When your loved one with Alzheimer’s or other memory issues needs long-term care, you should not move them into a nursing home without asking additional questions to make sure it is the right facility. Unless you have faced this situation already, you might not know what to evaluate, when considering the needs of your aging relative. Here are pointers on how to select a memory care facility for your loved one.
STEP ONE: Assess the Needs of Your Loved One
Memory care facilities are not “one size fits all.” Many people make the mistake of lumping all seniors into one or two baskets, but we remain diverse and unique as we age. Before you can find the right facility for your relative, you must assess his status. Evaluate these areas of needs and functioning:
- Whether he has diabetes, heart disease, or some other significant medical condition, besides his need for memory care, and if he needs regular medical treatment.
- Whether he needs help with daily living activities like eating, bathing, or toileting.
- Whether he needs constant supervision.
- His need for assistance with sitting, standing, walking, and transferring at the bed or tub.
- His history of wandering, aggression or behavior issues.
After writing down the details of your loved one’s condition, you can look for a facility that will meet his needs. For example, if he needs dialysis or 24/7 supervision, do not waste your time looking at centers that do not provide those services.
STEP TWO: Evaluate the Facility’s Ability to Meet Your Relative’s Needs
- Many long-term care centers are grossly understaffed. They rely on the employees with the least training and lowest paychecks to provide the lion’s share of the direct patient care. When the underpaid staff members are unfairly overworked, they can become resentful and take it out on the residents. Discover the staff-to-resident ratio for the day shift, evenings, nights and weekends. Have the care facility break down the staff by those who provide direct patient care and those who do not, for example, maintenance, janitorial, cooking, laundry and administration.
- Get a written statement of the center’s policies on notifying families about well-being, handling medical emergencies, fee structures itemized for housing and care, how they protect residents from physical and financial abuse and the services the facility provides. Make sure the facility does not over-medicate residents to make them less demanding or difficult. Discover the deposit refund policy, if the placement does not work out for your loved one.
- Care for memory issues. When your loved one is struggling with cognitive issues, a “cookie cutter” nursing home will not do. With specialized care, many aging people can retain their alertness and engagement for a longer while. Discover what memory or cognitive-focused care the facility provides, such as light treatment, circular walking paths, special dining programs, dementia care and Parkinson’s care. Learn what therapies the center can offer, like art, music, and pet therapy. See if the residents live in cottages or a more traditional institutionalized setting.
STEP THREE: Making a Decision
You have to make the choice of the memory care center for your loved one. Tour at least three facilities, talk with people whose parents are in specialized care and observe how happy and active residents and staff seem to be at the center. Trust your instincts, if something feels wrong about a place. Include your loved one in the process. After you find two or three acceptable options, let your loved one select from those choices.
This article covers the general law, and regulations are different in every state. Talk with an elder law attorney near you.
Alzheimers.net. “15 Questions to Ask When Exploring Memory Care Options.” (accessed June 27, 2018) https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-04-24/questions-to-ask-about-memory-care/
Kiplinger. “How to Choose a Memory Care Unit.” (accessed June 27, 2018) https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T027-C000-S004-how-to-choose-a-memory-care-unit.html
A Place for Mom. “Memory Care Checklist.” (accessed June 27, 2018) https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/memory-care-checklist