Alzheimer’s Care Facilities

Questions to Ask to Find The Right Memory Care Community

SeniorAdvisor.com Blog How To Find The Right Alzheimers Memory Care Community

The first rule for finding a memory care community that you will feel comfortable allowing to care for your spouse or family member is to start your search early. Many families don’t want to confront the possibility that they may no longer be able to care for a loved one dealing with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. As a result, they wait until the situation reaches a crisis stage, when the spouse or family caregiver is simply no long able to provide adequate care. At that point, the main search criteria becomes finding a facility with a vacancy, rather than finding the facility that will best serve the all-around needs of the loved one and the family. This can vastly limit the choices and options.

Even if the possibility seems remote, if there is any possibility at all that your or your loved one may need memory care in a residential facility, it’s a good idea to start exploring the options as soon as possible. Admittedly, this can be an awkward and uncomfortable process. A senior with early stage Alzheimer’s or dementia may very well feel upset or insecure about the possibility that he or she will no longer be able to live and be cared for at home. Ideally, it is best to have the person dealing with the memory impairment issue be as involved as possible in decisions that will determine his or her future living arrangements. But if the subject is just too upsetting, the family may have to explore the options without their loved one’s active participation.

As you seek information, there are questions you need to ask yourself about your loved one’s needs, as well as questions you need to ask the staff of any community you are considering:

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Loved One’s Needs

• What is your loved one’s level of mobility? Does he or she walk independently, or require a walker or wheelchair?
• Does your loved one show aggression or other behavior issues?
• Does your loved one wander or seek exits?
• Does your loved one need help eating?
• Does your loved one need help toileting or have incontinence issues?
• Does your loved one require care for diabetes, or need ongoing medical attention for any other chronic medical condition (such as dialysis, respiratory therapy or colostomy care)?
• Does your loved one need 24/7 supervision?

Questions to Ask the Memory Care Community

Safety and Staffing

• How is the environment secured? Are there secure and pleasant outdoor areas as well as indoor areas?
• What type of special memory care training does the staff have? How many hours of training? How often are staff members assessed to see if their training is adequate?
• What are the staffing ratios during the day and at night?
• Does each resident have an individual care plan based on his or her unique needs?
• Is a nurse on duty 24 hours per day? If not, how many hours is a nurse on duty, and what are those hours?
• Is there a visiting physician?
• What medical services are available? What hospital will a resident go to in case of a medical emergency?
• Can you care for wheelchair bound or bedridden residents?
• Are you able to care for residents who are physically aggressive or who exhibit disruptive behaviors?
• Can outside (visiting) care be arranged? If so, who coordinates that care?

Community Policies

• What kind of assessment do you provide before admission?
• What types of care are you not able to provide? How do you transition residents from basic memory care to skilled nursing?
• How often will you provide updates about our loved one’s well-being?
• What is your policy for handling a medical emergency?
• How does the fee structure work? Is there one flat fee, or separate fees for housing and care?
• What is your discharge policy? Do you provide total continuity of care from early to late stage dementia? Is it possible my loved one will no longer be able to be cared for at your facility?

Memory Care Features and Treatments

• What are the living arrangements? Is there a Special Care Unit (SCU) just for residents with memory care issues?
• Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
• What kinds of therapies and activities are offered? What is the guiding principle of care?

Your Impressions from an Unannounced Visit

• Pay at least one unannounced visit to the community. Does that visit make as favorable an impression as when you took a guided tour? Are the staff members as welcoming and courteous? Are the residents as well cared for? Is the environment as clean and well-maintained?
• In general, does the staff appear to be knowledgeable and caring? Is the atmosphere calm and organized?
• Look past the aspects of the environment that are designed to provide “curb appeal” to prospective customers and visiting family members and try to see the environment as the residents see it: Is it comfortable and comforting? Is it designed to enhance residents’ independence and freedom of movement, while keeping them safe from wandering? Is the layout easy to navigate? Do residents have access to pleasant but secure outdoor areas?
• Talk to family members of current residents: What are their impressions? Have they ever had a problem? If so, was it resolved to their satisfaction? Do they feel welcomed by the staff?

We encourage you to print these questions out and take them with you as you begin researching and touring memory care facilities for your loved one. For more questions to consider, please see our 5 Questions to Ask When Searching for Senior Care.


Written by Rich Malley

To find a memory care facility in Las Vegas, Atlanta, or another city near you, please visit SeniorAdvisor.com.

Senior Advisor's knowledgeable writers blog about senior care services, trends and more.

3 Comments

  1. Laura July 10, 2014 Reply

    I love the Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Loved One’s Needs. I use many of these when working with families who are researching the community I work at. On the Unannounced visits- Thank you for noting the unannounced visit is different than the guided tour. It makes me sad when I’m on a scheduled tour and someone shows up unannounced wanting to tour as well. Quick Tip- many times resident sit on the front porch or gathering spaces in the community. These are great folks to get an unbiased reference from! They almost always have opinions and feedback to share.

    • Amelia Willson July 12, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Laura. Great tip to encourage families to strike up conversations with residents in the common areas!

  2. Melissa - Seniorcare-homes.com January 22, 2016 Reply

    Yes, we need to know and understand more about special memory care training the staff has. As I learned, memory care is specialized skilled nursing distinct from assisted living.

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