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Memory Care Fact Sheet

  • Memory Care standards were introduced for the Nursing Care Center Accreditation program in 2014.

  • An optional Memory Care Certification was established for skilled nursing facilities/nursing facilities that provide memory care services and opt to obtain additional certification.

Memory Care Accreditation Requirements

The Memory Care accreditation requirements are applicable to all currently accredited nursing care centers, addressing critical quality and safety issues for nursing home patients and residents with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Research shows that nearly half of all short- and long-stay nursing home patients or residents have some degree of cognitive impairment. The requirements help nursing care centers enable patients and residents with dementia to function at the highest level possible, for as long as possible.

Nursing Care Center accreditation standards for memory care address five key areas:

  • Care coordination: Staff collaboratively assess, plan, and provide care that is consistent with current advances in dementia care practices.
  • Staff knowledge and competency: Staff have the qualifications, skills, training, and education to assess and provide care for a patient or resident population with memory impairment.
  • Activity programming based on abilities: Staff provide activities that match the patient’s or resident’s cognitive ability, memory, attention span, language, reasoning ability, and physical function.
  • Behavior management: The organization emphasizes the use of nonpharmacological interventions as an alternative to antipsychotic medications.
  • Safe and supportive physical environment: The organization modifies the physical environment to promote safety and minimize confusion and overstimulation.

Optional Memory Care Certification

Optional Memory Care Certification requirements build upon the Nursing Care Center accreditation requirements and recognize organizations that demonstrate advanced competency in dementia care services. To be eligible for Memory Care Certification, The Joint Commission requires skilled nursing facilities/nursing facilities to have an organized approach to the care, treatment and services provided to the special patient population. A distinct memory care unit is not required.

Key certification requirements include:

  • Specialized care and service programming centered around a patient or resident’s unique needs, preferences, abilities and interests, that are led by a qualified individual experienced and trained in the care of patients or residents with dementia.
  • Advanced staff training and demonstrated competence in current best practices in dementia care.
  • Engaging mealtime, social and recreational experiences designed for patients or residents with dementia that include families and opportunities for intergenerational activities.
  • Provision of a safe, functional environment that minimizes noise and confusing visual stimuli for patients and residents with dementia.
  • An organizational learning culture demonstrated by nursing home participation in activities sponsored by a national organization relating to dementia care.
  • Availability of support groups for family members of patients or residents with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Association collaboration

In 2022, The Joint Commission and Alzheimer’s Association announced a collaboration to further improve quality and safety in dementia care in skilled nursing facilities/nursing facilities. The organizations partner to evaluate ongoing scientific issues, standards and performance measures, and quality improvement initiatives, as well as to provide education programs and presentations, and share accreditation and certification information and data with the public.

Now in effect are updated requirements that align with the Alzheimer’s Association’s latest Dementia Care Practice Recommendations to better reflect current scientific evidence in memory care and provide an evidence-based approach toward ensuring the highest quality care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia in accredited and certified nursing care centers.

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