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

By Maura Keller

As families begin to navigate the various types of senior living options available, it’s important to note the difference between assisted living and memory care facilities. As Kim Kay, executive director of Renaissance Senior Living of Hilldale in Madison, explains, a memory care facility or unit is tailored specifically to those who have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. Memory care should always provide a secure environment due to the tendency of those with more advanced dementia to wander.

“At Renaissance Senior Living of Hilldale, our memory care is not only secure, but The Harbor is designed to provide a refuge from the storms associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” Kay says. “Every aspect of our Harbor community has been researched and intentionally designed to provide residents and families with peace of mind, including Dutch doors, NASCAR Shop-painted toilet seats and circadian rhythm lighting. The concept was developed after years of research and planning with experts in the field of dementia.”

As a premier assisted living and memory care facility in Madison, Renaissance Senior Living boasts a 10-story facility, featuring 28 first- floor units for Harbor memory care and 64 well-appointed assisted living units in the tower.

The ratio of caregivers to residents is higher in memory care than assisted living in order to serve residents who often have greater needs and require more oversight. Within The Harbor, the doors are secured, and activities are geared towards those with dementia — such as reminiscent therapy, which uses the five senses to remember people, places and significant events in their lives to help keep memories alive.

“Activities are the main difference — SimpleCTM and the Purposeful DaySM Program are just part of what we provide for our residents,” Kay says. “We’ve incorporated circadian rhythm lighting in memory care, which aims to keep the body’s internal clock aligned with the 24-hour day and night cycle. There is also a secured outdoor area where residents are free to go and enjoy the sun.”

SimpleCTM uses technology to deliver established non-medication therapies. And through the Purposeful DaySM Program, Renaissance offers engaging activities throughout the day to bring residents a sense of purpose, since research shows that can effectively stimulate memory.

Assisted living is a great option for anyone that could benefit from the socialization and watchful oversight. Whether you want to leave the hassles of home ownership behind or a loved one could use around-the-clock care, assisted living provides peace of mind to the resident as well as their family.

“We handle all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, medication management, transportation to and from local appointments, assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, etc.) and we offer a lively social calendar to go along with it,” Kay says. “In assisted living, we promote independence while assisting residents where needed. Whether in assisted living or The Harbor memory care, peace of mind is the greatest offering we provide to residents and their families.”

Five Ways to Connect With a Loved One in Memory Care

Bonding with a loved one in memory care can be challenging sometimes — whether that involves an in-person visit or via video chat. Kim Kay executive director of Renaissance Senior Living of Hilldale, has some suggestions for connecting with them.

  1. Reminisce about things from the past.
  2. Be present as much as possible. Your physical presence goes a long way and residents enjoy seeing the familiar faces of friends and family. Spend quality, focused time, whether during a meal or joining your loved one for an activity or an outing.
  3. Furnish their room with items that are familiar to them — including photos of family old and new
  4. Go on an adventure! A trip to Dairy Queen for a soft-serve cone and a ride through the country or familiar neighborhoods is a great treat.
  5. Be willing to meet them right where they are — not to your current timeframe — but theirs. That may mean where they are in their mind, 20 years ago.
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