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Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Community

//Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Community

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Community

A diagnosis of dementia requires a lot of choices, all throughout the disease’s journey. One of the biggest decisions families will face is deciding when it’s time to place a loved one in a memory care community. This decision can be made early on in the diagnosis – in fact, experts recommend coming to a decision as early as possible so your loved one can have his or her say. Or the decision may come later when a family caregiver decides a loved one needs more assistance than can be provided at home.

“The decision of when it’s time to move to a memory care community is a personal decision and one that you should spend time considering,” says Michelle Strong, Resident Care Coordinator of Avalon Memory Care. “Once you’ve come to the decision that it’s time – or determined a timeline for when it’s time – you come to the next phase of decisions: choosing the right community for yourself or a loved one.”

As with anything in life, says Michelle, asking the right questions will help you narrow down your options and come to the decision that’s best for your family. And the right questions aren’t always about dollars and cents. “Memory care communities can offer a wide range of services, some which may be of great importance for your loved one and some that may not be necessary at all,” says Michelle. “That’s why before you jump in and begin touring memory care communities, it’s important to sit down with your family’s decision makers, thoughtfully consider what your loved one needs and then begin your search. The more information you have going in to a tour, the better equipped you’ll be to determine the best living situation for your loved one.”

Memory Care Communities: Your Options

Memory care is a specialized form of long-term skilled nursing that’s designed to meet the needs of individuals with cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory issues. Memory care can take place in a variety of different settings. Often, memory care is part of a community that provides other forms of senior care, such as assisted living or skilled nursing. In these situations, the memory care is part of what’s called a special care unit (SCU), which is a separate part of the facility that provides 24/7 care in a secure, supervised floor or wing.

A standalone memory care community, by contrast, is an entire community that has been specifically designed with the purpose of helping individuals with dementia to live safe, fulfilling and meaningful lives. The services, environment, activities and care are all dedicated towards helping slow or control the symptoms of dementia while giving residents the assistance they need to live as independently as possible.

While both options for memory care are excellent choices, you’ll want to consider more than care options when it’s time to pick the right choice for your loved one. After all, the choice you make will become your loved one’s home, so you want to be sure the atmosphere, environment and people involved are the right fit.

Before Your Search: Questions to Ask About Your Loved One’s Needs

Before you begin searching for memory care options for your loved one, it’s important to take an assessment of your loved one’s needs, preferences and abilities. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What is your loved one’s level of mobility? Is he or she able to walk around with minimal assistance, or is a wheelchair or walker required?
  • What are your loved one’s abilities? Is he or she able to function independently on some level? How much assistance does he or she need with activities of daily living such as grooming, toileting or bathing?
  • Does he or she exhibit any undesirable or unsafe behaviors? Aggression, wandering, inappropriate sexual behaviors, hallucinations or psychosis and sundowning can all be symptoms of dementia.
  • What additional medical issues does your loved one have? Does he or she have a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease that needs daily monitoring? Are there medical treatments that are ongoing, like colostomy care or dialysis?

Searching For Communities: Things To Consider

Location is the biggest and first factor you should consider when searching for a memory care community – and not just because it makes the physical move easier, says Michelle. “Experts and patient advocates all agree that proximity to friends and family are incredibly important when maintaining a high quality of life for someone with dementia,” she says. “Having familiar, loving faces around on a regular basis and being involved in the life of the community provide countless results and increase a resident’s happiness by an unmeasurable level.”

Being nearby is helpful for family members in a more direct way, says Michelle. “At Avalon, we say that family members are the secondary victims of dementia, and providing care and support for them is just as important as providing compassionate care for residents. Dementia is a journey that we all walk together, and as experts in memory care, we can be there every step of the way to guide, support and care for family members and friends just as much as the senior with dementia.”

Besides location, here are some other factors to consider when searching for communities to tour:

  • Levels of care provided
  • Proximity to healthcare centers
  • Community type (is it a standalone memory care community or a part of another facility?)
  • Living arrangements (do residents live in shared rooms? Private rooms? Are they in an apartment-like facility or are there standalone residences?)
  • Recommendations from friends or family

Based on your preferences and your loved ones needs, these questions will help you narrow down your search and choose two to three communities to visit in person.

