As of 2024, approximately 6.9 million seniors aged 65 and older live with dementia in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Managing cognitive impairments at home can become challenging and unsafe for some seniors, leading many families to seek memory care when symptoms start.

Memory care communities provide a safe alternative for those with memory challenges. These residences staff professionals with extensive training in dementia care and offer a wide range of cognitively stimulating treatments to provide seniors with a high quality of life. They also ensure resident safety through measures such as controlled access, 24/7 monitoring and enclosed outdoor spaces to prevent wandering.

Memory care communities frequently provide opportunities for residents to socialize and engage in meaningful hobbies. Some communities may offer recreational activities that specifically benefit people living with cognitive challenges, such as visits from therapy pets, gardening and musical entertainment.

This guide will provide detailed information to help caregivers and family members better understand how memory care can help and what to look for when choosing a community.

Key Takeaways:

  • How Does Memory Care Compare to Other Senior Care Options? Memory care communities provide a safe environment for seniors with Alzheimer’s, offering specialized care and cognitive stimulation.
  • How Do I Pay for Memory Care? Memory care, costing 20-30% more than assisted living at about $6,688 monthly, often requires financial aid options such as Medicare, Medicaid waivers, reverse mortgages, life insurance settlements and veterans’ benefits. 
  • What to Look for in a Memory Care Community When researching memory care residences, families should focus on care capabilities, staff attentiveness and expertise, safety features and social engagement opportunities.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Benefits of Memory Care?

Memory care offers seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s a wide range of services, from cognitive stimulation and emergency monitoring to support from specially trained staff. This can lead to numerous benefits, including a better quality of life, reduced use of antipsychotic medications and improved medical care for other health issues.

We’ll explain the most prominent benefits of memory care below.

  • Care Coordination: The community’s team will work together, including your loved one as appropriate, to ensure comprehensive care.
  • Staff Knowledge and Competency: The staff has the necessary skill set and receives ongoing training to prepare them to work with people with cognitive impairments.
  • Ability-Based Activity Programming: Available activities suit your loved one’s cognitive ability, memory, attention span, language, reasoning ability and physical function.
  • Behavior Management: Staff members manage behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through non-pharmacological means, such as establishing structured routines and supervised access to the outdoors.
  • Safe and Supportive Physical Environment: Living spaces typically feature intuitive layouts for easy navigation and calming environments to help reduce stress and overstimulation.

How Does Memory Care Compare to Other Senior Care Options?

When searching for the right long-term care option, understanding the differences between different services becomes crucial. Each type of facility caters to specific needs and offers varying levels of care, staff training, safety measures and cognitive stimulation.

The following table breaks down the key features of three popular senior living options to help families make an informed decision for their loved one.


Memory Care

Assisted Living

Nursing Home Care

Level of Care

Specialized care for individuals dealing with memory loss

Help with activities of daily living for seniors who need basic assistance

Intensive medical services for those who require a higher level of care

Staff Training

Staff trained specifically to manage Alzheimer’s symptoms and provide therapeutic treatments

Staff trained to assist with daily tasks, but not typically trained in memory care

Nursing staff focused on providing medical care, typically without specialized memory care training

Safety Measures

Specialized safety measures in place to prevent wandering and ensure a secure environment

General safety measures, but not tailored to seniors with memory loss

Comprehensive safety measures in place, but not specifically designed for people with cognitive challenges

Cognitive Stimulation

Personalized attention and activities designed to stimulate cognitive function

Recreational activities available, but only a small selection addresses cognitive skills

Limited activities and cognitive stimulation, since these facilities focus on medical care


Typically more expensive than assisted living due to its specialized level of care

Less expensive than memory care, but more expensive than independent living

Varies depending on the level of medical care required, but usually more expensive than both assisted living and memory care

For more information, see our comprehensive guides comparing memory care with assisted living and skilled nursing care.

How Can Memory Care Communities Help?

Memory Care Services

The services available in memory care communities help make life safer and more comfortable for those living with memory impairments. All residences provide basic daily assistance for residents, including:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing and toileting
  • Meal preparation and serving
  • Housekeeping and laundry service
  • Interior and exterior maintenance tasks
  • Round-the-clock access to nurses
  • Transportation to doctor’s appointments and other outings

Memory care communities also offer activities such as arts and crafts, music and dancing, led by staff or volunteers with experience working with people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Research increasingly suggests that such activities are beneficial for people with cognitive impairments. Many communities also offer cognitive therapies and programs meant to keep the brain active.

Memory Care Amenities

Communities catering to seniors with memory loss often have design features not available in other types of senior living residences. Some of these features include:

  • Safety precautions to prevent wandering, such as doors with alarms
  • Keypad locks at all doors or other controlled entry and exit points
  • Security cameras monitoring entry and exit points
  • Use of personal security devices such as medical alert systems

In addition to these safety features, many communities also offer amenities for residents’ enjoyment. These amenities may include:

  • Fitness center with guided group classes
  • A secured outdoor or open-air courtyard
  • Indoor or outdoor swimming pools
  • Fine dining rooms
  • Resident lounges
  • Game rooms

How Do I Pay for Memory Care?

To provide a safe environment for those with dementia, memory care communities must have a specially trained staff and enhanced security measures. Because of these special needs, this type of care tends to be more expensive than other options.

