Seniors with memory loss or a chronic medical condition may need support that can’t be adequately provided in their homes. Navigating the various long-term care choices and understanding which services are included within each care option is a challenge. Deciding on the best option for long-term care requires careful consideration of the kinds of support that you or your loved one may need. Here, you will learn about skilled nursing and memory care, which are two types of long-term care facilities that address specific problems.

Seniors who need constant supervision and around-the-clock nursing care benefit from a facility that offers skilled nursing. Residents in skilled nursing facilities have a serious and chronic medical condition or disability that requires continual monitoring by medical professionals, such as licensed or registered nurses. With skilled nursing, residents can get assistance with the tasks of daily living, such as bathing, grooming and mobility.

Seniors with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, might not have a medical condition that requires constant monitoring. However, they do need specialized support and ongoing monitoring to address issues unique to memory loss. This includes medication reminders, emotional support and help with behavioral problems associated with progressive cognitive decline. 

In this guide, you will find explanations of these two types of long-term care, including the specific services, cost of care and who should consider each form of support. The table below provides an overview of skilled nursing and memory care. 

Skilled Nursing

Memory Care




Care Provided

Help with ADLs, medical monitoring

Help with ADLs, memory therapies

Average Monthly Cost

$7,908 for a semi-private room, $9,034 for a private room 


Who Should Consider It

Those with medical conditions that need 24/7 support

Those with memory impairment

Memory Care

Dementia is a challenging condition that can be hard to manage. Besides memory loss, people with dementia have additional difficulties, such as struggling with decisions or exhibiting poor judgment. Many people with dementia wander, potentially placing themselves in unsafe circumstances. Some may have balance or movement problems and may lose interest in interacting with others or engaging in hobbies and activities.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from mood disorders or exhibit personality changes, including increased aggression toward others. As dementia progresses, family caretakers find it increasingly challenging to support their loved ones. Long-term care that offers memory care is a good option to ensure the safety and well-being of those with dementia. 

If you or a loved one has significant cognitive impairments that require daily help and constant attention and monitoring, memory care is a good choice. Memory care facilities are designed and managed specifically to support seniors experiencing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Some facilities focus exclusively on memory care, while others include memory care in a separate wing or neighborhood. 

Memory care facilities have security measures to ensure the safety of wandering residents, including locked access or doors with alarms. Seniors living in memory care get help with the daily tasks of personal care, as would be found in assisted living, such as toileting, dressing and bathing. If needed, care aides help with mobility problems such as getting in and out of beds or chairs. 

The cost of memory care is higher than that for assisted living because of the increased support needed for seniors with dementia. According to Genworth Financial, the average base cost of assisted living is $4,500 per month, and memory care costs substantially more. While costs vary depending on where you live, the AARP reports survey data indicating a monthly cost of $6,935 for memory care in the United States.

Skilled Nursing

In a skilled nursing facility, seniors with chronic and serious illnesses or disabilities receive around-the-clock monitoring and support from medical staff. Overseen by a physician, licensed and registered nurses and other trained staff administer medications and assist with medical devices and equipment. If needed, residents can also get help with personal care tasks, such as toileting, bathing, eating and getting in and out of bed. Facilities may also offer physical, occupational and speech therapists for residents who require this type of support. Fun activities and social events enhance quality of life by facilitating social interaction and cognitive engagement. 

Skilled nursing facilities are typically considered a short-term or temporary care option, as residents are patients with a medical need for rehabilitative services. Once they recover to a level of care that can be provided in another setting, patients typically move on. Unlike some assisted living facilities that offer memory care, skilled nursing facilities cannot charge a buy-in fee — an up-front, one-time payment based on the floor plan of the residence and its location. They must also provide patients with a written statement of all of the services they will provide, along with the fees for those services, ahead of treatment. 

Because of the greater need for continual medical care, skilled nursing is the most expensive long-term care option, although the cost will depend on location and the specific services provided. According to the 2021 Genworth Financial’s Cost of Care survey data, the national monthly cost of skilled nursing is $7,904 for a semi-private room and $9,034 for a private room.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if you or your loved one needs both skilled nursing and memory care?

Skilled nursing and memory care address different issues with aging, but you or your loved one may have both a progressive cognitive disorder and a serious medical condition that needs continual care. In this case, many skilled nursing facilities also support the unique needs of residents with dementia. Some skilled nursing facilities offer a separate wing for dementia patients to provide necessary security and specially trained staff to manage the behavioral and cognitive challenges associated with dementia. Consider the specific issues and degree of memory loss as you seek the needed level of care for yourself or your loved one.

Does Medicare cover long-term skilled nursing care?

Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care in a skilled nursing facility. If a doctor has determined that
you or a loved one needs skilled nursing, Medicare Part A will cover some care for a limited time under certain conditions. While in a skilled nursing facility, Medicare Part A does cover doctor visits and medical supplies.

How can you pay for long-term skilled nursing care?

Seniors can use their savings and assets to pay for long-term skilled nursing. Long-term care insurance, if purchased, can also help defray the cost. Once all personal assets have been spent, many skilled nursing facilities will accept Medicaid.