Sometimes you have to turn the tables, shift your perspective and look at things from a different angle in order to find the right answer. This is certainly the case when it’s time to search for the right type of memory care for yourself – or a loved one.
Life changes drastically when it’s time to plan for memory care. Remember: while this may feel like a sacrifice of autonomy and “normal” life, the right memory care community reclaims these things in a new way.
Asking the Right Questions Leads to the Right Memory Care Community
Taking a gently assertive role as you interview (yes, interview!) prospective memory care communities via their director(s) and staff, you will know when you find “the one” for you.
You decide where – and by whom – loved ones will be cared for as their Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses. You’ll need to develop sharp “interviewing skills” as you learn which memory care communities or centers meet the essential criteria you require.
The following questions align with The Joint Commission’s Memory Care Requirements. Have these comprehensive guidelines on-hand as you move forward in the decision-making process – and you are encouraged to add your own questions.
With the director’s/staff permission, it is a good idea to record these “interview/introductory” meetings. That way, you can be fully present, knowing you can play the recording back later on.
After visiting the centers on your list, you can compare their care plans and care options, eliminating some and bumping others to the top of the list, narrowing in on your final choice.
Questions Regarding Memory Care Staffing
Do you have a Medical Director on staff?
Who’s at the helm, so to speak, when it comes to steering the physical and emotional well-being of the residents?
A community that is dedicated to serving the physical, mental, and emotional health of their residents will have the appropriate leadership to do so. Verify that they have a Medical Director on staff.
Are there RNs or LPNs on staff? If so, how many? Are they on-site 24/7?
Most high-quality memory care centers have RNs and/or LPNs on staff. They oversee any physical and/or medical needs that may arise in the course of a day. At these centers, skilled nursing staff report directly to the community’s lead physicians as needed.
Consistent staff assignments (the same caregivers caring for the same patients) build meaningful connections that foster personalized care services. Ideally, trained medical staff are available 24/7.
What medical services are available?
The bulk of the residents’ medical needs can be diagnosed/treated with on-site medical services, including:
- PT/OT/SP Therapy
- Home Health
Not only does this expedite care, it eliminates confusion associated with resident location changes and non-routine appointments.
What types of training does the staff have?
All members of the caregiving staff should maintain ongoing, annual training in alignment with current best-practices for memory care. Participation in professional education/training should be documented.
What are staffing ratios for each shift?
The lower the ratio of staff:resident, the better a memory care facility can promote resident safety and well-being. Optimally, you’re looking for a 1:6 resident to staff ratio (or better).
However, according to payingforseniorcare.com, “…time and time again, relevant research has shown that assisted living communities with full-time RNs and direct care with in-house nursing staff have a direct impact on resident outcomes.”
Questions Regarding Memory Care Policies & Fees
- Can my loved one stay here through the end of life or do they have to move if their care becomes too extensive?
- What types of care can your community NOT provide?
- What is the policy for a medical emergency/ER visit?
- Does a staff member go with the resident on ER visits?
- What is the policy for notifying family members?
- What is the discharge policy?
- Is the community all-inclusive or are there additional costs (i.e., cable TV, phone, medication fees, levels of care costs, activities/outings, transportation)?
- Can my loved one return to the facility should they require outside rehab?
- What happens if my loved one is no longer ambulatory?
Questions Regarding Amenities and Outings
Great memory care communities are unmistakable – they are vibrant places. These communities offer residents top-notch special memory care while they create new, colorful and creative lives.
This means senior living at its best: attractive grounds, community gardens, recreation, and creative opportunities as well as safely organized outside trips.
Questions worth asking include:
- What are the daily activities like, and are they every day of the week?
- Do you charge for outside activities (for example: lunch outings, museums, etc.)?
- Do you have Semi-Private and Private rooms? If cost is of concern, semi-private rooms can save residents thousands of dollars per year.
Ultimately, memory care communities should provide a rich spectrum of daily activities – offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. This ensures your loved one has access to fun, interesting and stimulating activities regardless of when his/her “best hours of the day” may be.
These activities should include a range of interests, hobbies and preferred modalities. Things like art, poetry, music, dancing, games, supervised cooking, sports and exercise, and social activities should all be on the menu.
All of these types of activities have been proven to slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and enhance the mood of those who suffer from cognitive decline.
But don’t forget the most important question of all…
Which memory care community makes you feel the most safe, comfortable and secure?
Be attentive to your intuition. As you tour prospective communities, the answers to your questions are important, but so are your instincts. With that in mind, feel free to use our checklist, with all the questions you read here: