Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q: What is the difference between assisted living and memory care?

A: When it comes to shopping, consumers have many choices. The same holds true when shopping for senior living situations. The idea of senior living as the place your children “put you” has long since evolved into a competitive industry with a whole spectrum of options and community types to best fit the needs of seniors. In this column, we’ll look at “Assisted Living” and “Memory Care.”

“Assisted living” offers a safe environment with access to medical care, social and educational activities, dining and assistance with “activities of daily living.” This includes medication management, eating, bathing and dressing and movement from one place to another (transferring). Some seniors in assisted living may need help with only one or two of these activities. Others may need help with ALL activities of daily living. The cost of assisted living is based on a room and board charge and the cost or “level of care” specific to the individual resident. These two amounts add up to your total cost and will change over time.

“Memory Care” is specialized living for residents with a memory impairment. The buildings are designed for the needs of the memory impaired and most residents need assistance with medication management and several activities of daily living. Memory care communities provide a secure environment so that residents at risk of wandering do not leave the grounds. Activities and dining are reflective of abilities: activities may be sensory and cognition-based and dining options may include finger food for residents unable to use cutlery. Most memory care communities have higher staff-to-resident ratios than assisted living, as memory care residents require more direct care and supervision.  Resultingly, the cost for memory care is usually higher than for assisted living. Many memory care communities offer a flat-rate price; others charge for room and board and level of care. These prices will also go up over time.

Some assisted living communities have memory care available on site. According to LaNell Derby, Community Relations Director at Victoria Landing in Melbourne, “The biggest difference between assisted living and memory care is that the residents in memory care get more one-on-one attention and assistance from our staff.”

So, which to choose? It is quite possible for a person with some memory impairment to live and thrive in standard assisted living without moving to memory care. But you don’t have to figure it out on your own! Contact One Senior Place to help you determine which type of community might be the best setting for your loved one.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.