18 Things To Look For In Memory Care Facilities

Updated February 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be extremely difficult to place a loved one in a memory care facility. You may want to help them yourself, but at some point, it becomes necessary to allow trained staff to provide expert-level care. When that time comes, you want to make sure that you choose the best memory care facility available -- one that will care for your loved one in the same as you would.

One of the things that you may need to keep in mind when you think about memory care facilities near me is how safe and well-trained the facility might be. Different facilities may be for memory care only, while other long-term facilities have a memory care unit as part of a larger facility. Look closely at the following 18 things to look for in a memory care facility so that you can make a well-informed decision.

Medication Stability During Transfers

Caregivers Of Patients With Dementia May Need Support, Too

One of the things to look for in a memory care facility is its protocol for handling transfers between the facility and local hospitals. Many patients who need memory care also have physical health concerns, and those concerns may require transfers to and from a hospital on occasion. How these transfers are handled can make a huge difference in the outcomes for your loved one.

research study done in 2004 examined how adverse drug events happened when patients were transferred from a hospital to a long-term care facility. They found that far too many medication changes were enacted between transfers, often without reasonable cause. Any medications your loved one is given at the hospital must be continued at the memory care facility and vice versa.

Use Of Cutting-Edge Technology And Therapies

New technologies and therapies are implemented at memory care facilities across the nation. Choosing a memory care facility that makes use of cutting-edge technology and therapies can help improve the quality of life of your loved one.

One such technology is the use of robotic pets. Studies have long shown that having frequent visits from pets helps memory care patients. One study looked at how a robotic pet could fill this need with unique therapy for memory care patients. The study found that once they put clothing on the robotic pet, it was treated like a dog or baby by the patients, with very favorable outcomes.

Use Of Music

Look for a memory care facility that uses music as part of its regular daily therapies. Studies have shown that music is very therapeutic for patients with dementia. Playing certain music from various periods can help them with memory recall.

Also, patients can learn new songs even when they are unable to form other types of new memories. This helps keep the brain working and active, even though they are unable to form other types of new memories or regain other functions. It can greatly improve their quality of life and promote longer life.

Security Of Memory Unit

One of the most important things to look for in a memory care facility is the safety of the memory care unit. There must be heightened safety for the facility or the unit if it is part of a larger long-term care facility.

Ideally, there should be locked doors on all exits and entrances to the memory care unit. These doors should be controlled by electronic locks that require a code to be entered to open the door. 

Many memory care patients tend to wander and could become lost. Even if they did not find their way out of the facility, if they wander off of the memory care unit into the main facility areas, they could become lost in rooms or areas that could present dangers to them or other residents.

Level Of Supervision

Some memory care patients require more supervision than others. If your loved one has advanced dementia or Alzheimer's, they may require nearly constant supervision. Make sure that the memory care facility you choose offers enough staffing to provide this supervision at the level that they need.

Not all memory care facilities are equipped to maintain constant supervision and extreme cases. It is important that when you are interviewing the facility you make clear the level of care that your loved one requires so that they can assure you whether they are equipped to care for your loved one.

Quality Of Nursing Care

Consider the quality of the nursing care at the memory care facility. Some memory care facilities focus on daily care with the help of CNAs and may only have one registered nurse on duty at specific times of the day. These facilities may not be equipped to tend to physical health problems.

If your loved one has physical health concerns such as diabetes or other health problems that require constant monitoring and care, make sure that the memory care facility you choose is staffed to provide this care. When interviewing the facility, let them know about the special physical needs of your loved one and make sure that they can meet their needs.

Regularly Visiting Doctors And On-Call Doctors

The memory care facility should be regularly visited and on-call doctors available for the residents. Physical illness is common in residential care facilities. Also, physical ailments and difficulties can arise because of Alzheimer's disease. The physical medical needs of your loved one should be met regularly.

Having a doctor that regularly visits the facility as well as an on-call doctor for the facility ensures that any physical health conditions may be diagnosed and treated more quickly. This can improve the quality of life for your loved one and can also help to extend their life considerably.

24-Hour Registered Nurse Coverage

Some memory care facilities only have a registered nurse during the day, while CNAs run the show overnight. It is ideal if there is a registered nurse on-site running the floor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is important for making sure that physical health does not fall by the wayside while daily care is provided.

When there is a registered nurse on staff at all times, it means that if a CNA notices elevated blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, or other concerns, there is someone there who can determine if additional medical attention is required. CNAs are only equipped to facilitate daily care and take vitals. A registered nurse has more knowledge and capabilities to make sure that health concerns are addressed quickly.

Knowledgeable And Trained Staff

Unfortunately, not all CNAs and nurses are trained in memory care. While CNAs and nurses mayve have the skills required to care for the physical needs of the patient, they might not have the required training to be able to handle sundowner episodes or times of extreme confusion.

Choose a memory care facility that trains its staff specifically in memory care therapy and techniques. When this level of training is provided to staff, they are better able to cope if the patient becomes agitated or confused. This can improve their quality of life and also can help keep them out of danger.

Low Turnover Rate

A high turnover rate in a facility is an item of concern. If the memory care facility has a large amount of turnover of nurses or management, it could mean that it is not a well-run facility. Staffing could be a problem, where nurses are overworked. Or, the level of care may not be up to par, causing staff to leave for positions in facilities where care is taken more seriously.

Ask the memory care facility you are considering about their turnover rate. How long has their longest employed nurse been on staff? How long have their CNAs been on staff? How long has the facility been under the current management?

