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Seeking options for senior living is never easy, but when Alzheimer’s is a concern, finding the appropriate facility can be complex. Selecting a facility that offers Alzheimer’s-friendly activities robust security arrangements, and medical staff on hand is essential. Alzheimer’s care communities offer residents the support they need to feel safe, cared for, and productive as they live out the remainder of their lives. Seniors are able to transition from assisted living into Alzheimer’s care communities or transition directly from home. To help you better understand your options and the differences between senior care facilities, take a look at our comprehensive guide on finding Alzheimer's care below.
The staff in Alzheimer’s communities are trained to understand both the psychological and physical effects that come with cognitive impairments. Before initiating your search for a facility for your loved one, here are some suggestions on what to look for.
When you launch your search for a residential care facility for your loved one, make sure that you seek out a specialized senior living community. These communities should expressly state that they care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders. Depending on the state in which you are seeking care, the facility may need to hold a valid specialized assisted living license. Check your state requirement before finalizing any care decisions.
The community should feature a comprehensive staff list that includes nurses or other medical professionals. There should be at least one psychologist on staff or associated with the care community. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s require constant evaluation to determine if their condition is progressing or if a change in care is required. Each of the staff at the care home should also be well-versed in the most effective practices of Alzheimer’s care.
Cognitive decline is certain in seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. It is critical that any facility or community offering care include a robust catalog of activities that helps to stem the cognitive decline of residents. This includes low-impact physical therapy, and targeted activities such as art, music, or other interactive programs. The community should also have an easy-to-navigate layout that will reduce confusion and deter wandering.
Finding expert residential Alzheimer’s care is not overly difficult, but finding a community within your budget may take time. There are several ways to pay for the cost of senior Alzheimer’s care which will we cover later in our guide. According to the latest Genworth financial survey, the monthly cost of Alzheimer’s care in a community or assisting living home by state is:
Paying for memory care such as Alzheimer’s care is one of the main roadblocks that seniors and their families face. We will go further into detail regarding financing options later in our guide, but we wanted to touch on specific aspects of care coverage upfront.
Medicare is a program offered by the Federal government for people 65 and up and those who are on social security. This government-backed health insurance program is also available for those under 65 but has also been receiving disability payments through social security for at least 24 months. Medicaid is a form of local government assistance meant to supplement gaps in care coverage. Eligibility will vary by state, but in general, an Alzheimer’s patient who can qualify for SSI will typically qualify for Medicaid.
One of the most asked questions by seniors and their families is if Alzheimer’s care costs are covered in part or full by Medicare and Medicaid. In short, Medicaid will cover some or all of the cost of care in a nursing home, though not every nursing home accepts Medicaid payments. If the senior qualifies, their coverage amounts will depend on their income and other factors. Most residents will need to supplement their Medicaid coverage with other forms of payment when moving to a nursing home. It is important to note that nursing homes and Alzheimer’s comminutes are not always the same. Some nursing homes have Alzheimer’s wards while other facilities are separate Alzheimer’s care centers and not nursing homes at all.
Medicare is a bit more complex. This Federal coverage in its various forms will pay for many aspects of Alzheimer’s care. If the senior needs to spend time as an inpatient, Medicare will cover the cost. Many medical items, medications, and doctors’ fees specific to Alzheimer’s and cognitive care are also covered by Medicare. However, the coverage for residential care only extends to 100 days in a skilled nursing care home, under very limited circumstances. Alzheimer’s communities are not included under their coverage guidelines. When a senior is nearing the end of their life, Medicare will pay for hospice care for Alzheimer’s patients, but only in a nursing home or in their own home.
Medicaid will cover the cost of cognitive assessment and the cost of planning services for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This is a great way for seniors and their families to explore treatments both in the traditional medical space, clinical trials, and also non-medical treatments. The coverage is an important way for seniors to seek a better quality of life without worrying about the cost of the assessment. Medigap and Special Needs Plans are available through Medicare for seniors with memory conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Assisted living homes and Alzheimer’s communities alike offer dedicated care for seniors with limiting health conditions. If you or your loved one has progressed to the point where an immediate move is warranted, it is important to know the difference between facilities before making your choice. Both types of care facilities offer around-the-clock monitoring, help with ADLs, and even medical assistance when required. However, Alzheimer’s care communities have been created to care for seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s specifically. Let’s take a closer look at the differences below.
All senior living communities are designed with the needs of older adults in mind. This may include no-slip flooring, safety bars in the rooms and around the facility to prevent falls, simple layouts, and even graded flooring instead of steps for easy mobility. In Alzheimer’s care communities extra steps are taken to ensure the safety and security of senior residents. Special arrangements to help manage judgment and memory concerns include: higher levels of security around the building, keyed access to dangerous areas, color-coded walls and flooring to prevent disorientation, and more. Door alarms and fencing around the facility are also common in Alzheimer’s care communities.
