Nursing Homes vs. Memory Care Communities

Written by Ari ParkerUpdated: Monday, October 31, 2022

Nursing homes and memory care facilities offer two of the highest levels of care for people with serious medical conditions. While they have a lot of services in common and are sometimes used in tandem to provide the right level for an individual, these facilities are intended for different types of patients. Let’s start by defining each.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes provide the highest level of care available and are intended for people with serious medical conditions who require constant care from skilled nurses. Because of the extensive level of care, moving into a nursing home requires getting a prescription and physical exam before moving in. Each state has its own criteria for entry into nursing homes.

Nursing homes provide many 24-hour services, including:

  • Meal services

  • Medication management

  • Help with daily activities

  • Planned social activities

  • Rehabilitative therapies

Some nursing homes also have memory care wings to provide support for patients who suffer from memory loss. 

What is a memory care facility?

Memory care facilities are intended for patients with dementia. Like nursing homes, they provide round-the-clock care, but with an emphasis on memory-enhancing therapies and a safe atmosphere for those with memory loss. These facilities provide many similar services as nursing homes, including:

  • Meal services

  • Medication management

  • Help with daily activities

  • Planned social activities

Additionally, memory care facilities offer memory-enhancing therapies and have specially designed layouts to reduce confusion. These facilities also offer support from caregivers trained in dementia care. 

Nursing homes vs. memory care facilities: Key differences

Both nursing homes and memory care facilities provide high levels of care, but there are some key differentiating factors in their clientele, caregivers, and costs.

Clientele

The residents in both nursing homes and memory care facilities both have serious medical conditions and require round-the-clock care. The type of care they need, however, is different based on their condition(s). 

For people suffering primarily from dementia, a memory care facility is the best solution to provide the safety and structure to treat and maintain their condition. 

For people suffering from conditions that require constant medical support, a nursing home is the best solution to treat and rehabilitate. Entry into a nursing home requires a physician's prescription and a physical exam. Please note that the specific criteria to gain entry into a nursing home can vary by state. 

Caregivers

The caregivers at memory care facilities receive specialized dementia training to help them reduce dementia symptoms and organize memory-enhancing therapies. They’re trained to address wandering and combative behavior and will help patients with art, music, light, and music therapy, among other activities and services.

The caregivers at nursing homes are nurses (or other licensed professionals) under the supervision of a doctor. They provide the highest level of care possible and are able to support patients suffering a number of medical conditions that leave them unable to take care of themselves.

Costs

Due to the level of skill and care, nursing homes cost more than memory care communities. 

Pricing varies based on location and services, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $2,700 - $10,000 on monthly rent at a memory care facility. The median monthly cost of living in a memory care community is estimated to be close to $5,500.

For a shared room at a nursing home, prices vary based on location and privacy, but you should  expect to pay somewhere between $5,000 - $15,000 for a shared room—and even more for a private room. The median monthly cost of a shared room is estimated to be close to $7,900.

How to decide which level of care is best

Change can be overwhelming, especially for seniors experiencing memory loss. When considering long-term care options, consider both the current and future needs of yourself or your loved one while keeping in mind that you can’t gain entry into a nursing home without a physician’s prescription.


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