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The Complete Guide to
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Someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds. If that person is someone you love, you may feel overwhelmed by the challenges of the disease. 

In popular culture, dementia is portrayed simply as memory loss. In reality, it can affect everything about a person’s life and functioning, including their personality, mood, thought processes, and ability to care for themselves. It can also lead to physical impairments, such as difficulty walking. This is why memory care is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your loved one.  

At Wesley Life, we call memory care “memory support” because we believe our role is to support the individual and the family wherever they are. We go beyond traditional residential memory care, offering at-home services for comprehensive memory support. 

Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, it’s far from the only one families struggle with. There are various types of dementia, and many look different from Alzheimer’s. This can leave families struggling for answers and support.

Eventually, your loved one will need daily support to enrich their life and remain safe. Memory support can aid your entire family, reducing stress and caregiver burnout. It can also profoundly enrich your loved one’s life, offering dementia-friendly programming that caters to their specific needs. Many families find that residential memory support is especially helpful. It’s not the last resort; it’s a life-affirming option that can restore a sense of balance and improve your loved one’s quality of life. 

However, just as myths persist about dementia affecting only memory, so do misconceptions about what memory care is.

A dementia diagnosis is mired in uncertainty. For most forms of dementia, there’s no conclusive test. There’s also no way to predict the course of the disease. Some people remain stable for years, living relatively independently. Others decline quickly. Symptoms can also vary. You and your loved one may feel scared and frustrated that there are no clear answers.

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What is memory care? Who is it for?

Memory care caters to people living with dementia. This includes not only Alzheimer’s, but also lesser-known dementias such as Lewy body dementia and primary progressive aphasia. Quality memory support providers understand that dementia care is not one-size-fits-all and that individuals have varying abilities and needs. 

Additionally, memory support isn’t just for people living with dementia. It’s also for their families. The stress of caregiving is immense, and caring for a loved one can be expensive. Many caregivers report worsening health, depression, and chronic stress. Unpaid dementia care has an estimated economic value of $244 billion — a figure that doesn’t include the often exorbitant costs of health care and lost wages from taking time off work.

Over time, it can become simply unreasonable — and perhaps impossible — for a single person, or even an entire family, to provide quality care to a person living with dementia. Your loved one may need 24/7 support. They may wander, struggle to sleep, feel anxious, or experience depression and personality changes. They may be unable to be alone safely, even for a brief period. This exacts a significant toll on both them and you.  

Memory support can restore a sense of balance. It doesn’t replace you as a caregiver. You can still spend as much time with your loved one as you want. It merely provides a safe, supportive environment in which your loved one can thrive, giving you a break from caregiving stress.  


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When do I know it’s the right time to seek help?

Memory support can help people at many stages of dementia. And because planning for your loved one’s future may offer peace of mind, it’s truly never too early to reach out. Even if your loved one’s symptoms are mild, at-home care can make life easier for you and your family. At-home care means that your loved one keeps living at home but gets additional support from dementia experts.

You may also find that the right community offers a level of care you can’t provide at home. Community care is a residential approach to dementia care, offering a dementia-friendly environment and 24/7 supportive care.

For many families, the need for the right community or at-home services becomes more apparent as dementia symptoms become more severe. Here are some signs that suggest your loved one’s needs may exceed your ability to help them without additional support:

Psychological Symptoms

Dementia directly attacks psychological health. You may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • New or worsening mental health issues: People with dementia may seem anxious, angry, or depressed.
  • Personality changes: You may notice that your loved one no longer acts like themselves. Some types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, can cause dramatic behavioral changes.
  • Aggression: Dementia can leave a person confused and in pain. They may respond with aggression, especially if they do not understand what is happening or recognize friends and family.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities: Some people with dementia develop apathy. They may lose interest in previously beloved activities because of depression, anxiety, or cognitive issues.
  • Agitation: People with dementia may seem agitated, confused, or restless.
  • Sleep issues: Dementia can make it difficult to sleep at night, leading people to wander or engage in dangerous activities such as attempting to cook. Alternatively, some people with late-stage dementia begin sleeping most of the day.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms are the classic symptoms of dementia, but the specific symptoms you notice first depend on the type of dementia your loved one has, their environment, and other factors. Some particularly challenging cognitive symptoms include:

