We’ve talked here on the blog about being proactive about researching memory care facilities. In a previous post we explained the difference between memory care and traditional assisted living. Here we will look at what is typically provided at a memory care facility and  provide a checklist for what to look for when trying to find the best residential care for your loved one.  

Typical memory care services:

  • A private or semi-private room 
  • 24-hour personal assistance 
  • Three daily meals 
  • Medication management 
  • Cognitive and physical therapies 
  • Exercise activities 
  • Social activities 
  • Housekeeping and laundry 

Checklist and Assessment for Facility

  • Security. How is the memory care facility secured? This is important not so much for the instance of intrusion, but for residents ability to exit the facility. Many suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s will have a tendency to wander. Things to look for: doors that are locked 24/7, bracelets with electronic sensors, personal security alarms. 
  • Exercise and fresh air. While security is important, the memory care home should not feel like a prison. Ideally, residents will have a secure outdoor area for getting fresh air and recreation. Free access to the outdoors is ideal. And circular paths for walking, both inside the facility and outdoors, are common in some of the best facilities for dementia patients. 
  • Daily structured activities. It’s been shown that structured daily activities, by a skilled nursing staff, can improve the quality of a person’s life. The best facilities will feature a full programming calendar for each day. A typical day might include art therapy, a session of bread baking, singing and a visit with a therapy dog. These activities are designed to help keep residents’ minds active and lessen symptoms of decline. Studies have shown that this type of memory care might also slow the progression of dementia.  
  • Availability of  psychiatric and psychological services. Many of the best memory care centers have on  staff or a visiting specialist that helps with residents’ psychological needs on a one-on-one basis. These professional can provide therapy and help patients establish or adjust a medication regimen as their disease changes. 
  • Visiting physicians or medical specialists. Because of the nature of memory decline, visits to outside doctors can be disorienting and stress-inducing. If these doctors can come to the residents’ it not only alleviates their stress but also eliminates the patient’s need for transportation to a clinic. 
  • Caregiver training. For optimal care, a registered nurse should be on duty 24 hours/day, as residents could have medical emergencies at any time. Ask for the hours of skilled nursing, and also ask about the training that personal caregivers receive. Inquire about the criteria for hires and how staff are training once hired? Go a step further and ask about ongoing continuing education and professional development.   
  • Staff to resident ratio. Memory care costs more than standard nursing home care partly because a higher ratio of staff to residents is needed for safety and comfort. Ask for the staffing ratios for daytime and night, as they are likely to differ. A typical ratio is 5:1.  
  • Customized care plans. Alzheimer’s and related diseases develop differently for every patient, so the best care for dementia patients is a highly personalized plan. It’s best not to consider a facility that doesn’t deliver this level of care. Also inquire whether residents are grouped by cognitive level. They should be.  
  • Specialized memory care services. Many facilities offer snoezelen rooms, special areas that use sigh, sound and other senses as a form of memory therapy. Some also recreate town centers and recreate areas that have elements similar to their youth. This is highly-specialized area of care, that will come with a higher price tag,  but might be a priority for you.  
  • Involuntary discharge policy. Residents of a senior facility, like residents of any mainstream apartment complex, can be evicted. This might happen if the resident becomes physically aggressive or otherwise disrupts the community. With memory care patients, disruptive behaviors are more likely regardless of the residents’ temperaments when they were more “themselves.” Inquire how the staff is trained to respond in case your loved one or another resident exhibits disruptive behaviors, and get a full understanding of the center’s policies for discharge. 
  • Extent of continuing care. Get a clear understanding whether they’ll be able to continue caring for your loved one if he or she becomes bedridden or needs to use a wheelchair exclusively. You might also want your loved one to live at a facility that has a snoezelen room, which uses sight, sound, and other senses for memory therapy. Some patients would also benefits from Parkinson’s therapy and other specific care options. 
  • Gut check. Your intuition matters here, so if you feel uneasy about a facility, don’t disregard those warning signs. As you tour a facility, pay special attention to what you see. Does the staff appear to be knowledgeable and caring? Are the residents able to go indoors and outdoors freely? Is the space soothing? Is it easy to navigate? Do residents seem happy? And finally, does their philosophy of care resonate with you 
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