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Knowing How to Decide Between Assisted Living & Memory Care

Does your loved one need assisted living or memory care? Read on to learn more about the key differences of these two levels or care.

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care: Which Is Right for Your Loved One?

Realizing  your loved one isn’t safe living on their own can be heartbreaking. Especially when it’s a parent or someone you’ve always looked to for advice and guidance. As you start to consider how best to support them in a way that lets them be as independent as possible, it can be hard to know which long-term care option would be best.

In the case of assisted living vs. memory care, there are some specific things you should consider. This blog post will show you the differences between assisted living and memory care communities to help you find the best care option for your family member.

Evaluating Their Activities of Daily Living

One standardized way most health care professionals and senior living communities determine if someone needs assisted living vs. memory care is determining how that person handles  Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). A system developed by Dr. Sidney Katz in the 1960s, measuring ADLs helps professionals understand how well a person can complete routines and basic activities that contribute to daily life. There are six ADLs:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Toileting (going to the bathroom)
  • Transferring (the ability to get in and out of bed)
  • Continence (being to control your bowels)
  • Feeding

For each ADL your loved one can complete, they’re given a “1.” If they can’t complete a certain ADL, they’re given a “0.” The higher the score, the more likely it is that your family member will be able to lead an independent lifestyle.

After ADLs are evaluated, activities called IADLs – Instrumental Activities of Daily Living – are  measured to get a better understanding of the types of assistance and care your loved one may need. These include:

  • Paying the bills
  • Cleaning the house
  • Cooking for themselves
  • Being able to transport themselves outside of the house
  • Socializing

These are scored in a way similar to ADLs. The higher the score, the more likely your loved one will be able to live more independently.

When is it time for assisted living?

In addition to  understanding what ADLs and IADLs are and how important they are in determining the level of care a particular senior needs, , there are general warning signs that it may be time to consider an assisted living facility.

  1. Chronic medical conditions: A natural part of aging is that the chances  of developing a chronic condition increase with every passing year.  According to AARP, more than 70 million people (age 50 and older) have at least one chronic medical condition, and these can be debilitating issues like Alzheimer’s or heart disease. Plus, the potential for medical emergencies also increases with age.
  2. Money troubles: Diseases like dementia also affect your loved one’s ability to think abstractly and handle numbers on a complex level. This can make it hard for them to handle multiple bills at once or cause problems doing taxes. Your family member can also often be susceptible to financial scams, from telemarketers or their own family members.
  3. Isolation: According to the American Psychological Association, more than 12 million seniors live alone. Isolation can affect your loved one’s overall health issues, leading to depression and bad health habits like drinking, smoking and prescription drug abuse.
  4. Messy living space: Growing older can make it difficult for your family member to clean up after themselves. You should also look at the food your loved one is eating. Is there expired or spoiled food in the fridge? Leftovers from the same meal or the same restaurant? This could mean your family member is unable to cook for themselves or not getting well-balanced and nutritious meals.
  5. Poor hygiene: Messy grooming habits and/or dirty or stained clothes could indicate your loved one isn’t bathing as often as they should or doing laundry. This could be a sign it’s time to consider assisted living.

When is it time for memory care?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.2 million Americans over 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss. People whose dementia affects their day-to-day living are safer and have a higher quality of life in a memory care community where staff members are trained in dementia care. Memory care units can also provide opportunities for your loved one to engage in things they enjoy, including socialization activities.

Here are five behaviors or circumstances that could mean your loved one needs memory care:

  1. Behavior changes: People with dementia may start acting in dramatically different ways. Someone who is usually reserved could become quite boisterous and outgoing.
  2. Physical safety: Dementia can cause confusion and disorientation, which can put your loved one’s physical safety at risk. They can forget to turn off a stovetop burner or wander away from home and become lost and confused.
  3. Physical decline: If your loved one becomes thin or frail, it could mean they’re forgetting to shop for groceries, forgetting to take the medications or taking more than prescribed.
  4. Caregiver’s health: If your family member is being cared for by a spouse or significant other, if the caregiver’s health falters, it could affect the health of your loved one too.
  5. Incontinence: If your loved one is unable to control their bowels and/or bladder, it can lead to skin health issues and eventually even bigger problems.

If you’re still trying to figure out if your loved one would be safer and more content living in a memory care community, here are some questions to consider:

  • Is it safe for my loved one to continue living in their current environment?
  • Could my family member’s behavior cause harm to others?
  • What does my loved one want, need and say about the situation?
  • What do my loved one’s doctor and other family members suggest?
  • Are there resources and support systems that can help my loved one “age in place,” or would a move to a community provide better care and protection?

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

To start exploring the assisted living vs. memory care options for your loved one, you can locate nearby communities with our Find a Community tool. It’s important to start looking at living options early so you can find one that fits your loved one’s needs.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.