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Dementia Care: Should We Choose a Nursing Home or Memory Care Community?

A caregiver shows something to a smiling senior female

Nursing Home or Memory Care?

What’s the best choice for your family member with dementia? Evaluating your loved one’s long-term care needs isn’t easy. Eventually, the options will boil down to whether you choose more general long-term care such as that found in a nursing home, or whether a dedicated memory care community will better serve their specific needs. We’ve provided an explanation of the differences and closing tips on how to make the choice.


Nursing Home

Nursing homes for dementia patients also provide a broad range of long-term care for other seniors. These are older adults with medical or health conditions who can no longer live independently. For these seniors, living in a nursing home feels like a long stay in a hospital. They are usually not ambulatory and need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as showering, dressing or using the toilet. A nursing home for dementia patients has a lower level of privacy, because rooms are set up to allow staff to provide continuous care. Along with long-term nursing care, a nursing home for dementia patients may provide assisted living and short-term rehabilitation services. Certain staff members may have special training to help people with dementia, but not all. Since they deal with a wide range of care, a nursing home for dementia patients may not be set up to cope with certain behaviors that are triggered by memory loss, and if these behaviors become extreme, they may ask the resident to leave.

Memory Care

Sometimes a stand-alone facility and sometimes part of a senior living community, a memory care community is dedicated to the care of those at all stages of cognitive decline. This includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and other forms of dementia. Unlike a nursing home for dementia patients, the setting is more homelike, with residents usually living in their own apartments.There are other striking differences between a nursing home for dementia patients and a memory care community. The physical layout of a memory care community incorporates visual cues, circular hallways with no dead ends, secure outdoor areas, and other features that support people with dementia. Treatments and therapies slow the advancement of disease, and activities such as music, arts and crafts, and events encourage residents to socialize and engage with others.

Dementia poses unique and specific challenges. Memory care staff are trained to identify the different stages of the disease and know what to do next. They understand how to manage a resident’s anxiety, hallucinations or sundowner syndrome, connect with someone who is having trouble communicating, and de-escalate aggressive or confused behavior.


How to choose?

Both types of facilities share similarities. They both provide a safe environment and expert care. They both provide meals, activities, assistance with ADLs, and shared spaces to enjoy. Both accommodate residents with early-stage dementia. However, because regulations vary, it’s important to check with your local authority to learn about the specific requirements and certifications that staff should have.If your loved one with dementia is also affected by another medical condition that requires highly skilled, 24-hour care, then skilled nursing and rehabilitative therapies at a nursing home may be a good fit.  However, since dementia care may only be a small part of their services, it may fall short of your expectations. In contrast, a memory care community addresses every stage of dementia with customized care plans. For loved ones with advanced memory loss, or who have difficult-to-manage symptoms such as wandering or aggression, a memory care community is a better choice.

Another important point to consider is how your loved one’s memory loss affects the whole family. The changes in relationships and uncertainty about the future are stressful for everyone. Staff at a memory care community are better prepared to help families through this tough time and can connect you with resources, support groups and counseling as you need them.


Make the decision early.

Decide what to do before your loved one’s dementia is too far advanced. It’s easier for your loved one to adapt to a new living space while they’re still able to weigh in on the decision and participate in the move.

Freedom Village of Bradenton is a continuing care retirement community with a dedicated memory care neighborhood, plus skilled nursing and rehabilitation on-site. We’ve helped hundreds of families in the Bradenton area understand the pros and cons of memory care. Don’t wait any longer. Contact us to discuss your loved one’s needs and our available care options.