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Key Elements of Care
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The Alzheimer’s Association created the document Key Elements of Dementia Care to define, describe and illustrate dementia-capable care in residential care settings such as retirement communities, board and care, and assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Key Elements of Dementia Care is a guide for providers (owners, operators, administrators and hands-on staff) as they develop or enhance existing programs for people with dementia.

Alzheimer/dementia care focus

Alzheimer/dementia care is unique and ever-changing. Persons with dementia and their families have special needs. Programs, environments and care approaches must reflect this uniqueness. An Alzheimer/dementia care focus emphasizes a commitment to providing care and encourages providers to explore their commitment and become more skilled in working with people with dementia and their families.

Assessment and care service plans

Developing an effective care/service plan for a person with dementia requires careful assessment of that person, a detailed plan and attention to the individualized needs of persons with dementia. All individuals (including the person with Alzheimer’s, family and staff) should be involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of the assessment and care/service plan process.

Ongoing resident care

Ongoing resident care requires that day-to-day care is individualized based on the resident’s capabilities, physical health, behavioral status and personal preferences. Alzheimer/dementia care also should always recognize the individual with respect and dignity. 


The activities that make up a resident’s daily experience should reflect, as much as possible, the individual’s preferred lifestyle while providing a sense of usefulness, pleasure, success and as normal a level of functioning as possible. Activity programming is fundamental in Alzheimer/dementia care because it maximizes independence while focusing on strengths and abilities.

Human resources

Staffing is an essential element of a special care program for people with dementia. Nothing can replace the person-to-person sensitivity of a dedicated staff caregiver. Selecting and adequately training good staff to care for residents with dementia will improve job satisfaction and the quality of residents’ lives. Staff members should be appropriately trained in the various components of Alzheimer/dementia care and have ongoing opportunities for education and support. Staff should also demonstrate dementia-capable skills and knowledge before caring for residents with dementia.


The environment (physical, social and cultural) should be designed to encourage and support independence while promoting safety. The physical world does not exist in isolation but interacts with the activity program, level of resident capability, staffing, budget constraints, and organizational policies and procedures. It is the combination of all these factors that creates the care setting.


Alzheimer's Association

Our vision: A world without Alzheimer's disease®.
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.