What is Alzheimer's & Memory Care?

Alzheimer's and memory care services can be provided in communal settings at assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, skilled nursing centers, and within dedicated Alzheimer's special care units or memory care units at these facilities. Such units most often are cluster settings in which persons with dementia are grouped together on a floor or a unit within a larger residential care facility.

Some states have legislation requiring nursing homes and assisted living residences to tell exactly what specialized services their SCU provides, including a trained staff, specialized activities, ability of staff to care for residents with behavioral needs and fees. Ensure the community you're visiting has met the requirements to provide specialized services in a memory care community and the requirements for the community's underlying license.

A 2013 Overview of Long-Term Care Costs in the United States indicated that residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias were most prevalent at nursing homes (48.5%), hospices (44%), and assisted living facilities (39.6%).

Costs and Payment

Alzheimer’s and memory care services require a dedicated and trained staff. Therefore, consumers should be aware that there may be additional costs at participating communities for these services. For consumers seeking memory care services in an assisted living facility, they can expect to pay for care out of pocket. Medicare does not cover memory care services at assisted living facilities and Medicaid can only be applied in certain circumstances. Medicaid eligibility is administered by each state so services may differ from one state to another.

For individuals who meet eligibility requirements, Medicaid covers all or a portion of nursing home costs. However, not all nursing homes accept Medicaid and eligibility varies from state to state.

A 2012 MetLife Survey of Long-Term Care Costs indicated approximately 80% of nursing homes charge the same rate for Alzheimer’s and memory care services as they do for other services. For nursing homes who charge additional rates, the average national costs of a private room were $261 daily or $95,265 annually. For a semi-private room, the same average national costs were $230 daily or $83,950 annually.

The same survey concluded that 61% of assisted living communities charge an additional fee for Alzheimer’s and memory care related services. The 2012 national average monthly base rate for Alzheimer’s and memory care was $4,807 or $57,684 annually.

  • Plan on visiting several care facilities. Take a look around and talk with the staff, as well as residents and families.
  • Is Alzheimer's or memory care an additional cost?
  • When you visit a care facility, ask to see the latest survey/inspection report and Special Care Unit Disclosure form. Facilities are required to provide these. The report and the disclosure form can give you a picture of the facility's services.
  • Are there special programs for residents who have Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia or memory impairments? Are there accommodations for memory-impaired residents to be outside and exercise?
  • Visit the facilities at different times of the day, including meal times.
  • If you will be paying for the facility out of pocket, ask what happens if the person with dementia runs out of money. Some facilities will accept Medicaid; others may not.
  • Do staff members receive special training in care for residents with Alzheimer's or dementia?
  • What systems are used to keep residents with dementia or Alzheimer's secure from leaving the residence on their own?

Choosing an Assisted Living Residence: A Consumer’s Guide: A comparative checklist for consumers and prospective residents, including starting ideas to find facilities. (American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living)

High Costs of Long-Term Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients: AARP survey reveals shocking, hard-hitting price tag shouldered by loved ones.

Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center options for residential care.