Having a high turnover can also be confusing for memory care patients. They may often become confused about where they are and why they are there. If you add to that constantly changing faces and names to try to recognize and remember, it can make things very difficult for your loved one.

Adequate Staffing Ratio Both Day And Night

Caregivers Of Patients With Dementia May Need Support, Too

Some memory care facilities have higher staffing during the day than they do at night. A fully equipped and staffed memory care unit needs to have adequate staffing at all times of the day. While it is true that patients should be sleeping at night so not as much care may be required, it is also true that Alzheimer's patients sometimes have episodes called “sundowners” during the nighttime hours.

Ask the facility staff when you interview them about the ratio of staff to patients during all shifts. While it is acceptable for there to be lower staff at night, there should still be adequate staffing to handle any problems that may arise. This should include a registered nurse and enough CNAs to handle any problems that may arise with the patients.

Individual Care Plans

The memory care facility should have an individual care plan for your loved one. Some facilities focus only on the basic level of care and group activities to help with the quality of life. However, your loved one may have specific needs and is unique to themselves. The memory facility must be prepared to treat them with kindness and respect and give them individual care at the level that they need.

Rich Activity Program

A rich activity program is another thing to look for in a memory care facility. When residents are active and social, it can improve their quality of life and can also give them more favorable outcomes with their memory loss or retention.

Activities should include celebrations for the holidays and birthdays, as well as group activities like BINGO nights, board games, or card games. Outdoor activities such as nature walks or gardening are also very helpful for maintaining physical health.

Professional Communication Practices

When interviewing the memory care facility, ask them how they communicate with you and others in the family, as well as with your loved one's primary care and memory care doctors. Communication practices are an important thing to consider because if the lines of communication are not open and frequent, it could mean that your loved one's needs are not met promptly.

Procedures For Medical Emergencies

You should also ask the facility about their procedures for various medical emergencies. While not very common, medical emergencies can occur when your loved one is in a long-term care facility. These events must be handled professionally and promptly to ensure that your loved one is getting the best care and outcomes.

Ideally, in a medical emergency, an ambulance will be called immediately while nursing staff assesses and treats the patient to the best of their abilities. The family and the patient's doctors should be contacted immediately as well, regardless of the time of day or night.

Cleanliness And Organization

The facility and residents should be kept clean and orderly at all times. This is important for the quality of life and maintaining physical health.

Ideally, a memory care unit will be clean and organized, but not appear sterile like a hospital. It should appear cozy and feel lived in. However, it must still be clean, disinfected, and organized in such a way that memory care patients can find their way around and find the items that they need when they need them.

Small And Controlled Number Of Residents

As a general rule, the smaller the number of residents in a memory care unit the better quality of care they will receive. Too many residents in a very large facility can be overwhelming for a memory care patient. It can also lead to staffing problems which can mean a lower level of care for your loved one.

Ideally, the memory care facility should be divided into units with similar patients. For example, if your loved one has very advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may be in a separate unit with only a few other patients that need that level of care, while other patients who do not need as much supervision are in another unit.

Secure Outdoor Areas

Having the outdoors is important for the quality of life of your loved one. Look for memory care facilities that have safety outdoor. A gated area with electronic locks on the entrances and exits is ideal.

The quality of the outdoor area is also important. Safe walking pathways, comfortable benches, and well-kept garden areas can be physically and mentally stimulating. If not, it should at least have some places for the patients to sit and enjoy a summer breeze or autumn leaves.

Getting Help With Your Choice

Finding a suitable memory care facility for your loved one is extremely important for their well-being and your peace of mind. You can get help choosing a memory care facility and finding memory care facilities near me by talking to a psychologist. The psychologist can also help you decide whether or not it is time for such care, and what level of care is required.

Making the decision to move your loved one – whether it is a parent, partner, or sibling – into a memory care facility can also be an emotional process. You may experience feelings of guilt or nervousness about entrusting their care to a stranger or removing them from a place where they feel comfortable and loved. An online therapist can listen empathetically to your concerns, point you to helpful resources, and assist you in coming to terms with a difficult decision.

Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, there is no need to sit on a waiting list or spend hours researching licensed therapists who are specifically trained to meet your needs. After completing BetterHelp’s initial questionnaire, you’ll be matched with a licensed counselor within 48 hours who can start meeting with you when it is convenient for your schedule. Additionally, you can attend appointments from the comfort of your own home, as long as there is a safety internet connection. This asset may be particularly helpful for people who are acting as the primary caregivers for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In such cases, it can be difficult to leave the home if there is no one available to supervise your loved one while you attend therapy.

Studies have shown that online therapy is an effective way to help people manage emotions like guilt or grief, which they may experience as they go through the process of transitioning their loved one to a memory care facility. The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of caregivers receiving accessible and affordable support, as a lack thereof can have detrimental effects on their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. In a study assessing one internet-based therapeutic intervention, participants experiencing depression and anxiety related to challenges with being a caregiver were sorted into two groups. In one group, caregivers received minimal interventions, mostly via e-bulletins, while the second group participated in a “Mastery Over Dementia” internet therapy method. The latter demonstrated effectiveness in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety among the family caregivers.


As you tour different memory care facilities in your area, we encourage you to seek whatever digital or print information is available, so that you can compare centers outside of your conversations with facility staff. It may be helpful to bring a notebook to make note of important questions or details, along with a friend or family who can act as a support and raise questions that you might not have considered. At any point in the process, you can turn to a professional mental health provider on BetterHelp to seek guidance, clarity, or help in overcoming difficult emotions. When you are ready, you can take the first step by completing the initial questionnaire.

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