  • Wandering: People with dementia may wander, leave the house at odd times, or struggle to settle down at night.
  • Confusion and memory issues: Most people with dementia struggle with confusion and short-term memory. As the disease progresses, they may understand very little or even fail to recognize loved ones.
  • Speech: Some people with dementia develop speech impairments, lose the ability to speak, or struggle to understand spoken language.
  • Sundowning: Often, dementia symptoms become worse in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Poor judgment: People with dementia may display poor judgment, such as by driving when it is no longer safe, falling for scams, or frequently becoming lost.
  • Difficulties with self-care: Eventually, dementia affects self-care. People may struggle to dress, shower, bathe, or brush their hair. 

Physical Symptoms 

Dementia causes brain function to steadily decline. And because the brain affects everything in the body, it’s common for people with dementia to experience a range of physical ailments:

  • Mobility: People with dementia may develop mobility difficulties, tremors, or balance issues. This may increase their risk of falling.
  • Swallowing: Many types of dementia can affect swallowing. A person may struggle to swallow, aspirate on food or liquids, or swallow inappropriately large chunks of food.
  • Incontinence: This may begin as periodic incontinence or sudden sprints to the bathroom. Over time, a person may become fully incontinent.
  • Infections: Dementia weakens overall health, making a person more susceptible to infections. You may also notice that certain infections, especially urinary tract infections, worsen dementia symptoms.
  • Changes in appetite: Some people with dementia lose their appetites. Others crave only sweet or salty foods or even attempt to eat non-food items.

It’s also important to assess how dementia affects you as a caregiver. If you experience burnout or depression or feel emotionally overwhelmed, the right support can improve the quality of life for both you and your loved one.


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What care solutions are available to my loved one?

Memory support comes in many forms. If you prefer, your loved one may continue to live in their own home or yours. Community-based residential support is also a great option for moderate to severe dementia.

In-Home Services

You don’t have to live in a WesleyLife Community for Healthy Living to access our broad network of in-home services. In-home services provide non-medical assistance to help your loved one remain at home. Many families use in-home services to supplement the care they are already providing. Some support options include:

  • Light housekeeping
  • Help with activities of daily living such as dressing, grooming, and bathing
  • Meal preparation
  • Companionship and emotional support
  • Checking in when you can’t be there for your loved one
  • Pet care, such as walking dogs or feeding fish
  • Wrapping gifts and organizing the home
  • Help with other daily needs as requested by your loved one

Many people find that this support offers greater independence and relieves many of the stresses of caregiving. 

At-Home Healthcare Services

At-home healthcare services provide medical assistance from home health aides and offer support for some of your loved one’s health and medical needs, including:

  • Medication management and monitoring
  • Personal care assistance
  • Wound care
  • Diabetes management
  • Health education
  • Administering injections or drawing blood for medical testing
  • Speech, physical, exercise, and occupational therapies

Adult Day Services

Adult Day services provide supportive care outside your home during the weekday when your loved one would otherwise be alone at home. You can use Adult Day services every day or a few days per week as needed.

The Adult Day environment is structured and predictable, helping ease the anxiety of dementia and ensuring your loved one knows what to expect. Your loved one will enjoy social interaction, dementia-friendly programming, nourishing meals, and some time away from home. 

In many cases, a combination of at-home and Adult Day services enables people living with dementia to remain at home longer.

Continuing Care Communities

Continuing care communities offer flexible support for people with all varieties of dementia. The support changes as your loved one’s illness progresses, and your loved one will move from one level of living to the next based on their specific needs. WesleyLife Communities for Healthy Living offer assisted living with memory support that may be appropriate for those in the early stages of dementia and a level of assistance called CCDI memory care, which serves people with later-stage dementia.  

Although a person can move to a continuing care community at any time, many people elect to move soon after diagnosis. People living with dementia thrive on routine and consistency. Moving early empowers your loved one to become comfortable in the community, potentially easing anxiety. 


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How does residential memory support help people with dementia?

The right memory support can greatly improve your loved one’s quality of life. 