Generally, dementia care costs about 20-30% more than assisted living. Considering that U.S. median expenses for assisted living hover around $5,350 per month, seniors can expect to pay approximately $6,688 per month for memory care. Costs can vary significantly based on your location and the specific facility’s services and amenities, so be sure to ask communities for their pricing directly.

While paying out-of-pocket is always an option, the high cost of memory care leads many families to seek some form of financial assistance. Some of the most common ways to pay for memory care include:





Although Medicare does not pay for long-term custodial care, it does cover medical expenses and additional services that individuals with dementia may need, such as nursing home stays and up to 35 hours of in-home care per week.

Seniors aged 65 or older and individuals with qualifying disabilities.


Medicaid does not directly cover memory care. However, many states have Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers that offer expanded Medicaid coverage for some memory care services, excluding room and board.

Low-income seniors who meet state-specific requirements.

Reverse Mortgages

Reverse mortgages, such as the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, provide loans to older adults using the value of their home as collateral. Once the homeowner moves out of the home or passes away, borrowers must pay back their reverse mortgage loan, including interest.

Homeowners aged 62 or older.

Life Insurance Settlements

Some individuals with life insurance policies may be able to receive a settlement rather than using the policy for its intended purpose.

Varies depending on the type of life insurance policy and the insurance company.

Aid and Attendance Benefits

Aid and Attendance benefits provide a tax-free monthly payment that eligible veterans receive in addition to their VA pension. This benefit can help pay for long-term care services, including memory care.

Veterans and their spouses who meet VA pension eligibility requirements and need assistance with activities of daily living.

Learn more in our detailed guide about memory care costs and ways to pay for it.

How Do I Know When It’s Time for Memory Care?

Watching a loved one live with Alzheimer’s disease or any other cognitive impairment poses numerous challenges. Although many families attempt to provide care for their loved one on their own, seniors often eventually reach a point when professional memory care will greatly benefit them.

While making the decision to seek memory care is personal for every family, the signs below may indicate that it’s time to consider professional care for your loved one.

  • Getting lost or disoriented while driving or walking on a familiar route
  • Losing prescriptions, forgetting to take medication or taking the improper dose
  • Personality changes such as increased aggression or withdrawal from loved ones
  • Dangerous incidents at home, such as forgetting to turn off the stove or leaving the door or gate open
  • A noticeable decline in grooming, such as an overgrown, unkempt beard or wearing clothes that appear to be unwashed
  • Lack of cooperation with family caregivers

What to Look for in a Memory Care Community

Each family has different priorities when it comes to selecting a memory care community, whether they’re looking for a certain staff-to-resident ratio or a specific music therapy program.

Below, we explain the key areas for families to focus on when considering a memory care community.

  • Care Capabilities: Meet with facility staff to discuss whether the community can manage your loved one’s condition both now and in the future. If your loved one has other chronic conditions or medical problems, make sure that the community’s medical team can adequately manage them as well.
  • Staff Attentiveness and Expertise: Make sure the community’s staff members have specialized dementia training on top of being good care providers. They should know how to manage combativeness, recognize signs of pain and be able to create solutions for the challenges often associated with eating, bathing or toileting in dementia patients.
  • Safety: Rooms and bathrooms should have emergency call systems. For enhanced safety, many communities provide residents with personal medical alert systems. Staff should perform in-room checks regularly. To prevent wandering, the community should monitor all entry and exit points and provide access to enclosed outdoor areas.
  • Activities and Social Engagement: Check not only the number of available activities but also how appropriate they are for your loved one’s cognitive abilities. Usually, dementia programming has time set aside for art projects or reminiscence, incorporates some basic exercising or mimics everyday activities, such as having a dementia-safe kitchen for cooking.

Ultimately, only you can determine if a community suits your loved one. However, if you’d like some assistance from an expert, contact a Family Advisor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Memory Care and Skilled Nursing?

Memory care communities specialize in caring for those with memory loss, while nursing homes provide 24-hour medical care and therapy services. While some nursing homes have memory care units, they may not offer the same level of specialized care, cognitive stimulation and security features available in dedicated memory care communities.

Memory care offers specialized services beyond the scope of assisted living. While assisted living communities provide social activities and minimal assistance with activities of daily living, memory care also includes carefully designed layouts, skilled medical services and 24/7 help from staff trained in managing dementia symptoms.

The best type of care for someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia depends on that individual’s specific needs. Most people with dementia will benefit from some form of dedicated memory care, whether in the form of an in-home health care aide or moving to a residential memory care community.

Those living with cognitive impairments face a high risk of wandering, experience behavioral changes and typically need help with activities of daily living such as eating and personal care. Dedicated memory care providers receive special training to handle these behaviors and help mitigate risks.

Seniors pay a median of $6,688 per month for memory care in the United States. The specialized staff training and services required to adequately care for those with dementia make memory care about 25-30% more expensive than assisted living, which costs approximately $5,350 per month.

Is Memory Care Covered by Medicare?

Medicare does not cover most memory care expenses. However, it may help pay for some services that people with Alzheimer’s disease need, such as up to 100 days of skilled nursing home care and 35 hours of in-home care per week. Other types of Medicare products, such as Medicare Supplement Insurance and Medicare Advantage, may cover some memory care, but this will vary depending on the plan.

More Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Memory Care

Deciding on Memory Care

Dealing with Challenges

Life in Memory Care

Care and Support

Financial Considerations

Stages and Symptoms

Life Expectancy and Visitation

Benefits and Improvements

Additional Options and Information

Top Cities for Memory Care