When is it Time to Consider Memory Care?


There are few conditions or ailments harder to accept than the decline of cognitive functions. For anyone navigating the reality of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the decision to admit yourself or a loved one into a facility for memory care is never an easy one. But there comes a time when cognitive impairment becomes so severe that a memory care facility should be given serious consideration.

What is memory care?

Memory care is long-term residential care for people with memory issues such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments. Many assisted living and personal care facilities, nursing homes and continuing care facilities offer memory care units, and there are stand-alone facilities as well.

“Memory care provides residents with a secure, organized atmosphere and structured routines that help alleviate the stress that comes with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Dana D. Heitzenrater, BSN, RN, NHA, Administrator of Penn Highlands Jefferson Manor. “The staff can help patients with personal care tasks, getting to meals, engaging in activities and navigating daily life.”

What is the difference between memory care and personal care?

Personal care communities and memory care communities provide many of the same services, such as housing, meals and assistance with daily activities. Memory care communities, however, provide specialized care and amenities for those with dementia. For instance, while personal care facilities offer many safety features, memory care facilities provide more enhanced safety and security because those with dementia are at a greater risk of wandering away. Memory care facilities also provide activities and therapies designed to help people maintain cognitive skills in a more structured environment.

Most importantly, memory care communities provide specialized staff that has been trained to care with those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Memory care staff can help manage and prevent dementia behaviors, such as aggression, confusion and sleep problems.

What are some signs that it is time to consider memory care?

In the early stages of dementia, many individuals can still live alone or with outside help from family. If their confusion and memory loss begins to affect their safety, or if they have experienced a significant decline, it is time to consider memory care.

Other signs that it is time to talk about memory care include:

  • Forgetting important dates, names or familiar places
  • Neglecting to complete everyday tasks like paying bills, bathing or eating
  • A decline in overall health, including rapid weight loss
  • Failure to properly take prescribed medication
  • Lack of social life
  • Inexplicably wandering away from home
  • Frequently falling
  • Problems sleeping
  • Agitation or aggression

What should I look for in a memory care facility?

“It is very important that family members do their research when finding the right memory care facility for their loved one,” said Ms. Heitzenrater. “Be sure to consider how much care your loved one needs and the level of care a specific facility can provide. Visit and compare memory care units in personal care communities with those in nursing homes to see what best meets the needs of your loved one.”

Can we have help at home?

Sometimes, the difference between moving to an assisted-living community and continuing to live independently at home is just a matter of some simple services. Many personal caregivers are trained to offer basic support for activities of daily living for people with all types of medical conditions including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Should you or a loved one experience the decline of cognitive functions requiring assisted living or care at home, Penn Highlands Healthcare offers memory care support for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at many of its personal care and skilled nursing facilities such as Penn Highlands Jefferson Manor and Penn Highlands Elk Pinecrest Manor. In addition, Penn Highlands WRC Senior Services offers a memory support unit at Laurelbrooke Personal Care and McKinley Health Center. To learn more, visit www.phhealthcare.org.