Do your homework
Research beforehand and rely on trusted sources for information. Your states Department of Social Services or state-run Aging Services office will also have information on licensed and accredited facilities in your area. Additionally, through your state’s government website, you can enter search terms that fit your search, along with the zip code to see a list of facilities in the area. State agencies are often the regulating agency over the assisted living and memory care facilities, and they maintain the list of licensed facilities. Using this list will ensure that every facility you tour adheres to state regulations regarding health and safety. If you have friends or family members with loved ones in memory care, ask about where they reside and if they would recommend the facility. It is good to get a personalized review of a center from someone who regularly interacts with it instead of just relying on state guidelines and regulations.
Size and staffing
One of the most important things to consider is the size of the facility or memory care program. Is the facility large enough to offer the amenities your loved one needs, but still small enough not to overwhelm someone with memory loss? The staff-to-resident ratio is incredibly important to ensure that your loved one has round-the-clock dedicated care. It is important to research how many staff members receive additional training dedicated to memory care patients’ care. Inquiring how many caregivers are available during each shift is also vital to quality care.
Philosophy on care
Every memory care community has a unique approach to care. Learning more about each community’s beliefs will help you decide which is a good fit for your loved one. How does the facility go about creating an individual plan of care for each resident? Are families given the opportunity to participate in the process? Many dementia forms impact verbal skills and memory and loved ones may struggle to answer questions or communicate with caregivers. Is their care plan updated as their condition continues? These are all critical questions to ask as you tour a memory care community. Ask how their team balances safety with independence for your loved one, as both are crucial for memory care. Another question to consider during a visit is asking how staff and caregivers plan to get to know your loved one, and how they plan to learn about their life and personal preferences.
Evaluate enrichment and activities
Research indicates doing too much for someone with Alzheimer’s can undermine their independence. It can also cause the disease to progress more quickly. However, encouraging residents to do as much as possible might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Also, activities can enhance people’s quality of life with dementia if they work with the senior’s abilities. Ask about daily activities for residents in memory care as you are assessing potential communities.
The health department makes frequent in-person and unannounced visits to memory care communities—these surveys rate on care, services, and environment. The surveys evaluate policies and procedures, resident care, quality of care and quality of life, medication administration, medical records, kitchen sanitation, staff competencies, dietary needs, equipment, safety, and overall wellness of the community. Ask the staff at any facility that you plan to visit to review their most recent surveys with you.