Memory loss is a dehabilitating condition which affects more than 5 million Americans and is especially prevalent among the elderly. Older adults who suffer from memory loss may experience mood swings, disorientation and confusion. Ordinary tasks such as bathing, cooking and cleaning can eventually become overwhelming. People with memory loss or dementia — which is often caused by Alzheimer’s disease — may become lost in their own homes or neighborhoods, or have trouble recognizing longtime friends and family members. Memory loss can be frustrating and emotionally devastating for everyone involved.

The unique needs of people with severe memory loss are difficult for many treatment facilities to accommodate. Nursing homes and assisted living centers often lack the security and monitoring to ensure the safety of dementia patients. Assisted living facilities are adequate for patients with mild symptoms of memory loss, and nursing homes have the structure, programs and personnel to help patients with more moderate cases of dementia.

Alzheimer’s special care units, or SCUs, are the most intensive care options for people suffering from severe memory loss. Some SCUs comprise entire floors of hospitals or nursing homes, or they may stand alone as their own private facilities. These healthcare facilities are built with secured entrances and walkways where patients can walk without getting lost. Outdoor walking and sitting areas are spacious and enclosed. Indoor hallways are often built in circular patters so patients can walk without hitting dead ends, which can cause frustration and sadness in people with dementia. Patients with memory loss receive treatment according to the severity of their conditions. Many patients require assistance with daily activities such as cleaning, cooking and bathing. Others may require counseling or therapy. These facilities provide staff at all hours of the day and night who can respond to the unique needs of their residents.

The majority of older Americans with memory loss choose to receive care in their homes at a cost of roughly $19,000 to $55,000 per year, most of which is paid out of pocket or by patients’ families. The annual cost of nursing home care is about $90.000 to $100,000, though costs can be more expensive in some special care facilities. The cost of treatment in an Alzheimer’s care unit is comparable to the cost of treatment in a nursing home.

Memory loss care facilities offer an array of services and programs. When considering a care facility for a patient with memory loss, be sure to carefully consider all of your options before finalizing your decision.