Is Memory Care the Same as Assisted Living?

There can be a considerable amount of confusion regarding the different types of long-term care options that are available to people in California and across the United States. One common area of misunderstanding is in regard to memory care and assisted living. Specifically, a good many people believe that memory care and assisted living are the same thing. They are not.

Both memory care and assisted living are types of long-term assistance or care. But memory care and assisted living are not synonymous. In this article, we discuss the differences (as well as some similarities) in regard to memory care and assisted living. 

The differences between memory care and assisted living can be found on a number of fronts. These include:

  • Safety
  • Staff training
  • Amenities
  • Activities
  • Therapies
  • Costs


Safety is a major area in which there are differences between memory care and assisted living. Bear in mind that an assisted living community does provide its residents with a suitable level of safety and security. This includes services and accoutrements that are designed to ensure that an older individual is able to get through the day in a safe and secure environment while maintaining independence.

Residents of a memory care facility are a far more vulnerable population. Therefore, safety is enhanced in these types of settings. Examples of heightened safety features in a memory center include

  • Exit doors at a care center that automatically lock to prevent resident wandering or unauthorized departure from the facility 
  • Alarmed doors to alert staff if a resident is attempting to depart the facility
  • Limitation on appliances (for example, if a resident lives in an apartment setting in a memory center the unit will not have a stove and oven)

Staff Training

Staffing is also different in a memory center and an assisted living community. Memory care staff undergoes more specialized training in order to be able to effectively serve the needs of clients with conditions that can include dementia. Skilled nurses and other people with a healthcare background typically are parts of the care teams at memory centers in the United States. 


Some discussion has already been had in regard to amenities that are present at a memory care center versus those at an assisted living community. More focused attention is on ensuring that any amenity at a memory care center is something that will not present a risk of harm to a person with cognitive issues. 


There are also differences in the types of activities available to residents of a memory care center versus those in an assisted living community. Activities in a memory center tend to be simpler to undertake. In addition, at a memory center, when possible, there oftentimes is an attempt to utilize activities that have some element of intellectual stimulation. The objective is to attempt to slow the pace of cognitive degeneration for residents in memory care.


Different types of therapies are utilized in memory care and assisted living. As noted a moment ago, at a memory center, activities tend to include components that are designed to slow the pace of cognitive degeneration. The same can be said of the types of therapies offered to residences of memory centers in California and across the United States. The goal of most therapeutic activities is to address issues stemming from a resident’s diagnosis of dementia or some other cognitive condition.


Another difference between memory care and assisted living is found in the costs associated with these two types of residential options. Memory care typically will be more expensive than assisted living. This is due to the more significant and far-reaching set of services provided to residents of a memory care community. In addition, some of the staff at a memory center has specialized professional training that is more significant than that associated with the typical care team at an assisted living community. 

Moreover, and as was previously described, memory care centers are more significantly outfitted with additional items designed to enhance safety and security for people laboring under conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Additional safety and security at a memory center also increases the costs associated with care for a resident of that type of facility. 

A determination of whether an older person should transition to assisted living or needs the added services of memory care is not something that can be determined by an older person alone or by that individual’s family or friends. People around an older person may see evidence that memory care is in order. The individual his or her self is not as likely to make that determination. Nonetheless, ultimately a physician is going to need to become involved in that process to ascertain what type of continuing care setting is appropriate for a particular individual.