How to Find a Quality Memory Care Facility

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Senior Care Management Services, LLC

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
A young nurse pushing a senior woman in a wheelchair in a retirement home.

Learn some helpful tips for how to find a memory care facility and how to evaluate the quality of care being provided.

Over time, the long-term care industry has evolved to include many levels of care – skilled nursing, assisted living and independent living among them. Memory care units too, have grown in number in response to the increasing number of persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Often found as units within other long-term care facilities, and also as stand-alone memory care facilities, memory care units and facilities are appropriate when a person needs specialized and trained caregivers who understand the needs of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Memory care also provides security for residents, with locked facilities to prevent residents from wandering away.

If you are looking for a memory care facility, where would you start and how would you know how to evaluate the quality of care being provided? Many times when I have started working with a family looking for care for their loved one with dementia, they tell me they have looked at some memory care facilities, but are not sure they’ve seen all that are available, and don’t know how to evaluate them. They reach out to a professional to help them focus their search and check every available option. Working with a professional in the field of elder care is one way to find a memory care facility.

There are other options too.

Begin Your Online Search: Trusted Resources

These days, it seems the start of every search begins online. When looking for memory care, online is also a good place to find information about the licensed facilities in your area. Below are some online resources that can help you identify the licensing agency for your area:

  • Eldercare Locater
  • Your state Department of Social Services
  • Your local Department of Social Services and/or Aging Services

Additionally, through your state’s general website (i.e. “name of”) you can enter search terms that fit your location, i.e. “memory care” with the zip code or city or county you are searching for. One or two searches and you will find the state department that oversees the licensing of memory care and/or assisted care. State agencies are often the regulating agency over assisted living and memory care facilities, and they maintain the list of licensed facilities. Working with the licensed list of facilities will provide you with those facilities that are regulated and adhere to a set of standards.  

What is a Memory Care Unit?

Memory care is a unique form of skilled nursing care that specializes in working with people with memory problems that are related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Skilled nursing facilities provide round-the-clock medical treatment and daily care planning.

Finding a Memory Care Unit

Location will be important if you are planning to visit regularly. With the list of licensed units, define the geographical area where you want to focus your search. Contact the facilities to schedule tours. Deciding the location of the memory care facility is important if you are planning to visit regularly. Many people begin their quest with a search for “memory care facilities near me.”

Visit the Facility and Interview Relatives of Residents

When touring the memory care units, walk the halls, stay for lunch, and observe the activity of the unit. Look at the rooms. Meet the caregivers and ask questions. See if you can get in contact with another family of a resident to speak with someone who has experience with the facility.

What other questions within those areas would you need to address? Quality and cost of care are usually the primary focus. Some ideas are:

Evaluating the Quality of Care:

  • What kind of training do caregivers have?
  • How many caregivers are working during each shift?
  • What is the ratio of residents to staff?
  • How do they handle difficult behaviors?
  • What if your loved one is admitted and does not adapt to his new environment?
  • Is the facility able to care for residents for the rest of their life?
  • Can hospice come in?
  • What is the facility’s plan for emergencies, such as a hurricane or fire?

  The Cost of Memory Care:

  • What is the basic monthly fee?
  • What are the levels of care and their rates?
  • How often does the basic monthly fee change?
  • Is there an entry fee or deposit?
  • Does the facility work with long-term care policies?
  • Are there any charges or expenses we have not talked about?

Memory Care within a Nursing Center

Above, I have addressed memory care facilities that are either independent or affiliated with assisted living facilities. Memory Care can also be a component of nursing centers. Though not necessarily in a separate unit or space, persons with dementia who reside in a nursing center also have the protections of standardized care guidelines.

As recently as 2014, the Joint Commission established accreditation requirements and memory care certification for nursing centers in the U.S. The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.”

If your loved one has additional care needs that make a nursing home the appropriate care option, be assured there are requirements prescribed by the Joint Commission that lay out the memory care certification requirements for nursing homes.

About the author

Headshot of Kathleen Allen.

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Senior Care Management Services, LLC

Kathleen Allen has been working with older adults and their families for over 20 years.

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