Ideal Memory Support Environment

The ideal environment reduces opportunities for wandering, keeping your loved one safe without needlessly restricting their movements. Residential memory support can reduce the risk of falls, ease anxiety, and provide a consistent routine that is reassuring to people living with dementia. Your loved one gains 24-hour care, support, and supervision from dementia experts, and you gain greater peace of mind.

Medication Management

Taking the right medication at the right time each day can improve your loved one’s quality of life. Medication management reduces your loved one’s risk of becoming ill from mixing medications or taking too many pills.

Dementia-Friendly Programming

Dementia fundamentally changes the way a person’s brain works. Rather than fighting these changes, memory support caters to them with music therapy, pet therapy, stimulating crafts, and plenty of social interaction.

Meal Preparation

Eating healthy, nourishing food can become difficult for a person with dementia. But food is fuel for the body and brain, and healthy eating may improve overall health. And, perhaps most importantly, food is an immense source of pleasure that no person with dementia should miss out on.


Memory support ensures your loved one has a beautiful, well-maintained space to enjoy. Regular housekeeping reduces fall risk and clutter and can make visiting feel fun instead of stressful.

Personalized Schedules

Every person living with dementia has different needs and desires. Memory support offers personalized schedules that provide predictability while enriching your loved one’s life. 

If you’re ready for more support, less burnout, and an inviting community for your loved one, residential memory support can be a great option.  

Take your time searching for the right community, and be sure to tour each one you’re considering — ideally with your loved one so they can also learn about the community.

Some features to look for in memory care include:

  • Supportive therapies such as music therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and physical therapy
  • Personalized schedules rather than a one-size-fits-all approach
  • A calm, predictable environment
  • Meaningful enrichment with a variety of programming your loved one may enjoy
  • A healthy diet that centers on your loved one’s dietary preferences and values
  • A chance to build meaningful connections with others
  • Consistent care and support rather than high turnover
  • Person-directed care
  • Family support services, such as support groups and dementia education
  • Strategies to support your loved one’s ability to communicate as their cognitive abilities change
  • A focus on good health, daily activity, and as much freedom and independence as possible
  • Dementia-informed care from experts


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What are my options for paying for memory care?

Dementia care can be expensive. Each provider is different, with its own approach to billing and financing. It’s important to understand how a provider bills for services early in the process because it may affect your family’s ability to budget for your loved one’s care.

For example, at-home services usually bill hourly, whereas Adult Day centers require a daily fee.

In residential memory support, you’ll pay a monthly fee that covers your loved one’s care, apartment, programming, meals, and more. Long-term care insurance often funds this, and Medicaid may provide funding in some contexts.

As you budget for memory support, consider that you will likely eliminate all or most other expenses from your loved one’s budget — including a mortgage, if a decision is made to sell their house.

Residential memory care also offers some financial benefits, including:

  • Tax breaks on your monthly fees
  • An end to property taxes
  • No more unexpected home maintenance expenses

Most importantly, the WesleyLife Promise ensures that residents will not be asked to leave their community homes if they deplete their financial resources through no fault of their own. Since our inception in 1947, we’ve kept this promise. The course of dementia is unpredictable, and you shouldn’t be forced to make decisions based on how long you think your loved one will live. You also shouldn’t have to delay care due to anxieties about running out of money. Once your loved one is a resident in a WesleyLife community, you and your family can depend on the WesleyLife Promise.

An accountant, wealth planner, or financial advisor can help you budget for a community and determine the best way to allocate family resources. 

So what are your options for paying for memory care?

Medicare Coverage

Medicare does not typically cover memory support, though it may cover short-term rehabilitation. It will also cover most other medical expenses, potentially reducing the total costs of dementia care. 

Additionally, Iowa’s Home- and Community-Based Services Elderly Waiver provides coverage for some home- and community-based care for people eligible for Medicare, including care provided by loved ones.

Health Insurance

Most insurance providers do not cover memory support. But like Medicare, they typically cover many other services, including some offered in memory care (e.g., speech therapy). 

Medicaid Coverage

Medicaid may cover memory care, if you qualify. 

