What to Look For When Finding a Memory Care Facility
Few situations are more stressful than having to find a new home for a loved one with dementia. When a medical provider recommends a move, it may be because your loved one is not safe at home anymore. Keep in mind, when the recommendation (or medical order) is made, it is often critically important not only for the well-being of the person with dementia, but in order to maintain the health and safety of those who are currently the caregivers.
If you are in the process of making this difficult decision, try to think of it as an opportunity for your mom, dad, or spouse to reinvigorate their lives! A memory care community can help your loved one maintain their health, make new friends, get great care, and find purpose in their days.
Here are some questions to ask a memory care facility and yourself when touring and considering different memory care communities.
What does the memory care environment feel like?
- Is it cozy? Is the atmosphere comfortable and homelike?
- How’s the temperature? Are the smells pleasant?
- Are there items of interest on the wall to attract attention and engage the residents?
- Is the television on with no one really engaged or is there some soothing music happening if there is not a scheduled activity going on?
- Do you see residents out and about, chatting together?
- Do you see staff interacting warmly with residents?
- Do residents seem calm and content overall?
- Are there trip hazards in the common areas or is there a clear, safe path for walking around?
- How’s the lighting? There should be plenty of natural light as well as ambient lights.
- What kind of interventions are tried here should a resident become upset? For example, is Aromatherapy in use?
What can you learn about the memory care staff?
- Are staff members trained in dementia care on a computer or do they get plenty of in-person instruction?
- How much training does the front-line staff receive upon hire as well as yearly on different dementia topics?
- Is the staff warm and friendly towards visitors?
- Do staff members seem to take their time around residents or are they rushing?
- If you have the opportunity, away from residents, ask a staff member, “What do you like about working with people who have dementia?”
- Ask how staff members are trained to deal with challenging situations, such as a resident pounding on the door and wanting to leave? (Encouraging answers would include “We are trained to validate the need behind whatever the resident is feeling, to comfort and reassure, and to redirect them to something that we know is meaningful or pleasurable for them” and “When possible, we take someone who wants to leave this part of the building for a short walk in another part of the building or (weather permitting) even outside.”
- What is the ratio of staff to residents? Is memory care currently full now? How many memory care residents will there be when it is full? (Does this sound like too big of a crowd for your loved one to feel comfortable?)
What is the level of memory care activity and engagement?
- Is there an activity staff person specifically assigned to the memory care community?
- Are activities ever scheduled after supper? How about on the weekend? If you get an activities schedule, look to see if the weekend schedule is as full as the weekday schedule.
- Ask to observe an activity (note the level of engagement of the participants). Is the activity being done FOR the residents or (preferably) is there lots of interaction and participation, because the activity is being done WITH the residents?
- How often do staff engage residents during the down time they have between cares?
- How much is music a regular part of the life of the community?
- Are there any service projects being done?
- Do Assisted Living residents and Memory Care residents ever come together and interact?
- How would my loved one be made to feel useful in this community?
Does the well-being of memory care residents seem to be a priority?
- Observe the relationship between front line staff and memory care residents very closely. The quality of life of your loved one will be dependent on the quality of the relationships she or he has with the staff who interact with them the most.
- Ask how consistent the staffing patterns are. Will your loved one have the same person helping them for a certain number of days in a row? Consistent staffing patterns are a very good sign because it indicates that the caregivers have worked at the site or in memory care for many years.
What support is available here for family members?
- Is there a Care Partner Support Group that meets onsite or nearby?
- How often are educational presentations given about dementia or related issues?
- How often will you be invited to attend a care conference concerning my loved one?
- Has this site had experience with different types of dementia (such as Lewy Body, Frontotemporal, and Vascular)? Even if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, you want to know if the site has experience and training on working with different types of dementia.
Other Considerations and Questions to Ask a Memory Care Facility
This is by no mean a complete list of what you will want to ask when finding a memory care facility, but it’s a start. Here are two additional topics to discuss:
- Ask the person who is touring you, “What are you most excited about currently in terms of what is going in in your memory care community?”
- Think about your loved one, their personality, their habits, their interests and accomplishments, and ask specific questions to determine how all of that might be catered to at the memory care community.
Finding a memory care facility for your loved one can be a stressful process but by following this list of questions and considerations, you’ll feel more prepared while touring and making a decision. A memory care community should provide your mom, dad, or spouse a safe and engaging lifestyle.
If you have any additional questions on how to find a memory care facility, we encourage you to reach out to our team at The Pillars Senior Living! We look forward to discussing the above questions during a tour of our memory care community near you.
– Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dimensions Coordinator