When to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Memory care is a unique modification of assisted living that offers escalating care for seniors with dementia. But the care options, environment, and lifestyle offered are shaped to assist seniors struggling with a memory loss condition. Here's how to know when it's time to make the move.

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When older adults cannot continue living independently and safely at home, their children, spouses, or caregivers often turn to assisted living communities. And although these facilities are great at offering the best level of care for the entire senior population, there is a big distinction between assisted living communities and memory care.

While there are many similarities, older folks moving from independent living facilities to memory care have the advantage of a senior living community; help with activities of daily living, meals, 24-hour full-time staff members, and other activities. These factors help seniors by keeping them engaged, lowering confusion, and promoting a life full of happy moments while ensuring safety.

When is it Time to Transition Over to the Memory Care Unit?

The question here is, when should you consider moving to memory care instead of assisted living?

Below are several signs that assisted living may not be enough:

1. Someone with a Dementia Diagnosis

If a senior has a dementia diagnosis that now demands more attentive care, it’s prudent to avoid assisted living options and opt for memory care.

Although it might be tempting to begin by moving into assisted living and transitioning to memory care later, it’s more challenging for everybody in the long run – especially the person with dementia.

Perhaps your worry is about being separated from your spouse. You should know that you may visit anytime and that reducing stress and strain is the best method of reducing dementia symptoms.

nutrition activity group
If your loved one has quit socializing with other residents and become more solitary, you may need to consider memory care.

2. Participating Less in the Assisted Living Lifestyle

An early indication that memory care might be necessary is if your aging relative stops participating in the assisted living community. Generally, assisted living is uniquely made to provide seniors with the most independence, only stepping in to offer support and care services when a senior requires help. For instance, hotel-style housekeeping and dining eliminate most of the regular physical strain from someone’s lifestyle, while social and community activities offer the opportunity to socialize.

Have you realized that your loved one has stopped participating in community events? Perhaps they appear disinterested in activities? These changes might result from their memory condition, making these things more difficult.

Memory care can help them by offering a more guided experience that ensures they still have enough to eat, enjoy, and be appropriately stimulated.

3. You Suspect your Aging Relative is Unsafe

Generally, memory care communities are usually focused on their residents’ safety. Have you noticed any of the following with your loved one?

  • wandering out of the house,
  • getting lost when out and about,
  • keeps forgetting to turn off ovens or stovetops,
  • avoids taking essential medicines,
  • doesn’t stick to normal routines,
  • isn’t paying bills
  • signs of physical or emotional/mental decline

If you see any of these signs, it’s time to look closer at memory care options.

People with dementia will usually need more specialized care as their condition progresses and memory care units are better set up for this.

4. Needing More Assistance Than Assisted Living Services

Are you finding yourself offering more special attention than you anticipated? Perhaps your elderly parent always requires familiar companionship.

If so, it’s another indication that a change to memory care could be nearing. Assisted living is simply a living option designed to allow family and friends respite from regular care, but with the freedom to socialize and visit whenever possible.

Nevertheless, families starting to realize that assisted living doesn’t offer the care requirements or depth of support required by an aging relative because of dementia should consider their next step with memory care. Your loved one might start calling more often, requesting you to stay longer, or simply requiring more during your visits.

Besides helping seniors live comfortably, memory care is uniquely designed to help them experience their elderly living in a more supported and guided way. It entails helping them skip overstimulation and scenarios that they find upsetting and helping relatives to keep their visits exciting.

5. Their Emotional and Social World is Diminishing

As dementia continues, a person’s normal routines or social activities can become risky rather than beneficial to their sense of well-being. Their memory loss makes it difficult to recognize the people they used to know, cannot keep up with stories, and cannot participate in certain activities anymore.

At this point, the best solution is a memory care community. This is because your relative will stay in an environment that’s fully committed to his/her safety and overall well-being and reduces the triggers that worsen cognitive decline. Furthermore, it supports health and active social network in a satisfying and secure manner.

6. Sudden Mood Changes

One of the most common signs of dementia is mood changes. It’s common for dementia patients to become specific about their routines and how they do things – and to get irritable when their days deviate from the norm. Generally speaking, they might also become agitated, suspicious, confused, or even fearful.

Since dementia alters judgment, it could also result in personality changes. For instance, somebody who is often shy and reserved might become outgoing and even enjoy speaking to strangers as their dementia continues.

woman with dementia trying to open door
If your loved one gets lost or tries to sneak out of the assisted living facility, they might need the more secure environment of a memory care unit.

7. Losing Track of Life Activities & Constant Confusion

Mental continuity is a big issue when an aging relative has dementia. Although you might get used to your dear one forgetting a few things or being a bit confused sometimes, these signs may develop into an increased lack of independence.

In case your elderly parent is usually confused, to the point they’re having difficulties keeping track of their community activities or personal affairs, then it might be time to consider transitioning from an assisted living facility, or home care, to memory care.

Indications that dementia care might be necessary include piles of unopened mail, increased confusion, inability to understand their health care treatment plan or current medications, and constantly misplaced possessions.

Extreme forgetfulness, such as forgetting your visits or your new friends in the assisted living community, indicates that memory care may better support your elderly parent.

8. Language Problems

Does your elderly loved one have difficulties working with numbers or reading? Do they have a growing problem with remembering certain names or everyday topics such as days of the week?

Dementia patients also have difficulties joining or following a conversation and might stop in the middle of speaking, take longer to finish whatever they are saying, or even repeat themselves.

A little forgetfulness is a common thing with age. If your elderly parent is often depressed, confused, or has problems managing their life, despite the help of assisted living, it might be time to make the change.

RELATED: Ultimate Guide to Assisted Living

Wrapping Up

Memory care can greatly improve your aging relative’s experience with care/ attention tailored to their mental and physical requirements. In memory care, your elderly parent can get support in maintaining their relationships, their memory, and their active enjoyment of everyday activities.

Before deciding, it’s crucial to check out a long-term care community and speak to staff to ensure that your relative will be happy in your preferred memory care community. Assess the rooms, activity calendars, public areas, and the experience with other families.

Find out how memory care is managed and various things the community does to assist older folks in memory care to live better lives.

Don’t forget, though, sometimes the best place for a person with advanced care needs is a nursing home instead of a memory care unit.


  1. https://www.thememorycenter.com/when-to-move-from-assisted-living-to-a-memory-care-facility/
  2. https://www.weatherlyinn.com/blog/when-to-move-from-assisted-living-to-memory-care
  3. https://allamericanatwarwick.com/when-to-move-from-assisted-living-to-memory-care/
  4. https://www.arborcompany.com/blog/when-is-the-right-time-to-move-from-assisted-living-to-memory-care
  5. https://www.fifthseasonfinancial.com/blog/transition-assisted-living-memory-care/
  6. https://www.eagleseniorliving.org/blog/when-to-move-from-assisted-living-to-memory-care/
  7. https://www.independencevillages.com/transition-assisted-living-memory-care/

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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