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What Are the Differences Between Assisted Living and Memory Care?

Posted on 
March 20, 2024

Navigating senior care choices can be challenging. From Independent Living to Memory Care, there are numerous options to choose from, all with varying levels of support, services and amenities. Assisted Living and Memory Care both offer personal care assistance, daily meals and planned activities, but Memory Care specifically caters to seniors with cognitive disorders. 

At Falcons Landing, our Memory Care community, Hillside House, offers 18 private rooms and specialized services, security measures and staff training to enhance safety and care for residents with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Meanwhile, our Assisted Living communities, West Falls Center, features 42 one-bedroom apartments for those who need personal care assistance and The Johnson Center, offers a more intimate assisted living experience with 29 private suites for assisted living and care for those with minor cognitive impairment. Explore the differences between Assisted Living and Memory Care to see which option aligns with your care needs. 

Safety Measures

Seniors with dementia commonly experience behaviors such as wandering, confusion and anxiety, increasing their risk of falls, accidents or getting lost. Memory Care communities often reside in secured wings or buildings and feature advanced safety measures, including keypad entries, locked doors and obscured exits, to alleviate these concerns.

Additionally, they utilize easy-to-navigate layouts with spacious rooms and visual directional cues, such as labeled or color-coded signs. These design elements allow residents to safely explore and maintain some level of independence, helping them foster a sense of achievement. 

Assisted Living communities also offer safety features, including emergency response systems or daily check-ins, to ensure resident well-being. However, residents aren't at risk of wandering or getting lost and have more freedom to independently roam between buildings or leave the property. 

Staff Training

Team members at both Assisted Living and Memory Care communities receive training in helping residents perform personal care tasks, including bathing and dressing. Additionally, they're available around the clock to respond to emergencies or resident requests.

However, Memory Care communities feature specialized staff training on Alzheimer's and dementia. This helps team members identify symptoms and learn to respond patiently and compassionately to residents displaying difficult behaviors, including aggression or agitation.

Some Memory Care communities also offer ongoing education and training, ensuring team members stay up to date on current practices and trends in dementia care. Additionally, they typically have higher staff-to-resident ratios than Assisted Living communities. This enables them to give extensive individualized attention to residents having a particularly challenging day or in later stages of cognitive decline.

Scheduled Activities

Although residents in Assisted Living need daily living assistance to live comfortably, they can usually participate in most community activities and events. Many communities offer a full calendar of social opportunities to increase resident engagement and accommodate diverse interests. Examples include:

  • Games or puzzles
  • Arts and crafts
  • Lifelong learning opportunities
  • Book clubs
  • Exercise classes
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Social outings
  • Live entertainment

At Falcons Landing, we connect Assisted Living residents with recreational programs aligned with their passions. We also schedule daily events, including guest speakers, and music performances.

Memory care communities offer similar activities but tailor options to each resident's preferences, skills and level of cognitive decline. They also provide specialized therapies to help maintain cognitive functions. For example, art and music therapy are commonly offered to promote relaxation and reduce agitation.

Reminiscence therapy uses the senses to conjure memories about significant people, places or events. Activities and therapies are often scheduled strategically to promote consistency and familiarity, which can reduce stress, sleep issues and sundowning. 

Available Amenities

Amenities vary widely between communities, regardless of the care options offered. However, common amenities found in Assisted Living include:

  • Fitness center or gym
  • Arts and crafts studio
  • Library or media room
  • Lounge and TV areas
  • Beauty salon and barbershop
  • Spa or relaxation rooms
  • Outdoor spaces, including courtyards, gardens or walking paths

Many communities also provide pet-friendly accommodations and services, including housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Memory Care communities feature similar amenities but with unique safety and design elements. 

For example, our Hillside House community has a spacious, brightly lit family room, sunroom and country kitchen in the same building as our residents' rooms to promote easy navigation. We also have secured outdoor space to prevent residents from feeling trapped or wandering off-site. 

Financial Differences

On average, Memory Care costs more than Assisted Living due to its specialized staff training, therapies and security measures. Most communities charge fixed monthly rates that cover basic services, including:

  • Room and board
  • Daily meals and snacks
  • Most on-site activities and events
  • Housekeeping, laundry and transportation services

Price differences occur based on the level of care you need. For example, Assisted Living residents may pay more if they need extensive personal care assistance or certain medical services, including rehabilitative therapies, diabetes management or prescription medications.

Memory Care prices can fluctuate if a resident is in a later stage of cognitive decline or has an underlying health issue requiring advanced medical care. Factors, including location, room size and room type, such as private or shared, can also influence monthly rates. At Falcons Landing, our rates for Assisted Living and Memory Care are all inclusive and we do not charge more based on your level of care. 

Explore Care Options at Falcons Landing

Falcons Landing is an award-winning Life Plan Community in Potomac Falls, Virginia, and a Virginia Living "Best of Virginia" winner for 2023. Falcons Landing has also been recognized in 2024 as a U.S. News & World Report Best Nursing Home for Short-Term Rehabilitation, Best Independent Living & Best Continuing Care Retirement Community; as well as a Newsweek’s America’s best Best Continuing Care Retirement Communities.  Our community offers a variety of care options, including independent Living for any person who has served in the military or federal government. Assisted Living, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing is open to  the general public. 

With luxury amenities, stimulating activities and modern living spaces, we ensure our residents stay engaged and safe, no matter what care level they're in. Contact us at 703-404-5100 to schedule a tour and explore our community offerings in person.

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