Assisted living homes and Alzheimer's care facilities both offer a host of engaging activities for seniors during their stay. From group events and holiday parties, these senior care homes try to keep residents active and entertained while under their care. Alzheimer’s communities take things a step further by offering specific activities geared toward memory care. Music therapy, art classes, and other Alzheimer’s-specific activities are the main focus as opposed to entertainment in a memory care setting.
The staff in assisted living centers and Alzheimer’s care homes both are trained to manage senior care. There are nurses and nursing assistants in both facilities that are able to help manage basic medical care and minor medical emergencies. In Alzheimer’s care communities specifically, the staff will receive specialized training that allows them to properly care for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive conditions. This specialized training will include information on wandering, managing Alzheimer related anxiety and depression, trouble eating and swallowing, and much more.
Most states also require anyone working in an Alzheimer’s care facility to undergo continuing education classes. This includes all staff on hand starting from the housekeepers on up to the facility administrators. This ensures that the staff on hand have the tools and information they need to help mitigate distress and support the Alzheimer’s patients under their care.
One of the best things about assisted living communities is the available dining options. Most centers will provide three main meals each day. Typically they are offered in a social setting similar to a restaurant. This allows residents to get the social time they need while also maintaining a sense of normalcy. In Alzheimer’s care communities, meals are also served three or more times per day, they are provided in a manner that encourages independence. For some, that may mean eating in a dining hall with others, or it may mean a private meal with the assistance of a staff member. There is also a higher focus on nutrition in a Fine Alzheimer’s care community. A wider selection of meal options and meal times are available than offered in an assisted living community.
Alzheimer’s care is a very personal and hands-on experience even at its most basic level. Seniors and their families who want to provide the very best that life has to offer may be interested in luxury Alzheimer’s care communities. These locations offer all of the basic services you will find at a traditional Alzheimer’s care community, but also much more. The main difference between a traditional facility and a luxury facility is the staff-to-patient ratio. Generally, there will be two or three residents per staff, or even in some places, each resident will have a dedicated staff member assigned to manage their care.
The actual environment or home will be upscale and luxurious and offers a higher level of privacy than found in regular communities. Depending on the facility, a resident may have two or more rooms for their own use. Communal areas are still a part of the Alzheimer’s care experience, and the communal areas will be equally luxurious. Rich landscaping, easy access to nature, and other amenities are also typical in a luxury Alzheimer’s care environment.
Physical activity is encouraged, and the residents will have access to personal trainers, physical therapists, and alternative therapies to meet their needs. Sessions are provided in a group format as well as in individual sessions. An emphasis is placed on meeting the resident's needs where they are so that they feel comfortable, loved, and most of all safe. Meals are prepared freshly and often to order keeping the resident's nutritional needs in mind. Home-cooked meals and snacks are tailored to please the pallets of each resident while also ensuring their bodies get the nutrients it needs to thrive.
The atmosphere in a luxury Alzheimer’s care home is one of community and family. The staff works hard to foster caring relationships with each of the residents during their stay. As a resident's condition progresses, the staff are there to provide the support they need to adjust to their new way of life. Medical assistance is always on hand and access to medical care facilities is usually no more than a few minutes away. The cost of care will vary according to room size, level of care needed, and facility location. However, while the average cost of a stay in a traditional memory care community is around $4,500 per month, luxury Alzheimer’s care ranges from $7,800 to $12,500 per month or more, per resident.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities or CCRC’s are one option for seniors who will eventually need different levels of care. They are considered life-care communities which host a variety of care levels ranging from independent senior living all the way through nursing and hospice care. The communities are rather large and consist of a large campus that is broken up into smaller sections according to resident care progression.
CCRC’s that offer Alzheimer’s and other memory care options are also available. In a CCRC, residents will be able to move to the community upon retirement, or later. A senior will be able to reside in the community as a healthy adult living independently. As their needs change, or if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after moving to the CCRC, they will be able to transfer to the assisted living care section of the community. Just like with independent memory care facilities, CCRC’s that offer Alzheimer’s care will have specially trained staff on hand. The advantage of CCRCs is that the seniors will be able to remain within their community and maintain the friendships they have cultivated.
Typically, CCRCs are either spread out over a large campus or built in a multilevel building. Each wing or floor will have various levels of care. Some more expansive CCRCs will offer cottages, garden apartments, or even low-rise buildings for their senior community. Once a resident has been diagnosed with a cognitive condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, additional services will be performed. Typically there is an additional cost with increasing levels of care. The cost of each level and type of care will be supplied during the sign-up process so seniors and their families will understand the potential expenses involved.
