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What is memory care?
Memory care is designed for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In some cases, this care can be provided in-home, but most often it’s a service provided at an assisted living facility or at a dedicated memory care facility.
There are many reasons why it’s rare for memory care to be provided in-home, but safety is the main one. It’s simply easier for the caretakers to make sure their patients are safe when they’re in a facility designed for this.
Memory care provides all the same things that a typically assisted living situation will provide. That includes meals, activities, help with personal care, and even limited medical care. However, it goes a step further and provides all the additional care that an Alzheimer’s patient needs.
What memory care provides
Patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia need extra care and attention. Memory care provides things like specialized activities, suitable for memory care patients, and the staff monitors the patients much more closely than in a typical assisted living facility.
Transportation services, assistance with meals (including assistance with eating, when necessary), and help with daily personal care tasks are examples of the kind of additional care included with memory care.
For most assisted living residents, they’re left alone most of the time. They’re responsible for getting themselves to the dining area for meals, taking care of most of their personal and transportation needs, etc.
Memory care patients are not left to their own devices. They’re under nearly constant supervision.
How much does memory care cost?
The actual cost of memory care will vary based on where you live and which facility your use. In general, you can expect memory care to cost 20-30% more than regular assisted living in your area.
The cost of assisted living varies widely, ranging from $2800 to over $9000 per month. However, the nationwide average cost of an assisted living facility is $4000 per month. So, on average, memory care would cost an additional $1,000 per month, bringing your total cost up to $5000.
Remember that’s just an average, and the actual cost will vary depending on where you live. For instance, in Texas, the total cost of memory care including the costs of an assisted living facility averages $4500/month, while in Vermont it would be slightly over $7000/month.
And, of course, even those numbers are still averages, they’re just statewide averages instead of nationwide averages. That should give you a pretty solid idea of what memory care costs in your area, but you won’t know the exact monthly figure until you contact the facilities and ask them.
Why does memory care cost more?
Memory care is a more intense level of care than standard assisted living. Memory care patients often require round-the-clock supervision. They typically need a lot more assistance with even simply tasks.
Usually, someone will have to come and take them to the dining area for each meal. They’ll often need physical help to actually eat their food. Many of them are no longer able to bathe themselves, use the bathroom by themselves, or take care of other basic personal care tasks that most of us do every day.
Essentially, they need constant, highly personalized care and lots of individual attention. The staff that care for them need to a lot more training and qualifications than regular assisted living staff. That means they have higher salaries.
All of that individualized care means that the facility needs a lower staff-to-resident ratio. They simply can’t provide the level of care that’s needed with the same number of staff that standard assisted living facilities use. So, in effect, each resident is paying for more staff in addition to paying for additional services.
This all contributes to the higher cost of memory care. When you really think about it, the additional cost of memory care isn’t nearly as high as it could be.
How to save money on memory care
If you’re worried about the high cost of memory care, there are some things you can do in order to save money. We have to warn you in advance, though, that these solutions simply won’t work for everybody.
Get a shared room
One of the simplest ways to reduce the cost of memory care in an assisted living facility is to put your loved one in a shared room rather than a private one. In some cases this can reduce the overall monthly cost by as much as 20%.
However, for patients with advanced dementia or aggressive forms of dementia, a shared room is probably not an option.
Use an adult day care instead of an assisted living facility
Most adult day cares do not charge extra for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They also don’t charge by the hour, they charge by the day or the half-day. These can be a viable option if you are able to provide care for your loved one in the evenings and on the weekends.
They are usually unable to provide adequate care for patients in the later stages of Alzheiemer’s or dementia, though, so they really only provide a temporary solution.
Like adult day care, in-home healthcare providers typically don’t charge extra for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. These do usually require that you be able to care for your loved one yourself on nights and weekends, and like adult day care there will probably come a point when home healthcare can’t provide adequate care.
As you can see, most of the methods for saving money on memory care have serious drawbacks, and may only be temporary solution. In addition to that, there’s one more serious issue with not placing your loved one in a memory care facility: wandering.
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have a tendency to leave the home and become lost. This can be a dangerous, life-threatening situation. At home, it’s disturbingly easy for them to do that.
At a memory care facility, there are ample security measures in place to prevent residents from wandering off.
Financial aid for memory care
Instead of trying to save money by reducing the cost of memory care, you can look into different ways of getting help with the payments. Here are some of the better ways to get financial aid for memory care.
State Assistance Programs
Unfortunately, Medicare does not provide for long-term care in an assisted living facility. Some states do have assistance programs that are specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, though. Check with your state government to see if this is an option for you.
There are many non-profit organizations that offer grants to help families pay for memory care in an assisted living facility. The Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America are both good organizations to work with.
If your loved one is a veteran, the VA actually has several different programs that may help. It’s worth noting that none of the VA programs will cover the full cost of memory care, but they do provide substantial funds.
If your loved one has a life insurance policy, you can request an advance on the death benefit, take out a loan against the death benefit, or sell the policy. Any of these options can help you pay for memory care.