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Memory Care vs Nursing Home: What’s the Difference?

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A senior couple doing a puzzle with a caregiver in a senior memory care community

If your loved one requires extra support due to cognitive decline, you may be wondering what options are available. Memory care and nursing homes provide services that benefit the lives of those living with dementia. If you’re interested in a supportive lifestyle for your loved one, what’s the difference between memory care and nursing homes? 

Continue reading to learn more about memory care and nursing homes, including what they provide and the differences between these living options. 

What Is Memory Care? 

Memory care is a community designed to meet the needs of older adults living with dementia. As dementia progresses, it can make everyday life more difficult. Things like cooking, cleaning, and remembering important events fall behind. 

This disease changes the way the brain cells communicate with each other, affecting several aspects of a person’s cognitive abilities. Advanced stages of dementia can make it difficult to live independently. When dementia progresses, your loved one may benefit from living in a memory care community. 

What Does Memory Care Provide? 

Memory care provides older adults with a safe and secure area to enjoy everyday life without frustrations or confusion. The design of a memory care community intentionally avoids confusing layouts or hard-to-navigate areas. These communities have the needs of seniors living with cognitive dysfunction in mind. 

Every resident has a personalized care plan that helps them meet their daily needs, such as medication assistance, housekeeping, or support with the activities of daily living (ADLs). These plans are modifiable, meaning that staff can adapt them to meet someone’s changing needs. Increased support is available if your loved one requires more assistance than before. 

These ADLs include moving freely, feeding oneself, dressing oneself, maintaining personal hygiene, controlling bladder and bowel function, and using the toilet appropriately. 

Besides support with daily life, memory care communities provide residents with various services and amenities to enjoy. Memory care seeks to provide everything an older adult may need to live worry-free. Residents have many things to look forward to, such as prepared meals and activities to stimulate the brain. 

The services and amenities typically available in a memory care community include: 

  • Ready for move-in apartments 
  • Brain stimulating activities 
  • Engagement for positive cognitive support
  • 24-hour onsite medical care
  • Professional caregivers 
  • Medication support
  • Regular housekeeping
  • Laundry services 
  • 3 prepared meals per day
  • Communal areas for social engagement 
A senior woman sitting on the edge of her bed, getting her blood pressure checked by a nurse in a nursing home

What Is a Nursing Home?

A nursing home is a living option for older adults who don’t need to stay in the hospital but cannot live alone at home. Many nursing homes feature 24-hour staff to help care for the residents. The design of a nursing home can vary. 

Some nursing homes are similar to hospitals, providing medical care and featuring nursing stations. Other homes have a residential design, offering a neighborhood-like feel. Other nursing homes may have a dedicated unit for residents living with cognitive dysfunction. 

Nursing homes can provide short or long-term care, depending on someone’s needs. One person may stay in a nursing home as they recover from an injury or illness. Others may need to stay long-term because they require more consistent care.

What Does a Nursing Home Provide? 

Nursing homes provide a wide variety of services. While services may vary depending on the specific nursing home, they typically feature nursing care, 24-hour supervision, multiple meals per day, and help with daily activities. 

It’s common for many nursing homes to feature rehabilitation services, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. 

Both memory care and nursing homes provide essential services that help make life easier for older adults experiencing cognitive decline. With how many similarities these living options have, what’s the difference between them? 

Memory Care & Nursing Homes: What’s the Difference Between Them? 

While memory care and nursing have many similarities, they do have differences. The main difference between these 2 living options is that memory care is more specialized for older adults with cognitive dysfunction than a nursing home. 

Nursing homes provide supportive care for anyone who needs it, including those not experiencing cognitive decline. While these facilities can offer similar support to memory care, they may lack the thoughtful design that memory care offers. Memory care focuses solely on the needs of those with cognitive impairment. 

The layout of a memory care community features open communal areas and non-confusing designs. Another provided service is memory-enriching activities. These specially designed activities help improve residents’ quality of life. 

Which Option Is Best for Your Loved One?

The best living option for your loved one depends on their unique needs. Memory care and nursing homes provide 24-hour care and support for seniors living with cognitive decline. However, memory care provides more specialized care for those with cognitive dysfunction. 

Nursing homes may have units designed for those with dementia or other forms of cognitive decline, but they may lack thoughtful design or memory-enhancing therapies. It’s important to do extensive research when looking for the right community for your loved one’s needs. 

Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure about what lifestyle is ideal for your loved one. They can offer recommendations after assessing your loved one’s health. You can always schedule a visit to a memory care community to see what they offer in person. Contact us or book a tour if you’re interested in memory care for your loved one.

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Ryan Donahue

Written by Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President

More Articles By Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President
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