Memory Care vs Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?

More than 70% of adults over the age of 65 will need long-term care or supportive living at some point in their lives according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Assisted living and memory care are two fast-growing options for supportive living environments, but they serve different people in different places in their lives. So what are the differences between memory care and assisted living?

While these options are each valuable in their own right, they’re designed to meet two unique support needs. Assisted living communities to provide assistance with daily tasks, while memory care communities offer more specialized support for adults with memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Before you decide which community fits your needs, here’s what you need to know about each option.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

What is Assisted Living Care?

Assisted living offers a community for adults who need extra assistance for common tasks on a daily basis. Professionals are on hand to attend to residents’ needs around the clock, including bathing, dressing, managing medication, getting in and out of bed, or preparing meals. They offer 24/7 access to assistance – as much or as little as needed.

In addition to amenities like spacious housing, nutritious meals, recreational programs, wellness programs, and laundry services, assisted living offers long-term support. Residents can remain in assisted living for any length of time they like. In most cases, residents prefer assisted living because it is comfortable and feels like the home environment they are used to, all while making their daily lives easier and more enjoyable.

Assisted Living Resource Guide

What Does Assisted Living Offer?

In addition to assistance with daily tasks, assisted living communities to provide the following:

Housing and Necessities

Assisted living can come with a variety of different housing options, including shared rooms, private rooms, and private apartments. Dining usually includes three daily nutritious meals.

The level of housekeeping depends on the community, but light housework, laundry services, and maintenance are typically taken care of.

Recreational Programs

Assisted living offers a number of recreational programs, from entertainment to social or cultural events. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for engagement in various shared spaces within the community. In most cases, you’ll find fitness centers, libraries, and even salons on-site.

Safety and Security

With 24-hour security, residents can enjoy the safety of their assisted living communities. While these communities typically don’t have medical professionals available 24/7, there is always access to emergency response systems that will alert someone in the community in case of injury or illness.

What is Memory Care?

Memory care is a form of supportive living, but it’s specialized for those who deal with memory loss, especially those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Adults facing these kinds of challenges may require skilled assistance to stay healthy and secure in their living environment. Memory care communities include assistance with daily tasks along with the staff that is specially trained to provide dementia care and Alzheimer’s care.

The community environment in memory care is designed to provide adults with stimulation – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through socializing with other residents, establishing a clear routine, and engaging in therapeutic programming, memory care communities can improve the lifestyle of those dealing with memory challenges.

Memory Care Resource Guide

What Does Memory Care Offer?

Memory care communities offer many of the same amenities as assisted living communities, however, more specialized support is included. Memory care provides the following:

Housing and Accommodation

In many memory care communities, residents will have access to all the same amenities offered in assisted living communities. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. Depending on the community, you can choose private or shared rooms. The communities also include specially prepared meals three times a day. These meals are tailored for nutrition and to accommodate different dietary needs.

Safety and Security

As memory diseases affect the body and mind, safety issues can arise. Memory care communities are committed to keeping a secure environment. Not only are doors secure and exits monitored to ensure residents don’t wander, but 24-hour supervision ensures that all residents are well cared for and safe at all times.

Health Support

Memory care specializes in offering health support for the body and the mind. These communities offer 24-hour health monitoring, including keeping a licensed nurse on staff and an emergency response system. In addition, holistic wellness is incorporated into the programs and accommodation, prioritizing cognitive wellness as well as the overall well-being of those living there.

Recreational Programs

Along with spaces for socializing and engaging with friends, memory care communities organize a wide variety of recreational programs. These include entertainment as well as therapeutic exercises that can reduce anxiety, enhance cognition and stimulate memory.Here are some examples of programs they might offer:

  • Art therapy (drawing, sculpting, etc.)
  • Animal or pet therapy
  • Excursions
  • Music therapy
  • Personal reflection
  • Social events

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living

Both memory care and assisted living offer similar services, but there are clear differences between them. Memory care offers more specialized support for memory impairment. Here’s how you can compare the two:

Housing and Shared Spaces

While both communities offer spacious and comfortable housing, you’re less likely to find a kitchen or kitchenette in a private memory care apartment. Kitchens tend to be more dangerous for those with memory impairments, so memory care communities emphasize restaurant-style dining experiences with meals prepared by a private chef.

In addition, the design of a memory care community is typically structured to focus on security measures, keeping residents from wandering. Memory care communities often opt for a design that can help those with memory impairment feel more comfortable and at home as well. For example, larger windows to allow for natural light or walls painted in calming colors.

Team Members

In both communities, team members are trained to assist residents with daily activities. However, team members in memory care communities are specially trained to assist those with dementia or other memory impairments.

In addition, memory care communities are more likely to have a registered nurse on staff, with medical resources that can be adapted to the unique needs of the residents.


Assisted living communities offer a wide range of programming and events. Members of these communities can spend their time based on their own preferences.

In memory care communities, it’s more important to establish a clear routine, which can be comforting for many with memory issues. For this reason, programs are more carefully scheduled.


Due to the specialized attention and support, memory care typically costs more than assisted living. However, it’s important to note that the costs will depend on the community, the type of living space, and what services are needed.

For an idea of cost in Texas, take a look at The Monarch at Richardson’s assisted living and memory care pricing.

Choosing Between Assisted Living and Memory Care

As you evaluate memory care vs assisted living, remember that both options are designed to meet different needs. Before you can choose between the two, you must first consider your own needs and preferences.

And while one community might be right for you today, you always have the option to move into another one farther down the road.

To learn more about assisted living and memory care, contact The Monarch at Richardson today. Our Texas retirement community offers both assisted living and memory care neighborhoods, both of which have full access to our amenities and services. Our team will help you learn more about both options so you can determine what’s right for you and your family. We know these decisions take time and we’re here to guide you through the process.