Though CCRC communities that offer Alzheimer’s care are wonderful for seniors with cognitive conditions, the number available is rather small. In the US, there are just under 2,000 CCRC communities spread out over 48 states. Within that number, less than a third offer specialized memory care, though most facilities offer skilling nursing and assisted living programs. When searching for a CCRC within your state, you can find those that offer continuing care by searching for lifetime communities or active adult community homes with Alzheimer’s care.
CCRC communities are a good option for seniors who have little to no family members to care for them. The immersive communities allow for social interaction and a continuation of care that is seldom found in a single place. Seniors who are at risk of developing cognitive disorders and those who have been diagnosed already can also benefit from CCRC memory communities. As the senior's condition progresses, the level of care provided will also increase without the need of changing care facilities.
Religious beliefs are often cultivated through a lifetime of study and dedication. The onset of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t change these beliefs, rather they often provide comfort instead. Seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease may find more peace when their beliefs are supported, especially when faced with continuous memory loss. Thankfully, there are spiritual-based and faith-based memory care facilities for seniors with cognitive conditions.
It is a good idea to assess your loved one's level of devotion prior to searching for a faith-based Alzheimer’s care community. The earlier you are able to identify their preferences, the easier it will be to match them with a community that fits their beliefs. Spiritual beliefs and religious practices are expressed in many ways, as a senior's condition progresses, it may become difficult to communicate their needs and desires. Residing in an Alzheimer’s community that shares their belief system will help ease their discomfort and allow them to live a life that is more fulfilled.
Most faith-based Alzheimer’s care communities offer private and group prayer facilities. Community worship is also a common option. Depending on the community, music and group services or lessons may also be provided. One-on-one visits with local spiritual leaders are another benefit of living in an Alzheimer’s care community. Not only will seniors be able to have their spiritual needs met, they will also be able to experience a multi-sensory interaction.
One main difference between regular Alzheimer’s care facilities and those that are faith-based is the type of social and mental engagement activities offered. Music is holistic for those with cognitive conditions. Faith-based memory care is able to pair music with spiritual hymns and sounds which serve as excellent auditory cues for Alzheimer’s residents. The visual cues available in such a community will also help bolster both the mind and heart which has a lasting effect on cognitive care.
Long-term Alzheimer’s care can be expensive, even when living in a dedicated Alzheimer’s care community. However, safety and quality of life is the most important aspect to consider when thinking about long-term Alzheimer’s care. With the cost of Alzheimer’s being the main obstacle for most people, knowing what financing options are available will come in handy. Social Security, private insurance, and even HUD programs are all viable options. Let’s take a close look at what financing options are available for residential Alzheimer’s care.
Social Security - if the senior qualifies for SSI, or OSS, the benefits can be used to pay for care in an Alzheimer’s care community. Regular social security benefits payments can also be used to cover the cost of care.
Medicaid - though this won’t cover the cost of room and board, this coverage can be used to help pay for other Alzheimer-related needs. If your loved one will be housed in a nursing home, Medicaid will cover the cost, but not if they are in an Alzheimer’s care community.
Faith-based charity - if the senior is part of a local religious community, there are often charity programs that will help supplement the cost of Alzheimer’s care. Certain faith-based memory care facilities have programs directly tied to their charity services to help seniors with supplemental payments for care costs.
Home Equity Conversion - reverse mortgages are a popular option for seniors who are looking for ways to pay for long-term care. Residents can use the equity in their homes to cover the cost of their stay in an Alzheimer’s care community. HECMs take the pressure of home ownership off the resident while also giving them a way to manage their care needs.
Living as a senior with a memory condition is not easy, but when Alzheimer’s is also paired with a disability, life can become especially challenging. Thankfully, Alzheimer’s communities offer support for able-bodied seniors and those who also have physical or medical disabilities. Some common disabilities are:
Seniors with intellectual disabilities, mental disabilities, physical disabilities, or sensory disabilities still deserve respect and dedicated care. When paired with Alzheimer’s, managing the effects of a disability can be difficult. Quality memory care communities that also offer care for the disabled will have a wealth of support tools at their disposal. Many assistance devices such as walkers, wheelchairs, guide bars, and other implements will help make their lives easier while they remain a part of the overall community.
Most communities that are equipped to handle residents with Alzheimer’s or other memory conditions are also able to accommodate seniors with basic disabilities. Certain types of disabilities may require proximity to a medical facility or additional specialized care. It is important to speak with the intake manager prior to making a decision to ensure that the Alzheimer’s community is able to offer the support needed for any specific disability.