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance typically covers memory care and assisted living, as long as you meet the policy requirements. Most policies require a dementia diagnosis, not just the presence of dementia symptoms, and evidence that the diagnosis impedes activities of daily living.

VA Benefits

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may pay for services for veterans who need support. This includes community-based memory care in some circumstances. VA Aid and Attendance benefits may also cover in-home memory support if you qualify.

Personal Funds

Most people cover the costs of memory care using personal or family funds. This might feel daunting, but you may have options you haven’t considered. Some sources to pull from include:

  • Family savings
  • Proceeds from selling your loved one’s home
  • Investment income
  • Pension and retirement funds


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How does memory support help with dementia?

Dementia may mean that your loved one cannot safely live alone. However, it does not necessarily undermine their drive to be independent and certainly does not prevent them from deserving to live with dignity. It also does not mean living in an unfamiliar setting is any less frightening.

WesleyLife Communities for Healthy Living offer person-directed living. Some goals of this model include:

  • Ensuring a collective sense of autonomy, dignity, and individual choice
  • Encouraging residents and clients to own their lifestyles and routines
  • Fostering relationships among residents, team members, families, and support systems
  • Identifying cultural, religious, and value-based needs, then finding ways to deliver services in conjunction with those needs
  • Honoring each client and resident as a whole, valuable person

Our approach to care demonstrates these goals in many ways:

  • We hire team members who do not rush. They ask residents about their wants and needs and provide care, compassion, and support.
  • We include families in the process, understanding that dementia affects an entire family unit, not just an individual. 
  • We offer care in comfortable, homelike settings that provide security and peace of mind.
  • We provide customized programming that honors your loved one’s personality and preferences, tailoring our programming to who your loved one was, is, and will be.
  • We offer dementia care interventions that alleviate anxiety and promote comfort.
  • We honor residents’ meal choices and preferred meal times.
  • We do not impose a rigid schedule on anyone. Residents determine their care routines, including showers, menu choices, sleep and wake times, and more.


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WesleyLife memory support provides many benefits.

Every WesleyLife Community for Healthy Living is unique, focusing on the needs and desires of the people it serves. Here are some examples of what you’ll find:

  • Holistic wellness with a focus on intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual engagement
  • Homelike environments that never feel clinical, sterile, or overstimulating
  • Caregivers who are trained in the latest approaches to engage mind, body, and spirit
  • Personalized schedules based on your loved one’s preferences
  • Caregivers who prepare meals, take care of housekeeping and laundry, and build warm relationships with your loved one
  • Social and wellness events that enrich your loved one’s life
  • Family involvement and support


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WesleyLife: Your partner for memory support.

WesleyLife is committed to meeting older adults and their families where they are, catering to their evolving needs. We offer residential memory support and other memory support services at the following communities:

  • Brio of Johnston: Located in Johnston, IA, Brio offers residential memory care.
  • Edgewater: Located in West Des Moines, IA, Edgewater offers residential memory support.
  • Fieldstone of DeWitt: Located in DeWitt, IA, Fieldstone offers residential memory care.
  • Hearthstone: Located in Pella, IA, Hearthstone offers residential memory support and memory care.
  • Heritage House: Located in Atlantic, IA, Heritage House offers residential memory care.
  • Illini Restorative Care: Located in Silvis, IL, Illini Restorative Care offers long-term care.
  • Park Centre: Located in Newton, IA, Park Centre offers Adult Day services and residential memory care.
  • The Summit: Located in Bettendorf, IA, The Summit offers residential memory support.
  • The Village: Located in Indianola, IA, The Village offers residential memory care.
  • Wesley Acres: Located in Des Moines, IA, Wesley Acres offers Adult Day services and residential memory support.

WesleyLife also offers a wide range of home services to help your loved one stay safe, healthy, and happy at home:

  • Home Care: Providing medical and non-medical support.
  • Adult Day Services: Empowering families with supportive care during the day.
  • Meals on Wheels: Delivering healthy meals and well-being checks every day.
  • Hospice Care: Offering compassionate, supportive care consistent with your family’s values at the end of life.

We are here if you’re ready to explore memory support options or get extra help for your family. Find a community that offers memory support.


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