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Senior Woman with Nurse February 10, 2023

The Difference Between Memory Care and Skilled Nursing

By: Country Meadows | Memory Care

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is challenging. When a person requires more care than can be provided at home, there are many options to support their needs. The difference between memory care and skilled nursing can be confusing.

Let’s begin with the basics. Memory care is specialized long-term care for individuals who have cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Skilled nursing care is around-the-clock, high-level care services for short-term or long-term medical needs.

Difference Between Memory Care and Skilled Nursing: Memory Care

Memory care can be provided in both secured and non-secured settings to support people with memory loss and dementia. Similar to other care levels, residents live in an apartment personalized with their favorite items and memories and participate in social and recreational activities specifically designed to strengthen and/or maintain cognitive abilities.

While skilled nursing provides 24/7 care for advanced medical needs, memory care facilities tailor care to the needs of residents living with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Staff use brain strengthening activities and exercises to help individuals maintain or improve cognitive abilities. Often secured outdoor courtyards are available for residents to enjoy safe walks or take in beautiful weather.

Another difference is staff training. While skilled nursing home staff members are focused more on medical training, memory support team members are specially trained to address common dementia-related challenges, including frustration, anxiety and loneliness, and develop individualized care support plans to address each individual’s specific needs.

Memory support services can be provided in various care levels including skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care. Memory care, when provided in personal care or assisted living, is less clinical, offering a more homelike setting. Care focuses on the entire individual-mind, body and spirit. Customized exercise programs promote balance, stretching, strength and endurance while activities enrich spiritual wellbeing.

Difference Between Memory Care and Skilled Nursing: Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing provides both long-term and short-term care around the clock. Memory care is available at some skilled nursing homes, but a skilled nursing facility’s focus is to provide a higher level of medical care and support. A medical team oversees care to provide the highest level of senior care provided outside a hospital setting. Doctors may recommend skilled nursing care to manage an ongoing medical condition, such as a respiratory issue or Parkinson’s that may require special medical equipment.

Another reason doctors may recommend skilled nursing is for an individual to recover after a hospitalization for injury or illness. Rehabilitation services including occupational, physical and speech therapies are available for individuals in the recovery process. While a resident living with dementia may need therapies to come back from a physical challenge, the skilled nursing team’s main focus is placed on physical needs.

If a nursing home doesn’t specialize in care for people with memory challenges, a large difference between memory care and skilled nursing is how staff supports behaviors associated with dementia. It’s important to talk to management to learn what services are provided to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, how associated dementia-related behaviors are addressed and what programs are in place to strengthen and support cognitive abilities.

Country Meadows offers memory care at our nine campuses in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Maryland. Skilled nursing and rehabilitation is available at our Bethlehem location. Please contact our team for more information about how we can support you or a loved one. We’re here to help!

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