What To Look For When Touring Assisted Living Facilities

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Considering assisted living or memory care for a loved one is often a very difficult decision, and finding the right facility is important.  Not only for your loved one’s health and well being, but for your own peace of mind.

When you tour facilities of course you will notice details like how clean it is, if it is well lit and in good condition.  But to get the most out of your tour The Memory Center has some tips on other items to look for and questions to ask.

Staff to Resident Ratios

This is an important question to ask, not only for daytime, but during the evening and overnight hours as well.  The higher the ratio, the more residents each staff member is taking care of during their shift.

The Memory Center’s ratio is 4 residents to 1 staff, which gives all our staff members more time to spend with residents, providing individualized attention and responding to resident needs.

What Activities Are Provided?  Is There A Schedule?

No one wants their loved one sitting alone in a room all day bored, or in front of a TV.  Activities are important in all types of assisted living and memory care facilities.   Ask to see the activities schedule and, if possible, tour when activities are taking place so you can see them first hand.  A sign of a good activities program is when the residents and the staff are engaged and having fun together.

If you are visiting a facility specializing in care for Alzheimer’s or dementia ask if the activities are designed to encourage motion, stimulate memories and keep boredom away.   Read about a typical day at The Memory Center Richmond and Virginia Beach.

How Is The Food?

memory care richmond
Resident Dining – The Memory Center, Richmond

Mealtimes are important, as is the quality of food.  Bland and boring food can get old very quickly.  Ask to see a menu and note the entree options.  Is there a good balance of choices and is the menu nutritionally sound?  Visit the dining room and, if possible, join them for a meal and taste the food for yourself.

What Is Included In The Cost Of Assisted Living?

Assisted living can be expensive and what is included in a daily or monthly rate will vary from one facility to the other.  Ask for a detailed list of what is, or isn’t, included so you can accurately compare and avoid surprises later.

The Memory Center offers an all-inclusive rate so families know what to expect.  Our memory care pricing includes:

  • Private & semi private rooms including private bathrooms
  • Three daily meals, snacks and daily ice cream socials
  • Emergency pull cord in every room
  • Memory boxes to help stimulate meaningful memories of their life
  • Utilities to include: Cable, Telephone & Wi-Fi
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Maintenance of building and grounds
  • Outings with the Activities Program
  • Items from visits to the General Store

Personal Assistance

  • Highly trained staff to assist with activities of daily living including bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting
  • Medication management by our certified medication technician
  • Health monitoring by a RN nurse
  • Medical oversight by physician trained in geriatric care
  • Full activities and Memories and Motion program designed by our Activities Director
  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy with a physician prescription as needed
  • Hospice/End of Life Care available

The only additional costs are incontinence supplies, salon services, long-distance telephone or transportation to an individual appointment.

How Is Bathing & Personal Care Handled?

How often do they bathe residents, wash their hair, help them shave if necessary?  If you have bathing preferences for your loved one find out if they can honor them.  Don’t forget to observe the current residents.  Do they look clean and well-groomed?  Are they dressed in clothing or still in pajamas well into the afternoon?

What Are Their Security Measures – Indoors and Out

What security protocols does the facility have in place to keep residents safe indoors and out – including every day safety like trip hazards.  Do the walking paths have uneven footing or tree roots sticking out that could cause a fall?  Are cords to lamps keep close to the wall to avoid a trip hazard?  Is the space wide enough and open so residents can safely move throughout the facility?

If you are visiting a memory, or Alzheimer’s care facility ask how they manage wandering and what steps they have in place to prevent it.

First Impression

While it is important to ask questions and gather information, based on your first impression and instinct you will probably know when you’ve found the best facility for you.  If your first impression of an assisted living facility is that it is too dark and smells bad, it probably isn’t going to be your top pick, even if the food was good.

Tour The Memory Center

Currently the Memory Center operates two facilities, Midlothian (near Richmond, VA), Virginia Beach and Atlanta. Our  communities provide exceptional care for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  We founded the first assisted living facility devoted specifically to memory care with a program designed to meet the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community.

Contact us for more information or to set up a tour.


