Memory Care vs. Assisted Living: Similarities and Differences

With many types of senior care available today, the types and services they include can be confusing. Although assisted living communities may have memory care units on the premises, there are important differences between this type of senior home and memory care facilities. 

Memory care is a particular type of long-term, skilled nursing that is designed specifically for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of memory problems. Also called special care units (SCUs), memory care units usually provide 24-hour supervised care. The staff in memory care are specially trained to assist people with dementia or impaired cognition.Assisted living is defined as a long-term care option that combines housing, support services and health care, as needed.  Care is available 24 hours a day, and personal care services often include medication management and transportation.

The physical layout and security of memory care facilities is designed to better suit Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, so that wandering behavior is minimized, and the environment is pleasant and easy to navigate.  Some memory care facilities offer “neighborhoods”, which are laid in such a way as to be familiar and easy to navigate.

Regulations regarding what services are offered vary from state to state in all senior care communities, but generally, both memory care and assisted living offer basic supervised care, medical monitoring, and help with daily activities such as dressing, mobility, and hygiene. Other services that are usually offered in both types of care include:

  • Access to medical care
  • Emergency call systems
  • Health and exercise programs
  • Housekeeping and laundry service
  • Social activities and programs
  • 24-hour staff supervision and security
  • Three daily meals
  • Transportation.

Memory care often includes structured activities or programs designed to nurture residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

If your loved one is still relatively independent and Alzheimer’s or dementia is not an immediate concern, then assisted living may be an appropriate choice. However, if they have complex care needs associated with memory impairment, then you may want to consider memory care, or an assisted living community that also includes a special care unit for persons with dementia.


South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff and programs are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey and Philadelphia. For more information, go to

Communication Techniques for Caregivers of Those with Dementia

Communication Techniques for Caregivers of Those with DementiaJoin us Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 2 pm for a free informational session.

The featured speaker with be Wendy Scott, MA CPD, Elder Life Educator from LVPG Geriatric Medicine – The Fleming Memory Center.

There will be light refreshments served and participants will receive a free gift for attending.

RSVP today to 610-965-7662.

The Art Of Communication

Set a positive mood for interaction. Attitude and body language communicate feelings and thoughts more strongly than your words do. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical touch to help convey your message and show your feelings of affection.


Getting attention. Limit distractions and noise—turn off the radio or TV, close the curtains or shut the door, or move to quieter surroundings. Address the person by their name, identify yourself by name and use nonverbal cues and touch to maintain focus.


Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, “Would you like to wear your flowered dress or your blue dress?”. Displaying the choices helps clarify your question and can guide a response.


Break down activities into a series of steps. This makes many tasks much more manageable. You can encourage with gentle reminders. Use visual cues, mimic the directions such as where to place a crayon on paper or a fork on a plate.


When the going gets tough, distract and redirect. When managing agitated behavior try changing the subject or the environment. For example, you might say, “I see you’re feeling sad—I’m sorry you’re upset. Let’s go get something to eat.”


Respond with affection and reassurance. People with dementia often feel confused, anxious, and unsure of themselves. Further, they often get reality confused and may recall things that never really occurred. Avoid trying to convince them they are wrong.


Focus. Stay focused on the feelings that are demonstrated (which are real) and respond with verbal and physical expressions of comfort, support, and reassurance. Sometimes holding hands, touching, hugging, and praise will get the person to respond when all else fails.


Remember the good old days. Remembering the past is often a soothing and affirming activity. Many people with dementia may not remember what happened 45 minutes ago, but they can clearly recall their lives 45 years earlier. Therefore, avoid asking questions that rely on short-term memory, such as asking the person what they had for lunch. Instead, try asking general questions about the person’s distant past—this information is more likely to be retained.


Maintain your sense of humor.

Use humor whenever possible, though not at the person's expense. People with dementia tend to retain their social skills and often love to laugh!



Wall Murals to Decrease Exit Seeking


According to the Alzheimer’s Association brochure titled, “Campaign for Quality Residential Care’s 'Dementia Care Practice,'” people living with Alzheimer’s in care facilities often exhibit a behavior described as “exit seeking” — the strong desire to leave the building and wander. Since wandering poses a serious health risk, making exits less obvious reduces visual cues for exiting.

The Alzheimer's Association brochure describes exit-seeking as normal and quite understandable:
“It can result from the resident’s desire to return to a secure, familiar home or former workplace. The resident may be trying to reconnect with family members or may be following old habits, such as leaving for work in the afternoon. The resident may be drawn outside by a sunny day or have a desire for fresh air or a daily walk."

In addition to many other strategies to prevent residents from wandering (and with the OK from the fire marshall), the Alzheimer's Association encourages care centers to disguise exits in ways that also bring beauty to a clinical setting.

An added bonus? The murals and exit doors often beautify an otherwise sterile institutional space and bring a sense of peace to the residents.

South Mountain Memory Care will be adding murals over the next few weeks. Please stop in for a visit and check out the art work.

6 Tips to Reduce Confusion in Older Patients after Surgery

confusion reducing after surgeryThe longer you live the more likely you will develop a medical condition that requires surgery or a procedure. In fact, half of all people 65 and older will have at least one surgical procedure in their lifetime. And along with common potential side effects from anesthesia during surgery such as nausea, chills or muscle aches and itching, older patients are at risk for confusion or short-term memory loss. But, rest assured, there are steps seniors can take to minimize these side effects.

 “The aging brain is more vulnerable to anesthesia and surgery, but there is research that provides guidance to decrease these risks,” said James D. Grant, M.D., M.B.A., FASA, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). “Older patients should talk with their physician anesthesiologist prior to surgery about their entire medical history and any memory problems they’ve had in the past, so an anesthesia plan can be developed that ensures their safety and reduces the chance of side effects or complications.” 

Two anesthesia-related surgery risks more common in older people include:

  • Postoperative delirium — This is a temporary condition that causes the patient to be confused, disoriented, unaware of their surroundings and have problems with memory and paying attention. It may not start until a few days after surgery, comes and goes, and usually disappears after about a week.
  • Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) — This is a less well understood but more serious condition that can lead to long-term memory loss and make it difficult to learn, concentrate and think. Because some of these problems are already common in elderly people and may be the sign of an underlying long-term cognitive decline, the only way to determine if a patient actually has POCD is to conduct a mental test before surgery.

Researchers in anesthesia care continue to study and learn more about these conditions and how to prevent or reduce the effects.

Read more: 6 Tips to Reduce Confusion in Older Patients after Surgery

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