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Memory Care or 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 these types of senior homes 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 are designed to better suit Alzheimer’s and dementia patients so wandering behavior is minimized and the environment is pleasant and easy to navigate. Some memory care homes offer “neighborhoods,” which are laid out in such a way as to be familiar and easy to navigate.

Regulations regarding what services are offered vary from state to state for 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 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 cater to 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

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