Tips For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

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Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is challenging.  If you are caring for a spouse or close family member it can be even more challenging as you’re also dealing with the emotion of seeing a loved one in a state of decline.

There are some practical tips caregivers can take to help manage stress.

Reduce Alzheimer’s Frustration & Agitation

activites for alzheimers patients
Activities like gardening can inspire purpose and prevent boredom.

Agitation is common in people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Agitation can be caused by boredom, new situations, fear stemming from trying to make sense of a world they don’t understand, or basic needs like hunger.

Caregivers might not be able to reduce agitation completely but there are steps they can take to get ahead of it.

Take note of when agitation seems to occur.  Is it a a specific time of day around mealtime?  Perhaps they are hungry or thirsty.  Is it at a busy time of day when other family members are coming home from work? If so try to limit noise or outside distractions and engage them in an appropriate activity.

Activities that provide a sense of independence and purpose can ease agitation – especially with those in the early stages of the disease.  Familiar activities like setting the table, gardening, folding laundry, helping in the kitchen (with supervision), or their favorite craft. See our ideas for different activities or  these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Realize You Are Not Alone

While caregivers may feel isolated, it is important to know many others are in the same situation.  Don’t be afraid to attend support groups where you can share your feelings or ask for helpful ideas. The Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also offer online forums and support where you can connect with others 24 hours a day.

Develop A Schedule

Develop a basic schedule based around your loved one’s mood and needs.  For example scheduling appointments, bathing and other activities in the morning when they are rested and have more energy.

As late afternoon approaches you may sense a trend of wandering or agitation from sundowning.  This could be a good time of day to engage them in easy, soothing activities such as listening to music, watching a familiar movie, clipping coupons or looking through old photos.  Click to read The Memory Center tips on how to manage sundowning.

Acknowledge Each Day Is Different

Even with a schedule every day will be different and sometimes you just need to be flexible.   Those with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, will have better days than others.  There may be days you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished – and it is OK to feel that way.  Keeping someone fed, safe, bathed and occupied is a big job and an accomplishment in itself.

Think About Safety

In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s also affects other brain functions including sense of perception and balance.  Creating a safe place in the home where they can walk safely without trip hazards including rugs, cords, or sharp corners is highly encouraged.

Another safety concern is wandering, which is a common behavior for people with memory loss. Even if your loved one isn’t wandering, it is still a good idea to take steps to prevent wandering before it starts. Consider installing locks high up on doors and adding an alarm system, or a simple bell mechanism, that will alert you if a door has been opened.  ID bracelets and other tracking devices like Medic Alert can help identify your loved one should they wander off.

Take A Break & Ask For Help

Caregivers are under a lot of stress and often don’t take time to keep up with friends, exercise routines or their own needs.  Not taking breaks can easily lead to fatigue and caregiver burnout which isn’t good for you or your loved one.

Even if someone with Alzheimer’s objects, caregivers need to schedule time away on a regular basis.  Ask another family member for help or consider using respite services who can provide caregivers experienced in working with people living Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Get More Alzheimer’s Tips

The Memory Center is dedicated to meeting the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community designed around the individual.  We are here to support our current residents, future residents and their families by providing resources and exceptional programming to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Fill out our contact form to receive more tips and information on how to live well with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Wandering

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People suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are prone to wandering, which can be extremely dangerous for the person and very worrisome for caregivers.

There are different reasons for wandering including boredom, fear, searching for something or trying to find a place from their past such as work or a childhood home.

Regardless of the reason someone wanders, caregivers should learn to identify the signs of wandering and know how to keep their loved one safe.

Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Wandering

While not all wandering can be prevented, picking up on cues can often stop wandering before it starts.  Watch for signs such as:

  • Has To Be Somewhere – A person who insists it is time to go to work or pick up a child from school could be moments away from walking out the door
  • Boredom and Restlessness – Someone who isn’t getting enough exercise or stimulation can begin wandering simply to find someone to talk to or something to do
  • Needing To Find Something  – When someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia starts looking for a specific object or person they may wander off to find it
  • Basic Needs – Consider your loved one might be wandering simply because they want a drink of water at night or need to use the restroom

Pay attention to these cues and note the time of day. You may see a pattern emerge.

preventing wandering
Prevent Alzheimer’s Wandering

Preventing Wandering

Once you identify the signs of wandering you can make a plan to control the behavior more effectively and diffuse the situation.

