“There are no consistent standards for memory care communities. Therefore, you have to do the reconnaissance work yourself. The three most important issues you should explore are the facility, your loved one, and the money.”
It is tough to watch your loved one go down the path of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. You want to make sure that she is safe and protected, yet treated with compassion and respect. If you are looking for the right fit for your loved one, it helps to know what to look for in a memory care facility.
There are no consistent standards for memory care communities. Therefore, you must do the reconnaissance work yourself. The three most important issues you should explore are the facility, your loved one and the money.
How to Check Out the Facility
Staff. The team should love their work. They should be there because they want to be, not because they could not get a job anywhere else. The facility should ensure that the staff is well-trained. The center should perform in-depth background checks before hiring an applicant. When you do drop-by visits, notice whether the staff interact with individual residents and engage them in activities, or whether they treat the residents as a group, which can be dehumanizing.
There should be at least one full-time staff member for every five memory care patients. If the ratios are higher, with more patients to each employee, they can only crowd control, not mindful nurturing. When memory care facilities are understaffed, the staff can become short-tempered, and the residents’ quality of life suffers. Understaffed facilities use more psychotropic medications to restrain the residents chemically. They may also just park residents in front of the television. In these environments, the mental status of the patient deteriorates, and her dementia worsens.
The physical structure. Dementia patients must be able to move around freely. A savvy architect will design a memory care facility with a circular hallway and secure, protected outdoor space to accommodate this need. In a traditional nursing home layout of dead-end hallways, dementia patients are more likely to wander away from the facility.
The community should be easy to navigate, with icons and user-friendly visual cues. There should be a visual cue at the entry to each resident’s room to help him find his place. Each resident’s room should be personalized, to reduce the “institutional” feel. Photographs and memory boxes can provide happiness and comfort to the patients.
The facility should be clean and organized. It is helpful to visit several times on different days of the week and different times of the day and night. Go to the center when they do not expect you, to see what happens when they think no one is looking. There should be no odors, unpleasant smells or “cover-up” aromas.
How to Evaluate Your Loved One’s Needs and Wishes
Needs. Your loved one must be safe and secure, but should not feel as if he lives in a fortress. He needs activities to keep him physically fit and mentally alert. When you visit the facility, make sure it will meet these requirements.
Wants. Some people prefer to spend their time with others of a similar cognitive level. Talk with your loved one to see if this is an issue. Facilities have varying levels of privacy and personal space. Remember this, so you will choose a center that will be a good fit.
Financial Considerations When Selecting a Memory Care Facility
Memory care facilities usually cost more than standard nursing homes. Ask if the facility accepts Medicaid. If it does not, your loved one might have to move if she exhausts her funds. Transitions can be more traumatic for people with dementia, so it is best to locate a facility where she can remain, regardless of finances.
Your state may have different regulations that govern memory care facilities. Because the laws are unique in every state and are constantly evolving, talk with an elder law attorney in your state.
Alzheimers.net. “Questions to Ask When Exploring Memory Care Options.” (accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-04-24/questions-to-ask-about-memory-care/
AgingCare.com. “Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Facility.” (accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-when-choosing-a-memory-care-facility-190140.htm
Kiplinger. “How to Choose a Memory Care Unit.” (accessed September 6, 2017) https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T027-C000-S004-how-to-choose-a-memory-care-unit.html