Skilled Nursing vs. Memory Care

Finding care for an individual with dementia means evaluating multiple options, and making the best choice can present challenges. If your relative has health conditions in addition to dementia, you may wonder about the pros and cons of memory care and skilled nursing.

While the two types of care share some common features, they each offer distinct advantages. What are the primary differences between skilled nursing and memory care, and which type of care will best suit the individual needs of your family member?

Skilled Nursing: Personalized, Around-the-Clock Care

In the past, skilled nursing communities had a reputation as sterile and similar to hospitals. Today, skilled nursing has changed significantly and offers inviting, home-like environments that promote resident independence and choice. Communities offer a variety of activities, and residents receive support from caring, highly trained staff members as they continue enjoying their personal hobbies and interests.

Skilled nursing provides personalized care for individuals who need continual medical monitoring as well as help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and taking medications. Communities provide a variety of services, including all daily meals, housekeeping, laundry, planned social activities, and around-the-clock security.

Some skilled nursing communities have separate areas devoted to memory care, while others do not. Because skilled nursing provides continual care by highly trained staff members, individuals with dementia receive personalized attention to meet all their health needs.

Skilled nursing is licensed differently than assisted living — which may include separate memory care areas — because skilled nursing provides a higher level of medical care and assistance for individuals with complex health needs. Individuals who can benefit from the personalized, around-the-clock nursing care provided in skilled nursing include those with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

In many cases, individuals in skilled nursing require temporary care after an accident, illness or hospital stay. Medical services provided in skilled nursing may include:

  • Physical therapy to assist individuals in regaining balance, strength and flexibility.
  • Speech therapy to assist individuals in regaining their communication abilities following a stroke.
  • Occupational therapy to assist individuals in regaining independence, including activities such as eating and dressing.
  • Administration of intravenous medications.
  • Wound care, including dressing changes.
  • Radiology and pharmaceutical services.

Skilled nursing communities also may offer respite care, along with hospice and end-of-life care services. Some communities provide specific, additional services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but services differ among communities. If you believe that skilled nursing care will meet the needs of your relative, consider visiting several communities to understand the different services offered.

Memory Care: Tailored, Supportive Environment

Memory impairment impacts nearly half of Americans older than 85, and Alzheimer’s disease stands as the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death. For individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, independence often lessens as symptoms become more severe.

Memory care is a supportive environment specially tailored for individuals with memory loss. In many cases, memory care is housed within a secure area, either in assisted living or skilled nursing communities.

Staff members in memory care communities receive specialized training to help them understand the needs of individuals with memory loss.

As in skilled nursing and assisted living communities, memory care offers a variety of specialized services, including meals and snacks, planned activities, housekeeping, and laundry. In addition, memory care communities provide assistance with personal needs such as bathing, dressing, eating and taking medications.

Memory care communities also typically provide features for minimizing wandering behaviors. For instance, some communities offer outdoor spaces that do not include gates or doors to the outside; residents can enjoy spending time in nature while remaining in a safe, secure environment.

In addition, memory care communities often include security features such as outer doors that open only with a code or a special device worn by staff members. The security features help ensure that individuals with memory loss do not venture into dangerous areas, such as parking lots and roadways.

Memory Care Design

Within their secure settings, memory care communities typically are designed in a way that provides a pleasant experience for residents. Outdoor areas may include paths that residents can walk, along with fountains, bird feeders, a variety of plants, interesting artworks, and seating areas where residents can socialize.

Communities may feature objects that trigger pleasant memories for residents. For instance, some communities feature tool benches, antique clothing and jewelry, and ‘50s-style dining areas complete with checkerboard floors and chrome accents.

Many memory care communities offer structured programming to encourage residents to engage with others. Familiar activities, trained staff members, and environmental design features come together to help residents enjoy their time and experience a calm atmosphere.

Additional services vary depending on whether a memory care community is part of assisted living or skilled nursing. When memory care is included in skilled nursing, residents have access to the same nursing and medical services.

In memory care communities that are part of assisted living, services typically include security and emergency call systems, laundry and housekeeping, scheduled activities and programming, meals and snacks, and some transportation.

Consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Oakland

No one type of care is the right choice for every individual. Before you choose a community for your family member, be sure to visit several. Tour the campuses, meet residents and staff members and ask questions until you feel comfortable with the information you receive.

After considering the options, you may determine that a CCRC like Lake Park can best meet your relative’s needs. With a maintenance-free lifestyle and supportive environments for every stage of life, Lake Park offers you peace of mind. To plan your visit, please contact us today.