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Choosing a dementia care facility is an important decision for family caregivers.

Choosing a dementia care facility

You promised to care for each other in sickness and in health, but now it’s time to get help to care for your loved one with dementia. You have many options in choosing a dementia care facility.

Dementia can affect memory, judgment, language, motor skills, perception, thinking and/or behavior. These symptoms can become more challenging as the disease progresses, making it increasingly more difficult to care for a loved one at home.

Choosing a dementia care facility that will care for your loved one like you would doesn’t have to be difficult. Knowing what to look for and what questions to ask can give you confidence in making one of the most important decisions of your life.

Before starting your search, it is helpful to understand what makes dementia care different and the differences between assisted living and a nursing home.

How will I know when it’s time for memory care?

Safety is the reason most families decide it’s time to move their loved one into full-time dementia care. 

“It’s about the safety of the person living with dementia, and it’s about the safety of the caregiver,” said Hollie Glover, director of education and family support services for the James L. West Center for Dementia Care.

Both physical and emotional safety are important to consider in deciding to seek full-time dementia care.

If your loved one is falling frequently, forgetting to turn off the stove, getting lost, wandering off or engaging in other dangerous behaviors, it’s time to seriously consider full-time care. 

Caregiver health is the next most common reason why families seek a full-time dementia care solution. Caregivers often sacrifice their health to care for their loved one and it takes a toll on their own physical and mental health.

What is memory care?

A memory care facility provides specialized care and support for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 

Staff receive training to develop an understanding of disease progression, the specialized care it requires and how to deal with challenging behaviors that may be present.

Dementia care may be provided in a community setting, at a day program or in the home. Which option is right for you depends on where your loved one is in the disease process.

Communities and programs that specialize in dementia care provide additional training to team members so they are equipped with a deeper understanding of dementia and strategies for dealing with challenging expressions.

What is the difference between assisted living and a nursing home?

Many memory care programs are offered in an assisted living setting. Residents in assisted living are generally active but need additional assistance with everyday tasks, such as bathing, toileting, dressing and completing other routine tasks. 

Dementia-specialized assisted living will also provide additional cueing needed to help people with cognitive impairment. They do not provide nursing care as the disease progresses.

Nursing homes, or healthcare centers, provide long-term medical care for adults with serious health issues. 

Healthcare centers that specialize in dementia receive additional training to equip caregivers for the special challenges that come with providing dementia care. 

In both settings, activities are geared toward the cognitive and physical abilities of the individual residents. 

When selecting dementia care, it’s important to know whether the community offers dementia care in assisted living or a healthcare setting. Care and cost vary greatly between the two types of care.

Questions before choosing a dementia care facility 

When you’re considering a nursing home for dementia care, you’ll have lots of questions.

It’s best to write down a list of the things you want to know so you don’t forget to ask any of them when you’re meeting with the marketing and admissions counselor or other team members.

Here are some questions to consider putting on your list:

  • Does your community have any special designations or certifications to care for people with dementia? Who governs that process? What is involved?
  • What is your care approach? Do you use individual care plans? How are they developed?
  • What specialized training does staff receive in dementia care?
  • What are your staffing ratios?
  • What are the procedures for medical emergencies? How do you determine if my loved one needs to be transferred to the ER?
  • Can my loved one continue to see their physician? Do you have a designated physician?
  • Do you offer transportation for medical appointments? Are there additional fees associated?
  • What are the costs associated with memory care?
  • How are meals served?
  • How do you determine placement in your community? Are residents grouped by cognitive abilities?
  • How do you communicate with families? Can we expect regular communication about our loved one?
  • What amenities and services are offered?
  • Are there additional costs for these services?

Make a list of the communities you want to consider, and then start reaching out to each by phone or email to make an appointment for an in-person or virtual appointment to get your initial questions answered.

You may also ask to meet with the executive director, director of nursing, medical director or a social worker to get to know who will be making the decisions that will impact your loved one’s care.

What to look for when touring a nursing home

When considering a dementia care facility, always take a tour. What you experience with your five senses is as important as the answers the marketing director gives you during the inquiry process.

As you walk through the community, consider:

  • Do the residents appear to be happy and engaged?
  • Do the staff seem interested in caring for the residents?
  • Are the staff friendly and acknowledge you as you walk through?
  • What do you see? Are there aviaries, aquariums or other pets? Do you see secure and inviting outdoor spaces, comfortable sitting areas, and evidence of music and life?
  • What do you smell? Are meals prepared near resident rooms so the enticing smells reach the residents?
  • What do you hear? Is there laughter and joy? Is there music? 
  • Does it appear that care was taken in designing the space for people with cognitive and mobility issues? 

What you learn and experience will help you determine the community that you are most comfortable entrusting to care for your loved one.

For information about the James L. West Center for Dementia Care, contact the marketing director or continue to explore this site.

Join Us For a Free Event

We invite you and your loved one with dementia to give us a try! Join us for one of our upcoming free programs to experience the joy that can be found in every day at the James L. West Senior Day Program.