What is Memory Care?

When aging parents are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s common for families to care for their mom or dad at home as long as possible. But if the relationship becomes strained, if caregivers are experiencing burnout or if a senior is not safe or thriving, it may be time to consider senior living with memory care.

What does “memory care” mean?

Memory care provides specialized care and services to assist seniors living with a type of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. Staff members are specially trained to understand the needs of people at all stages of dementia, and to support seniors who may be experiencing frustration, anxiety, aggression or communication issues as a result of cognitive aging. Memory care facilities typically offer extra security measures to keep residents safe from wandering, one of many symptoms of dementia. Memory care in Canada is available at nursing homes, long-term care facilities and at private senior living residences like Amica.

Amica combines professional memory care and around-the-clock support with premium hospitality — including exceptional dining, activities and amenities — in Canada’s best neighbourhoods. Since no two people with dementia are alike, we provide personalized care based on every resident’s unique needs and preferences. We help enrich seniors’ lives by engaging them in fun activities and excursions — including fitness, social events and live entertainment — that bring purpose and joy while helping ease the progression of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Based on proven best practices, our memory care program was developed by Dr. Heather Palmer, a cognitive aging specialist and Amica’s National Director of Cognitive Well-Being. Learn more about our care and support.

What’s the difference between memory care and assisted living?

How does assisted living differ from memory care? Both assist seniors with daily living, such as meals, medication, dressing, grooming, bathing, etc. Private memory care offers extra peace of mind from a comfortable and supportive environment with additional safety features, specially trained staff and activities designed to engage people with dementia. Amica is unique in offering a variety of lifestyle and care options under one roof so seniors can rest assured they will have the care they need, even if their needs change.

Eight signs it may be time for memory care for dementia or Alzheimer’s

Safety: If your parent is living at home, can you take precautions in every room to reduce the risk of harm or injury?

Wandering: Is your loved one wandering during the day or night? At Amica, staff are skilled at reassuring and redirecting residents trying to exit.

Eating: A person with dementia can quickly change their eating habits. How well is your parent eating? Would it help to have chef-prepared meals in a dedicated dining room?

Socializing: What kind of social opportunities are being offered? Social interaction is important for slowing cognitive decline.

Hygiene: How is your parent managing basic grooming (brushing teeth, bathing, dressing, etc.)?

Home care services: If living alone, does your parent have home care? If you’ve got four daily hours of home care, are you comfortable having your mom be alone for 20 hours a day?

Family: How is dementia impacting your family? Moving to a residence that offers Alzheimer’s care can help a loved one and their caregivers.

Diagnosis: “Many people wait until they’re in crisis before moving to memory care,” says Dr. Palmer. “Having your parent cognitively involved in the process allows them to play a part in decision-making and increases the likelihood they will have the cognitive resources to adapt to their new environment.”

Three caregiver tips for dementia and Alzheimer’s

Sundowning, also known as challenging behaviours that occur late in the day, may affect up to two-thirds of people with dementia according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Instead of responding with medication, try supporting a loved one before they reach a point of fatigue, frustration or anxiety using tips from Dr. Heather Palmer.

Know your parent. Try to track your dad’s preferences around sleeping, waking, eating, exercise, socializing and leisure time so you can recognize how to make his day go more smoothly or be proactive when he may face challenges.

Engage their interests. If you know your mom loves music, use it to engage her in a positive way to diffuse confusion, anxiety, etc. However, if your dad hates music, then turning on the radio may escalate his behaviours. Instead, find an activity that feeds his interests.

Tune into their energy. Taking your dad to the driving range might be soothing one day but frustrating on a different day when his coping skills have been compromised.

Memory care resources

Find a memory care residence in Canada

Is it time to consider dementia memory or Alzheimer’s care?

Technology to keep seniors safe 

Common forms of dementia

Ways to help with sundowning

Preventing caregiver burnout

Why people with dementia need activities

What to ask on a tour of a memory care facility