Looking for Alzheimer’s Housing or Assisted Living? If you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s, then you might be wondering if Alzheimer’s Housing or Memory Care is really needed. 

After all, the cost of Memory Care is higher; is it essential?

To know the answer to that question, one must understand the differences between Alzheimer’s housing and assisted living. 


Key Differences Between Memory Care and Assisted Living

There are six big differences between memory care vs assisted living: 

  1. Cost
  2. Facility layout
  3. How medications are managed
  4. Staff training
  5. Staff to patient ratio
  6. Community size

We’ll go over each of these below so that you can make the right decision.

Cost of Alzheimer’s Housing and Assisted Living

Several different factors affect the price of memory care and assisted living. Here’s the shortlist:

  • Geographical location
  • Private living space or shared living space
  • Amount of care required (usually higher for memory care)

Now let’s look at some averages for Alzheimer’s Housing and memory care. As we said, costs vary depending on where you live. These differences are most noticeable in the northeast and west coast (much more expensive) vs. the southern states and plains states (much less costly). 

In 2019, the national average monthly cost of memory care for someone with moderate dementia is $4,650 / month. That number goes even higher for the northeast and west coast, where the average monthly cost is $5,500 – $6,000. In the south and the plains, on the other hand, the number is much lower at $3,300. As for assisted living, the national average in 2018 was $4,000/month – significantly less than the cost of memory care. To see what the average cost of assisted living is for your state, check out this link here

Alzheimer’s Housing Facilities vs. Assisted Living Facilities

There are some architectural differences between Alzheimer’s housing facilities and assisted living facilities. Here are 5 of the biggest ones:

1) Layout: Alzheimer’s housing is designed in a circular arrangement to reduce the stress of Alzheimer’s patients. This is because patients often feel stressed when approaching a barrier, such as a hallway that comes to an end. The circular layout also allows patients to wander the facility safely. 

2) Kitchens: Unlike in some assisted living units, rooms for memory care don’t contain kitchens, and this is again to help keep the stress of Alzheimer’s residents to a minimum. 

3) Security: In the context of memory care, security has another meaning, which includes building safe premises for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. 

While some assisted living facilities contain secure areas for residents with mild dementia, memory care facilities put more emphasis on this to prevent wandering, which is a common habit for those with advanced levels of dementia.

A safe area where residents can wander around outdoors but can’t leave the property is included in many different memory care facilities. 

4) Relaxation: stress and confusion are unfortunately common occurrences in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. To help reduce stress and confusion, memory care facilities do a few different things. One thing that they do is create separate areas for residents to gather, such as a TV room. These areas are painted in bright colors, and they allow plenty of natural light to pour in. 

5) Addressing lack of appetite: This is a unique problem for those with Alzheimer’s disease. There are a lot of different ways that Alzheimer’s housing facilities might try to address it. A standard method is to place a fish tank on display in the dining room; studies have shown that watching swimming fish can stimulate your appetite. 


How Medications are Managed Differently

When researching assisted living and memory care options, remember that the rules regarding medication management differ from state to state. Some states allow residents to keep and self administer their medications, while some states require trained staff to administer medications. 

In regards to the level of care provided, memory care services usually include extra assistance with medications. The specifics, however, will vary state by state. 

Staff Training in Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

In assisted living, the staff is only trained to assist with activities of daily life, like helping with bathing or changing clothes. Staff trained in memory care, on the other hand, are better able to handle the specific needs of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This training includes understanding how these diseases manifest, why patients might act disruptively, being able to respond to unwanted behaviors, and de-escalating these tense situations. 

Staff to Patient Ratio in Assisted Living vs Memory Care

In assisted living communities, there is no nationally set staff to patient ratio requirements. It’s up to each individual community to hire the optimal number of staff needed to provide care to their residents (state regulations might play a part in that). 

Memory care facilities, on the other hand, must hire more staff to provide an adequate amount of care. The ideal is one staff member to every five memory care residents, but unfortunately, this standard is not as common as it should be. 

Community Size Differences

The size of assisted living communities varies:

  • Small facilities house 4-6 residents
  • Medium facilities house 11-25 residents
  • Larger facilities house 26-100 residents. 100+ is rarer. 

The factor of size doesn’t have that much bearing on the cost; the main reason why you should consider it is that everyone has different preferences when it comes to being part of a smaller or larger community. 


As you can see, a lot of the key differences between Alzheimer’s housing vs assisted living have to do with state rules, the amount of care provided, and how the facilities themselves are setup. After looking at all of the above, it’s evident that Memory Care is the clear choice for persons with dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

Also, keep in mind that if memory care is too expensive in your state, you can find it for much less in a different state.