Senior living options can encompass many types of living arrangements and levels of care. On one end of the range, assisted living may provide residential living, meals, and assistance to residents with their daily needs, such as bathing, eating, dressing, and other life activities. On the other end of the range, nursing homes may not only provide housing, meals, and assistance with daily needs, but also 24-hour skilled nursing care. There are over 15,000 skilled nursing care centers in the United States, according to the American Health Care Association. A specialized form of nursing care is memory care. Memory care is tailored to residents with memory loss and other forms of dementia, including Alzheimers. Here are five features that set memory care apart from other forms of senior living:

Safety

One of the greatest concerns when a relative or close friend has dementia is that person’s safety. People with dementia can wander from home and get lost or injure themselves trying to return home. Even within the home, people with dementia can neglect to turn off the stove, forget to take medication, or become confused and suffer an accident. Memory care facilities are designed and staffed to provide a secure and safe environment for residents, taking into account their residents’ memory needs.

Training and Experience

People with dementia can respond to their memory loss in many different ways. Some suffer from embarrassment and anxiety at being unable to recognize people and places. Others respond with paranoia, agitation, or, sadly, even aggression. Staff at memory care facilities are trained specifically to care for residents with memory loss. Aside from providing a safe and secure residence, staff provide help with daily needs, like eating, bathing, using the toilet, and getting around the facility.

Environment

Because people with dementia can suffer from such a wide range of emotions from their memory loss, memory care facilities are designed to provide a soothing environment that reduces the chance of triggering anxiety in the residents. Facilities are laid out in a way to minimize anxiety and navigational aids and staff help residents find their way around.

Activities

Studies have shown that an enriching environment can slow memory loss in those with dementia. For example, socializing with both residents and non-residents tends to slow memory loss. Moreover, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in brain boosting activities, such as solving puzzles and reading, can keep both the body and mind healthy.

Daily routines can also have benefits to those suffering from dementia. Since dementia often affects short term memory in its early stages, a daily routine can often help reduce anxiety and encourage independence in memory care residents. These can lead to improved mood and a greater level of comfort for the residents.

Long Term Care

Unlike assisted living and nursing care, memory care is understood from the start to be a long term form of care. That is, assisted living and nursing care may be used temporarily for residents who are recovering from an injury or surgery. For example, a senior who has broken a hip or undergone heart surgery may only live in assisted living or a nursing home until the senior has fully recovered. After that time, the senior may be capable of living on his or her own. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. While dementia may ebb from time to time and seniors may hit plateaus when memory loss may seem to slow or level off, there is currently no way to reverse dementia. Unlike assisted living and nursing care, memory care is long term care. Memory care is designed to provide the residents with the care and assistance they need through all the stages of dementia.

In sum, memory care is a specialized form of nursing care that is tailored for those with memory loss and dementia, including Alzheimers. It is designed for individualized long term care to provide for each resident’s needs through each stage of dementia. It provides a safe, secure, and soothing environment that minimizes anxiety. It provides nutrition, as well as physical and mental activities, that encourage a healthy mind and body. Most importantly, it provides trained and experienced staff to help residents cope with both their daily needs and their long term needs.