Memory Care vs. Assisted Living: What's the Difference?

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living: What's the Difference?

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So, just what is the difference between assisted living and memory care?

Our memory care experts here at Marjorie P. Lee (MPL) are often asked this question. Usually, it's by people whose senior loved ones have recently been diagnosed with dementia or begun to show signs of memory loss, who are considering placement and don't know what care options are available to them in Cincinnati.

Assisted living and memory care overlap in several areas. They widely differ in others.

We thought that, today, we could help you to understand the differences between them, so that you'll have the information you'll need to make the right care decisions if your older parent or loved one ever needs one, the other, or both.

Assisted living is just that — assisted. But still independent, to varying degrees.

The seniors in our Assisted Living community are quite able to look out for most of their own needs. They just need a little extra help with tasks spanning the full spectrum of daily living needs.

At the lowest level of intervention, seniors in assisted living might have chronic pain, mobility issues, or medical conditions, that limit their ability to do more difficult physical tasks, like cleaning, laundry, making the bed, etc.

Seniors at this level of care might need help with cooking, for example. They may need help bathing or dressing.

Or, they might require help with sorting out and remembering to take their daily medications, with organizing and paying bills, or other memory-based tasks — and this would be an instance in which assisted living and memory care might dovetail.

Many seniors with mild age-related memory loss or early-stage dementia are still quite capable of managing themselves day-to-day, but they need someone to check in with them often, to remind  them.

In a more advanced assisted living arrangement, a senior may might need daily physical therapy or respiratory therapy, help to get into or out of the bed, with transitioning from sitting to standing and vice versa or help with toileting.

Or, he or she might require daily, one-on-one physical, occupational and speech therapy while recovering from a head injury or stroke. Again, this another area in which memory care might dovetail with assisted living, as stroke sufferers often incur memory loss and must relearn tasks.

In some cases, early and intensive memory interventions, like those Episcopal Retirement Services offers in its comprehensive suite of memory therapies, can lead to a partial or full recovery for those individuals. In others, they can stabilize the situation and prevent further cognitive loss.

Some individuals with moderate dementia receive similar advanced assisted living services — especially as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's begins to limit their mobility.

Moving from assisted living to a memory care center.

Eventually, as a senior's needs continue to change, an assisted living arrangement at Marjorie P. Lee might need to evolve into full-time, memory care in either our Morris or Kirby Household, or into an advanced skilled nursing arrangement, which we also provide on our campus.

And that's why continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) like ours are popular with elders and their families. A resident can move along the entire continuum of care, from assisted living to advanced skilled nursing, without having to move to another senior community.

Spouses can stay near each other. Friendships needn't part. Seniors with significant memory loss needn't be forced into new and unfamiliar circumstances, which could be extremely disorienting and stressful for them.

For Cincinnati seniors and their families, that's some much-needed peace of mind.

We're thankful that so many of them trust us with their loved ones' — physical, cognitive, social and spiritual care. Looking after our elders is truly a blessing and a ministry that all our MPL team members are called to perform. 

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Kristin Davenport
December 12, 2017
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS in 2014 after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director with American City Business Journals. Her role at ERS has ignited her passion for making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city, and she spends time with residents as a SAIDO® Learning lead supporter. Kristin is the executive producer and co-host of the Linkage Podcast for ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex live in Lebanon, Ohio, with their two daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon, where she teaches painting and has an art studio, Indium Art.

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