When To Move From Assisted Living To Memory Care

Deciding when to move a parent or family member from an assisted living community to a memory care facility can be difficult. The signs of it being the right time to make the switch are not always clear-cut, adding stress to those with loved ones in assisted living. Fortunately, there are a few steps to follow when approaching this uncertain time that can help make the right choice for your loved one more clear. 

When Should You Move Someone From Assisted Living to Memory Care?

It is time to move a family member from assisted living to memory care when they begin showing progressive signs of decline. Signs of decline for seniors can include:

  • Withdrawal & Lack of Participation in Assisted Living Activities
  • Needing Additional Care than Assisted Living Provides
  • Confusion/Changes in Short Term Memory
  • Sudden Mood Changes
  • Change in emotional wellness
  • Forgetting daily routines or familiar faces/places
  • Having Language and Communication Issues
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis 

What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Memory Care? 

Assisted living provides room and board, help with basic medical care, and help with activities of daily living. Memory Care will go above and beyond these support services  by providing specialized care for seniors with conditions such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease and need additional attention. Some assisted living facilities will have a memory care unit or memory care center as a secure special care unit in their community in order to provide graduating levels of care to seniors.

Related: Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

Assisted Living

An assisted living community is often a first step for senior adults transitioning away from independent living and into long-term care or a senior living community. Assisted living communities will cater to a wide range of needs in a residential setting. This allows for older adults to keep much of their independence of having a daily routine while providing specialized care, programs, and social activities to assist them in keeping up a healthy and safe lifestyle. 

Assisted living facilities will often provide different levels of care to support seniors as they move across the care spectrum. This often includes things like help with daily activities and medication management. Specialists like physical therapists, occupational therapists, and palliative care specialists will oftentimes be brought in to help residents with additional health care needs.

While this may sound like a good fit for older adults facing memory issues, conditions such as memory impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s will often require more one-on-one assistance than assisted living communities can provide in a traditional assisted living format.

Related: Assisted Living Requirements

Memory Care Facility 

A memory care facility, sometimes called a memory care community, can provide 24/7 care for aging adults living with memory-related conditions in a safe and nurturing environment. Caregivers in these facilities receive special training to equip them for the specific needs of people with memory-related conditions. Memory care facilities also provide programs and activities that will stimulate the resident’s minds and help exercise their cognitive abilities. 

There are several benefits of moving elderly parents with memory-related conditions into a memory care facility. Some of which include:

  • Round-the-clock care, in case an emergency arises at any time of day or night
  • Special activities and programs that target cognitive abilities and support memory-related conditions
  • Uniquely designed amenities to assist residents in recognizing their surroundings and lessen confusion
  • Special therapies to aid in relaxation and memory recall

While it is often a difficult decision to move your mom or dad into a memory care facility, it is often the best environment fo seniors with different types of memory problems to reside in since there are so many dedicated resources and specialized staff available to help.

Signs & Indications That It is Time to Move Someone from Assisted Living to Memory Care 

There are some common signs that can assist you if you are questioning whether to move elderly parents from an assisted living facility to a memory care facility – or graduate their care to a specialized memory care unit.

Withdrawal & Lack of Participation in Assisted Living Activities

When the mental well-being of dementia patients begins to decline, they will often withdraw from the social world. If you or the assisted living staff member notice a sudden or new decline in the residents’ participation in group activities or socializing with friends, it may be time to speak about making the move.

Needing Additional Care than Assisted Living Provides

Not every caregiver is trained to work with progressive memory loss. When your loved one displays signs that they need more constant care than an assisted living facility can take on, it may time to make the switch. 

Confusion/Changes in Short Term Memory

If you notice your family member is beginning to forget tasks they have recently completed, conversations they just had, or having a lot of senior moments, it could be signs of early signs of dementia and potentially time to discuss with their primary care physician if they need more constant care.

Language and Communication Issues

When a dementia patient has a hard time communicating basic needs, such as areas of pain or discomfort, feelings of being ill, or starts to have trouble formulating sentences, it may be time to start looking for a memory care facility.

Sudden Mood Changes

It is not uncommon for dementia patients to have difficulty expressing or controlling their emotional state. If you begin to notice frequent, sudden shifts in mood, such as extreme anger to extreme happiness, it may be time to consider memory care.


The repetitiveness of tasks, words, or actions is common in those living with a memory-related condition. Once it becomes apparent that a family member is repeatedly having the same conversations, doing the same tasks, or carrying out the same actions, it is time to look for further care. 

In-Between Options

Some assisted living communities may be able to connect you with local clinics or organizations that will help with the care of your family member. If you don’t want to disrupt the life of your family member just yet, hiring some extra help during the night or daytime may ease the transition to more constant care for the resident.

Additionally, there may be group living homes that provide specialized memory care in your area which could serve as a good in-between option for your loved one. A group home can often create a smaller, more intimate community than larger assisted living communities, but may have more limitations and stipulations around the type of care they can provide.

Cost of Memory Care vs Assisted Living 

The cost of any long-term care community is going to vary. Things such as location, size, amenities, and care levels all affect the price you are going to pay. On average, a memory care facility will cost around $1,200 more per month than assisted living does. The average cost of assisted living in the United States is $4,300 per month. This would bring the average cost of memory care in the United States to $5,500 per month or $66,000 per year.

Related: What is Long-term Care Insurance?

Memory Care Exercises and Games

One benefit to memory care facilities is the programs they offer to help promote cognitive abilities. Studies show that the longer an adult with dementia keeps up with physical and mental activity, the slower their condition may progress. Light exercises, light walking, and dancing, or special therapies focusing on the arts and music help with brain stimulation.

A few examples of memory care exercises and games include:

  • Light cardio exercises
  • Chair exercises
  • Music therapy
  • Board games and trivia
  • Art therapy
  • Bingo
  • Sorting exercises 


Here’s a quick review of some of the most common questions regarding memory care facilities:

When to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care?

When your family member begins to display early signs of dementia or decline in memory such as frequent forgetfulness, withdrawal from social interactions, emotional imbalance, and has a harder time communicating, it is time to move into a memory care facility. 

What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Memory Care?

Assisted living is suitable for older adults who can no longer live independently, need help with activities of daily living and minor medical care but are still able to mostly care for themselves. Memory care is best for adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s who are showing memory loss and heightened confusion.

What is the Average Stay in a Memory Care Facility?

As the stay of any resident varies depending on several factors, the average stay for residents in memory care facilities is anywhere between three to ten years. 

At What Point Do Dementia Patients Need 24-Hour Care?

Dementia patients need 24-hour care when they are no longer able to function as they once did. This can include a severe lack of communication levels, heightened levels of confusion, and an inability to express signs of pain, infection, or other illnesses. 

What Do Memory Care Services Offer?

Memory care services offer round-the-clock care for the health and safety of residents, as well as specially built amenities and memory stimulating activities and therapies. 


Scroll to Top