Does your loved one suffer from dementia or another late-in-life cognative condition? Here’s how to choose the right assisted care living facility for them.
As of 2015, approximately 14.9 million people were caretakers for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Long-term caretakers such as these often experience profound stress.
Yet, moving your loved one to an assisted-care facility can be a nerve-wracking and guilt-inducing experience. Even when you know it’s time for your relative to go, it’s still hard to actually do it.
You want to find the perfect new home, where they will receive quality care by a friendly staff. Above all, you want them to be happy.
How do you do it? How do you find the right assisted care living facility for someone with dementia? What should you be on the lookout for, and what questions do you need to ask? In this article, we’ve got you covered.
What is an Assisted Care Living Facility?
Assisted living is also called board and care, adult living, or supported care. It is a long-term care option providing a bridge between living at home and entering a nursing home.
Individuals residing in assisted care living facilities generally receive:
- Supportive Services
Seniors in adult living communities may have a private room or share space in an apartment. Often they have the opportunity to take part in social activities. They also have access to transportation.
Assisted living works best for seniors who are still active but need some help with everyday activities. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, assisted living might be an ideal environment for them.
Not all assisted living residences have the resources to care for patients with dementia. Therefore it is important to ask when choosing a residence.
It is also important to think about the progression of the disease. The services your loved one needs today may not be the same ones they need six months from now.
Some assisted care living facilities have what’s called a Special Care Unit (SCU) or a special Memory Care Unit. These are designed specifically for individuals with dementia. Let’s explore them in the next section.
Memory Care Units (also called Special Care Units) are residences intended for people with dementia. A Memory Care Unit might be a specific wing in a traditional adult care home. Or it could be a stand-alone facility like Seasons Memory Care.
Either way, the staff at these Units is well-trained to meet the needs of seniors with dementia and impaired cognition.
They also have extra security and safety measures (think locked doors) to protect the residents. Outdoor areas are locked and secured, enabling the residents’ access to outdoor activity.
Memory Care Units also encourage residents to take part in activities designed to slow down the progression of the disease. Some of these may include music, games, and arts and crafts.
Often these Units have visual clues placed throughout the building. These help jog the memory of the residents, allowing them to move throughout the home with ease.
Stand-alone Memory Care Units are able to provide more services than those in traditional assisted care living residences. Many of them are architecturally designed to accommodate the needs of their special population.
For example, some Memory Care Units are built in a circular shape. This way, the residents can stroll the hallway without feeling stressed or getting too lost.
Assisted care living homes are suitable for people with mild or the early stages of dementia. If your loved one is in a later stage of the disease, memory care might be a better option.
Choosing a Home For Your Loved One. What Do You Need to Know
Placing your loved one in an assisted care living facility can be hard for everyone involved. To help find the ideal home, consider the following concerns and/or questions.
1. Visit the Home Many Times, Even During Odd Hours
When choosing a memory care home for your loved one, you need to do more than just read the description and take a single tour. It is important to visit numerous residences and visit each more than once.
In addition, make sure some of your visits are unannounced and at random hours like nights or weekends. When you show up unexpected, you get a real sense of the home. Look for the following things:
- Is the home clean?
- Do the residents seem well taken care of? Are their needs being met, or are they calling out for help?
- Are there enough staff members?
- If you are there during mealtimes, how does the food look? Does it taste good?
It is only with more than one visit that you can make an informed decision for your loved one.
2. Ask about Staff Ratio and Staff Turnover
Staff ratio is an important factor when considering a memory home because of the level of personal care required. Memory care facilities should have a single staff member for every five residents.
If the number is less than this, your loved one could end up spending a lot of time in front of the television.
Inquire also about staff training. How much training does each staff member receive and what kind? Staff members should have initial as well as yearly training. This way they update their knowledge with the latest evidence-based practices.
Finally, make sure to ask about staff turnover. Clearly, staff members who feel valued stay longer in their jobs than those who don’t.
What’s more, individuals with dementia need to feel a strong connection with consistent and kind caregivers. Staff members are also better able to help your loved one if they develop a relationship with them.
3. What Is the Adult Care Home Doing to Keep the Residents Occupied and Happy
It is important that the memory care center has daily routines but that they are not strictly enforced. Your loved one shouldn’t be bored.
There have to be everyday engaging activities designed to lessen cognitive impairment. Research shows that music, for example, slows dementia down. Your loved one deserves access to those kinds of pursuits.
Furthermore, people with dementia often wander and may seem distracted. For this reason, there should be some latitude in rules and schedules.
Lastly, the staff has to be available during the evening and at night. Many people with dementia are active and need help during unusual hours.
4. How Will the Staff Respond to Aggressive Behavior?
Sadly, people with dementia experience personality changes. Many have challenging behaviors and can become aggressive.
You need to ask how staff handles anti-social behaviors. No one wants their loved one receiving antipsychotic drugs or to be locked up.
Staff members must also be able to identify when these actions result only from basic unmet needs. A person with dementia may be hungry or tired and unable to express this problem. A good memory care home has staff trained to spot those kinds of issues.
Finally, residents have to be able to wander or roam freely in a safe space. You don’t want your relative in an enclosed and locked room because the staff doesn’t know what to do with them.
Memory Care for Your Loved One
Now you know what to look for in an assisted care living home. Moving your relative to a home or a memory center can be hard. But it is often the right thing to do. This is especially true as their cognitive impairments grow, and they are less able to take care of themselves.
If you found this article helpful, you might find other useful information on our website. For example, caretakers often neglect their own health. Maybe the article Cycle Your Way to Health could help you change that situation!
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