What to Look for In a Memory Care Program for Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease
It can be heartbreaking for family members of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s to watch as the disease progresses. Though individuals experiencing cognitive decline can often live alone in the early stages, when they may just have difficulty remembering names or losing items, they often require intensive support once symptoms worsen. Nonetheless, family members often don’t know what questions to ask a memory care community. This makes selecting the right memory care program challenging.
The following is meant to be a guide for those who are in the process of evaluating memory care communities.
What Is Memory Care?
Long-term care is almost always a necessity when a relative or friend has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Even if you have been providing at-home care for your family members, there may come a time when you can no longer act as their caregiver. And when that time comes, you will want to be sure that all their daily needs are taken care of and that they will receive personalized support from a team of professional caregivers.
While that kind of attention may be something you can get in assisted living or a nursing home, more often it’s found in a specialized memory care community. Unlike an assisted living community or a nursing home, which cater to residents with a wide variety of needs, a memory care community is specifically designed to keep individuals with memory impairments comfortable and engaged. Keep reading to learn more about what you should look for in a comprehensive memory care program.
How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program?
Choosing a memory care community is no small task, especially when you consider the special needs of residents with Alzheimer’s. However, finding a great place to live doesn’t have to be a difficult process—you just need to know what to look for.
With a little time and research, you can find great Alzheimer’s care near you. Here we’ve listed some of the most important considerations when evaluating and choosing a memory care program:
1. Familiarity with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease has unique challenges, including sundowning, unexpected agitation and a loss of motor skills. The senior living community you choose needs to be familiar with these issues as well as the other challenges that individuals with Alzheimer’s face on a daily basis. The more familiar the staff are with Alzheimer’s, the better they’ll be able to support their residents, including your relative or friend.
To find out how familiar the staff is at memory care communities in your area, here are some questions to ask a memory care community:
- How often are staff required to update training and education?
- What is the staff-to-patient ratio? Will that change during nights, weekends, and holidays?
- Will staff help with cleaning and dressing after instances of incontinence?
- What special security or supervision measures are in place to help prevent wandering and other behaviors associated with dementia?
- What is the protocol for behaviors like aggressiveness and wandering?
2. Family Involvement
Just because your mom or dad is no longer living with you or in their family home doesn’t mean they don’t have your full love and support. When searching for the right living environment for your parents or other relatives, you should consider communities that encourage families to participate in daily activities and care planning. Familiarity, love and support are some of the most powerful indicators of success for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, so you need a community that empowers you to provide all those elements.
It’s also essential that there are clear and open lines of communication available with staff so that you can be informed of any changes in your relative’s condition or care needs. Other questions to ask include:
- How does the memory care community handle visits from family members and friends?
- Are there certain hours or days when visitations are restricted? Do you need to make an appointment to visit a resident?
- Is family input considered when designing a care plan and activities for residents?
- How does the staff communicate with family? How often will you receive updates?
3. Quality of Care
Perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a great memory care program for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is the overall quality of care provided to each resident. What are the amenities and services offered for those in need of Alzheimer’s care? Do they offer special memory care activities? Always ask about the different memory care services offered that are designed to make daily life easier for those with Alzheimer’s. Key questions to ask include:
- What are the different levels of staff available on a daily basis? Does an RN visit regularly?
- Because everyone with Alzheimer’s or dementia has different experiences, are there structured activities set up throughout the day for those who feel comfortable with a more regular schedule?
- Do residents have access to outdoor activities? If yes, how is the safety of memory care residents monitored during outdoor activities?
4. Philosophy of Care
Different dementia care providers have different philosophies of care, or holistic approaches to support. One memory care program may use validation therapy, a form of talk therapy that centers around respect and empathy. Another might prefer cognitive stimulation therapy, an approach that invites dementia sufferers to engage in activities like cooking, singing or writing. Others might use a combination of methods.
Though no medication can cure dementia or Alzheimer’s, these holistic approaches are proven to help ease any anxiety, confusion or agitation your parents may be experiencing. To learn more about a community’s philosophy of care, ask questions such as:
- Does the memory care community provide counseling? If so, what kind of therapies are offered and how effective are these therapies?
- What efforts are made to help improve awareness, cognition and engagement?
- Since individuals with dementia are often faced with different challenges, is each resident provided with a personalized care program?
- How do staff support residents’ personal beliefs?
5. Encouraging Independence
Research suggests that caregivers often undermine the independence of those they care for. Though their intentions are good, by not allowing individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia to contribute to daily activities, caregivers are inadvertently quickening cognitive decline. Therefore, when evaluating memory care communities, it is important to discuss what efforts are made to decrease excess dependency.
Of course, balancing independence and safety can be challenging. Doing so requires that staff evaluate what individual residents are capable of, and then continue monitoring as their abilities evolve. To determine if memory care communities take these extra steps, consider asking questions like:
- How do staff determine which activities of daily living residents need assistance with?
- Are residents encouraged to participate in daily activities? If a resident needs helping bathing themselves, for instance, are they given the chance to shampoo their own hair or dry themselves?
- Do staff allow residents to make decisions for themselves? For instance, can individuals select what they would like to eat?
- Are residents allowed to move freely about the building?
6. Enrichment Opportunities
Individuals with neurodegenerative diseases benefit immensely from learning opportunities, social interaction and daily exercise. Enrichment opportunities not only improve quality of life, but have also been shown to slow cognitive decline. For these reasons, many memory care communities offer activities like yoga, poetry readings, communal dining, craft hours and more.
When evaluating memory care communities, be sure not to overlook the ways in which staff engage residents. Certain questions to ask include:
- Is a calendar of events and activities posted online for family members to view?
- What input do residents have in planning enrichment opportunities?
- Are enrichment opportunities customized for individuals who have varying needs?
- Do staff encourage residents to participate in activities?
Additional Questions to Ask a Memory Care Community
Evaluating memory care communities requires having thorough and detailed conversations with staff. Other questions you might consider asking during these conversations include:
- Is the memory care community easy to navigate?
- Are residents allowed to bring familiar personal items with them, such as photographs, bedding or a favorite chair?
- What level of personal assistance is available?
- How is your supportive living community secured?
- What is the community policy for handling medical emergencies?
- How often are housekeeping and laundry services provided?
- Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
- Do you accommodate special care needs for those with other chronic conditions or mobility issues?
- How many staff members are available during night shifts?
- What is your discharge policy?
- Are regular activities continued during weekends and holidays?
- Is transportation available for medical appointments and shopping for personal items?
- What additional treatments and therapies are provided? Physical therapy? Speech therapy?
- Are religious services and celebrations made available to residents who wish to participate? What about those that choose not to participate?
Learn More About Florida Memory Care at Presidential Place
Finding the right memory care community to fit the individual needs of a relative or friend is essential for their long-term happiness. And while a modern supportive living community may look great on paper, without access to specially trained staff and a dedicated memory care program, adults with Alzheimer’s may not be able to enjoy the best quality of life in their retirement years.
At Presidential Place, we understand just how important it is for our memory care residents to live life the way they want, while still having access to proper care and a safe living environment. Our supportive living community makes it possible for those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia to receive the personalized care and attention they need. To learn more about the services offered at our Florida retirement community, including our memory care neighborhood, give us a call today at (954) 737-3528 or contact our friendly admissions staff with any questions.