If you notice wandering is happening during certain times of day plan an activity beforehand such as going for a walk together, playing cards or working in the garden.

You communication style can also make a difference.  If  dad becomes restless and decides it is time to leave for work don’t argue with him or remind him he retired years ago.  Instead try validating his feelings and re-directing him to another activity.  For example say “you’ve always been such a hard worker” then ask if he will help you fold the laundry.  Or acknowledge his need to get to work then ask him to tell you about his job. Talking about the memories might be all that is needed.

If wandering at nighttime is a problem make sure your loved one uses the restroom before bed or keep a spill proof cup of water next on the nightstand.  This may prevent wandering to the restroom or kitchen during the night for a drink of water.

Keep Them Safe From Wandering

Getting ahead of wandering behavior is important, but there additional safety measures you can take to keep your loved one safe.

  • Place locks high on the door or low to the ground where they are not in the person’s line of vision
  • Use childproof door knob covers or disguise the door by hanging a curtain over it or painting the doorknob the same color as the door
  • Keep trigger items like car keys and shoes out of sight
  • Create a safe place for wandering in the house or secure backyard free of trip hazards like cords or tree roots
  • Install a security system that alerts you when a door is opened, or simply place a wind chime or bell on the door
  • Consider an ID bracelet or a GPS monitoring system such as Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return

About The Memory Center

Founded as the first assisted living facility devoted specifically to memory care, our program and communities are custom designed to meet the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community.

We support not only our residents, but also their families encouraging them to stay involved and ask questions so they can rest easier knowing their loved one is safe, happy and receiving care they can feel good about.  Contact us for more information or read more about a typical day at The Memory Center.

Downsizing to Move Into Assisted Living

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Trying to downsize your home, or an older loved one’s home, for a move to assisted living isn’t easy.  Figuring out how to start can be tough. Especially if they have lived in their home for many years.  Deciding what to keep vs. selling or donating can be emotionally challenging for many people.  Then moving day and the first few weeks after the transition can be just as hard.

The Memory Center guide to downsizing features best practices for making the process easier.  You will find tips on everything from how to get started, choosing a realtor who understands the needs of seniors to preparing for moving day and getting settled.

Packing Up & Moving On

Moving from a home full of memories and treasures can be an emotionally and physically exhausting process. If you have the luxury of time, tackling the downsizing in stages is our best recommendation.

Here are best practices for getting started:

  • If this isn’t an emergency move, start by planning what to do when. Set a timeline with milestone dates and divide up duties among family members.
  • Next, conduct a room by room inventory of furniture, household items and other treasures. A Home Inventory worksheet will make the process easier.

    downsize home inventory worksheet
    Download our Home Inventory Worksheet
  • Organize the necessary packing supplies before you start. We recommend lots of boxes, bubble wrap, markers, labels, scissors, and trash bags. Number each box and use a Master List Worksheet to keep track of what is in each box.  This makes finding the clothes iron or sauce pan much easier when you need it.
  • Start in rooms used the least frequently. The items stored there may be the easiest ones with which to part. Start with 5 boxes labeled: Move, Donate, Trash, Family and Storage. As you work your way through the room, sort items by these categories.
  • Identify items your loved one can’t live without in their new senior apartment. Sometimes the things that make your family member feel most at home can be more important than the most expensive items.  Make of list of these items your loved one designates as necessary then consider the amount of these items require. This will help you determine the space available for other belongings lower on the priority list.
  • You may have to pare down the list of items.  A good way to start is to ask if the item has been used in the last year. The last two years or even three years.  Realizing an item hasn’t been used an item in a long time can make it easier to part with or move to the lower priority list.
  • Would someone in the family enjoy this item? Parting with a cherished item might be easier if it finds a new home with a family member.

    downsizing to assisted living
    Prioritize What Items Your Loved One Needs to Feel At Home
  • Explore non-profits in your area that make home pick-ups. Goodwill and Salvation Army will come right to your door to accept donations so you can focus on your packing rather than transporting heavy items.
  • As a last resort, if there are items you or your loved absolutely have to keep even though they won’t fit in the new apartment, rent a storage space. Agree that if they haven’t been used in one year, the contents will be donated or given to family.

