whereas nursing homes are for people with nearly any medical illness that makes living at home too difficult. Memory care homes are more home-like while nursing homes provide a more clinical, hospital-like setting.

What Are Some Features of Memory Care Nursing Homes?  

There are several features that distinguish memory care nursing homes from other senior housing options. Here’s what to look out for when you consider a memory care home:   


The activities in a memory care facility are focused on engagement and the improvement of cognitive functions. There are various selections of activities suited to residents at every stage of Alzheimer’s since it is a progressive disease. Memory care activities will help residents try to remember their loved ones or specific aspects of their life. 

The goal of memory care activities is to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia, which can be particularly helpful when it is still in its nascent stages.


There are additional security features in memory care homes to address the fact that those who have dementia often wander off. Security features may include doors with alarms, doors and elevators that require codes for entry, and tracking bracelets. Rooms of residents should also have emergency buttons in case they need assistance in the middle of the night. 

Design Considerations

While many facilities may have outdoor spaces, these can be unsafe without certain safety and design considerations. Outdoor spaces in nursing homes tend to have barricades or enclosures to prevent residents from straying away from the facility’s premises. Entryways, doors, and hallways should also be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

There should also be handrails or grab bars located throughout the property, and every area should be well-lit to prevent accidents. Exits and rooms should be clearly marked. Some rooms may also be soundproof to keep residents calm. 


Most memory care facilities have everything you could possibly need already. From housekeeping and laundry to salons and nutritious meals — there is hardly anything else you might need that a memory care home cannot offer. The staff also assists residents with bathing, dressing, dispensing medication, and any other daily tasks. 

What Are Some Examples of Memory Care Homes? 

There are a number of memory care facilities located throughout the U.S. — but we’ve outlined some of the best that you can consider for your loved ones below. 

  • Canterfield of Tallahassee - The Canterfield of Tallahassee is an affordable facility located in Tallahassee, Florida. The facility’s design is reminiscent of a hotel, with a specialized wing for memory care patients. The staff makes sure to cater to the same residents daily, which can bring about a sense of familiarity that is important for those with dementia.
  • Westbrook Senior Living - Westbrook Senior Living is a new memory care home in Streamwood, Illinois. They use Montessori-based principles for their residents, pushing for sensory activities and structured plans that pique each person’s interests.  Located at the edge of a nature reserve, the location is rich with wildlife and promotes many outdoor activities.
  • Autumn Leaves - Autumn Leaves is a memory care nursing home with locations across the US, from Illinois to Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Texas. Their entire staff — not just their caregivers — receives dementia training when they are newly employed. Caregivers are not just registered nurses, but actual dementia care specialists. 
  • Brookdale North Scottsdale - Brookdale North Scottsdale is both an assisted living and memory care community located in Arizona. Their memory care program is person-centric and aims to engage residents at any stage of the disease. The facility is large and spacious, with several options for private rooms.
  • Belmont Village Rancho Palos Verdes - Belmont Village Rancho Palos Verdes is one of the more luxurious memory care facilities. Their memory care services are award-winning, and the resident-to-staff ratio is 6:1. This ensures that each resident is well taken care of and attended to no matter what.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Late-stage Alzheimer’s patients require 24-hour care and supervision as they eventually become unable to function and lose control of movement. These patients also become unable to communicate and are more vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia. 

Is a memory care facility considered a nursing home? 

Memory care facilities are considered to be a type of skilled nursing facility. These may be located within a larger care facility, and some nursing homes may have a dedicated memory care wing. 

What is the role of a dementia nurse? 

Dementia nurses provide care and support for patients with dementia. If you have caregivers, these nurses may advise them on how to improve your health and overall quality of life. 

Is memory care covered by Medicaid? 

Memory care is covered by an assisted living Medicaid waiver in most states. Some states may also offer care assistance through their regular Medicaid program. In these states, there is typically no restriction on the location wherein this personal care is provided. 

What is end-stage dementia? 

End-stage dementia is when dementia symptoms become so severe to the point where a patient needs help with day-to-day activities. The patient may also have some symptoms that could indicate that they are reaching the end of life. 

Choosing the best senior housing option for you or your loved one is just one of the many decisions you will have to make as you plan for retirement. Check out some of Senior Strong’s previous articles on the other facets of retirement planning to help complete the full picture.

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