Touring Communities: Questions To Ask

Once you’ve selected a handful of communities and scheduled tours, you’ll want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, as it were. The exact questions you’ll want to ask will be based on your own personal preferences and your loved one’s needs, but there are some basic questions you’ll want to be sure get answered at every community you visit. Here’s a starter checklist of questions for you to work from.

SAFETY AND STAFFING

  • How is the community secured? Is it a secure wing of a larger community, or is it a standalone community? How are the entrances and exits secured? Are there secured outdoor grounds that residents can visit at their leisure?
  • What type of training does the staff have? And how much training do they continue to receive on an ongoing basis? Does the community have high turnover, or is there staff that have been there for decades? You’ll also want to speak to staff members while you’re on your tour to hear their stories and see how they like working there.
  • What is the staffing ratio during the day? (number of residents per caregiver) Do the residents have “dedicated” staff who they will see every day, or is it a rotating group of individuals?
  • What is the staffing ratio at night? How often do they check in on residents?
  • How are care plans developed for each individual resident? Are family members brought in to help determine care? How much input do they or the resident get? How flexible is the care plan, and how often is it reviewed to ensure that it’s still working well?
  • Are there off-site physicians who visit regularly? If so, what specialties do they have? How often do they come? What sort of services do they perform?
  • What medical services are available on-site? Is there skilled nursing or rehabilitation available on-site?
  • How do you care for disruptive behaviors? Is the staff available and equipped to deal with aggression or other undesirable symptoms of dementia?

COMMUNITY POLICIES

  • How is admission determined? Does the community provide an assessment prior to admission? Where is that done? If they don’t do it, how is an assessment provided to the community?
  • What care services does the community NOT provide? Do they provide support and resources to external sources that do provide different types of care? If skilled nursing or rehabilitation services are available on-campus, how is a resident transitioned to and from?
  • How often are families updated about resident health and well-being? Is it weekly, every other week or as-needed?
  • What is the policy for handling a medical emergency?
  • How does the fee structure work? What does the monthly fee cover? Is it one flat fee, or are there separate fees for different types of services? How often is the fee recalculated and how is it communicated? What are any “hidden” fees,” such as entry fees or others?
  • What is the discharge policy? Is there a “three strikes” rule? How is discharge handled if necessary? What are the policies and what sort of aftercare is available to families and residents?

MEMORY CARE FEATURES & TREATMENTS

  • What are the living arrangements? Do individuals live in private or shared rooms? Standalone cottages? Small neighborhoods?
  • What is the dining program like? Is it restaurant-style? Family style? Are snacks available throughout the day? How is the food prepared? How are special diets handled?
  • What are outdoor grounds like? Are there circular walking paths? Therapy gardens? Any other unique features designed for the needs of memory care residents?
  • Do they group residents by cognitive level? Or are residents mixed throughout the community and allowed to mingle with others at leisure?
  • What sort of therapies are offered? What sort of physical therapy is offered? What other therapies are offered, such as pet, music or art?
  • How do you manage “transition?” Are you able to provide “bridge” services from earlier-stage dementia to the later stages? What does this look like and how does the care change?

YOUR GUT CHECK

  • How does the staff appear? Are they caring? Knowledgeable? Do they interact with the residents in a natural, caring and respectful way?
  • How do the residents appear? Are they out and about, engaged, taking part in activities? Is the staff actively helping them during your visit?
  • Do residents have free access to outdoor areas? If so, how are residents monitored to ensure safety and comfort?
  • Is the community easy to navigate? Is it brightly lit? Are the hallways clear of debris or tripping hazards?
  • How does the community look, smell, sound, feel? Does it look bright and well-kept? Does it smell “healthy?” Are people, overall, happy?
  • Does the community’s philosophy of care ring true to you? Is this a place you feel will adequately care for your loved one as if they were part of their own family?

There are a lot of questions to ask when it’s time to find the right memory care community for you or a loved one. Avalon Memory Care understands that this is a significant decision, and we are here to help you in whatever way we can – whether or not you choose us as a home for your loved one. To learn more about what to ask while searching for a memory care community, or to find out more about Avalon and how our continuous care and mental health care for individuals with dementia can make a difference in the life of your loved one, please contact us at (972) 713-1383.

By |2019-08-29T20:05:41-05:00August 29th, 2019|Categories: Memory Care|0 Comments