Putting Together a Smooth Transition Support Team

If the logistics of a move are too overwhelming or you are a long-distance caregiver, it may be time to call in the experts for help. Senior Move Managers and Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES) are professionals you can turn to for support with this process. You might also consider utilizing a home care agency to help with some of the work before and after the move.

  • Certified Relocation & Transition Specialist (CRTS) – These rofessionals have experience and certified competency in senior home transitions, senior relocation and in the senior move fields. Search for a specialist in your area who can make this transition a smooth one.
  • National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) – This organization is made up of senior move managers who have all gone through the NASMM Cornerstone Course in Senior Move Management Ethics and Accountability course. Members are screened for insurance and for experience. Find a Senior Move Manager near your family member.
  • Seniors Real Estate Specialists (SRES) – Part of downsizing for most seniors involves selling a home. It is often a home they have lived in for several decades. Realtors who have this designation have undergone training in senior topics ranging from reverse mortgages to the emotional issues involved in selling the family home. Find a local SRES professional to help you with the sale of your elderly loved one’s home.

Moving Day Is Almost Here: How to Prepare

Taking some extra steps ahead of time can make moving day much easier for everyone.  That includes thinking of the “must have with us” items as well as the things that you might need as you are unpacking and helping your loved one settle in to their new home. We recommend setting up two different boxes to keep with you in your vehicle rather than sending with the movers on the big day.  And make sure to bring items like scissors, screwdriver or other tools you might need.

Box #1: Important Items/Valuables

This box should contain emergency information and valuables that you can’t be without or don’t want to risk losing. This could include:

  • Medications
  • Copies of Insurance policies, Power of Attorney or any needed legal documents
  • Health records including Medicare card and any insurance cards
  • Personal memorabilia like photo albums, scrapbooks, letters
  • Jewelry or collectibles that you don’t store in a safety deposit box
  • Master list of what each box that you are moving contains

Box #2: Need It Now

As you begin unpacking in the new home for memory care listed are our recommendations on what to include in this box:

  • Bedding & Linens – mattress cover, sheets, blankets, pillows, etc.
  • Towels & wash cloths
  • Continent supplies (if needed)
  • Toiletry items – toilet paper, tissues, tooth brush & toothpaste comb, hairbrush
  • Clothing – Keep choices limited – 4 to 6 Outfits, light jacket, sweater, comfortable shoes, sleeping attire, socks.
  • Most important – check with the resident care coordinator at your new community to see what can and cannot be kept in a memory care environment. *Guidelines vary state to state.

Making a Smooth Transition

Let’s face it, moving is rarely ever fun. Moving from a home you have lived in for many years can be especially difficult. If you are moving an elderly loved one in to an assisted living community these suggestions can help make the transition go more smoothly.

  • Work with the community ahead of time to establish a plan to help your loved one meet people and become involved before the move. If they know the basic logistics and can find their way around, it will keep them from feeling lost. Familiar faces are also important. Help them meet a few residents ahead of time.
  • Try to unpack their favorite and familiar things early in the settling in process. Have family photos set up. Hang the grandchildren’s artwork on the refrigerator or wall. Do whatever you can to recreate the environment they had at home.
  • Encourage visitors. Frequent visitors in the early days after the move can be beneficial. Then families can taper off visiting as their family member becomes more oriented to their new home and more involved in the new community.
  • Build relationships with the staff members that will be most involved with your loved one. Then touch base with them for input on how your family member seems to be doing during the transition. Encourage them to call you if they sense your parent or elderly loved one needs personal attention from family.

If you have more questions or would like more information about how The Memory Center transitions new residents, feel free to contact us.





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