Care Guides > What Is Memory Care In Nursing Homes?

What Is Memory Care In Nursing Homes?


Getting old has an undoubtable effect on both our physical and mental abilities. Creaky joints, arthritis and forgetting where we put things are all common signs that we’re not as young as we used to be. 

However, if you or a loved one are showing signs of memory problems, this can indicate that there’s something more serious than just old age going on. 

In this article, Lottie looks at memory care in nursing homes, giving you all the info you need on the help available for dementia in later life.

What is memory care in nursing homes?

When someone experiences serious memory problems, it can be a sign of cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. 

In this case, it is often safer for the person to go into a memory care unit to receive specialist memory care and treatment for their dementia. 

Lots of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have special memory care units for dementia patients, but there are also stand-alone memory care facilities. 

Memory care is sometimes referred to as ‘assisted living with memory care’, ‘dementia care’, or ‘Alzheimer’s care’. 

Memory care facilities

Memory care facilities have been specially designed to have a dementia-friendly layout and offer residents a dementia-focused care programme to help them manage the symptoms of the condition. 

A memory care facility might include:

  • Smaller communal areas to create a calmer atmosphere
  • Safe outdoor spaces to wander freely
  • Rooms with plenty of natural light and pleasant views from the windows
  • Circular hallways for residents to walk in without becoming frustrated at dead ends or locked doors
  • Consistency in patterns, paint and colours around the home
  • Memory-focused activities and therapy, such as music, reminiscence rooms and memory boxes

Memory care units also tend to have more alarmed doors, door codes, locked doors and enclosed outdoor spaces. 

Although this may sound a little extreme, it’s necessary in order to keep residents safe. People with dementia are prone to wandering off, so locked doors and enclosed spaces mean that residents can still enjoy the freedom to explore their surroundings while staying safe.

Who needs memory care?

Forgetting a few things every now and again, or being a bit absent-minded might not be anything to worry about at all. However, if you or a family member have any of the following symptoms, you may be a candidate for memory care services:

  • Wandering off on your own
  • Forgetting where you are (disorientation)
  • Problems with judgement or decision-making
  • Forgetting who relatives and friends are
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Behavioural problems like aggression or agitation
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Experiencing severe confusion or hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there)

Ultimately, when someone’s memory issues mean that they are potentially a danger to themselves or others, it’s time to think seriously about their care needs and look for specialist care services that can help. 

Memory care vs nursing home care

Memory care and nursing care may seem pretty similar at first glance – and it’s true that there are lots of similarities between the two. 

However, the main difference is that while nursing homes cater for multiple health conditions and daily care support, every feature of memory care units was designed specifically with dementia patients in mind. 

Some nursing homes have confusing layouts, patterned walls or furniture that people with dementia might find distressing – certain colours and patterns can even cause hallucinations – and busy communal areas and activities that can cause anxiety. 

Lots of people with dementia may suit life in a nursing home if their symptoms are in the early stages, but as the condition develops they might be better off moving to a special memory care home or unit. 

What does a memory care nurse do?

The job of a memory care nurse is to provide skilled nursing care, to supervise and support nursing home residents with dementia by creating a stable routine and stimulating activities. 

Memory care staff are well-versed in recognising potential triggers for dementia and can work to calm or distract residents should they become distressed.

There should be a favourable number of memory care staff per resident to ensure that a high level of care is provided.

As well as providing meals, medication management and help with personal care tasks like residential and nursing care homes, memory care nurses should check in with residents more frequently and provide additional structure and support to help them live their daily lives.

Looking for memory care?

If you are looking into a memory care unit for you or a loved one, we recommend visiting a few times to make absolutely sure it’s the right fit for you – and even paying an unannounced visit to get a feel for the home, particularly in the evening when there aren’t as many staff on duty. 

It can be a distressing and difficult time when you or a loved one are living with dementia, but nursing care homes and memory care units are there to help. 

If you need more information on finding the right care home for you or a relative, contact one of Lottie’s care experts to start your care home journey.

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