Evaluating Memory Care Communities
Evaluating Memory Care Communities
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia at home is hard. Equally as difficult is making the decision to move mom or dad into a memory care community. Sadness, grief, worry, and guilt can leave you stressed and confused as to what your next step should be.
Whether your research has taken you online, searching throughout your neighborhood, or following up on leads from trusted sources, experiencing the community firsthand will answer your questions and calm your fears.
Let’s get you prepped for your visit.
Your opinion of a memory care community begins to form before you walk through the door. Consider the curb appeal of the building, grounds, and landscaping. Now see how that impression carries through as you tour. Hopefully, you’ll be immediately greeted by a staff member (and maybe even a resident) but take a minute to check if the area looks and smells clean. Keep checking throughout your visit.
If you’ve scheduled a tour, your guide should be ready and equipped with brochures and information. This person will be asking you questions, so don’t be afraid to ask some back.
Talk openly and honestly. If your loved one has behavioral symptoms associated with cognitive impairment, such as apathy, wandering, agitation, incontinence, or inappropriate sexual behaviors, ask how staff are directed to deal with it.
Technology has changed the way we ensure memory care seniors stay safe. From alarmed doors to secured courtyards, personal monitoring devices, and emergency call systems, security is taken seriously. Request a copy of the community’s documented emergency procedures and policies. Will someone accompany your loved one to the hospital if 911 is called? Best to ask now.
While you want the environment to look home-like rather than clinical, handrails, slip-resistant flooring, adequate lighting, signage, and wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs make for a more accessible, easier-to-navigate building.
A well-designed memory care activity schedule should include programs based on a variety of interests and abilities. On your first visit, ask to take home a schedule and make sure there is something planned for every day of the week. When you come back for a second time, ensure that the activity scheduled is actually taking place.
While you’re visiting, make a point to observe an activity for at least ten minutes. Can you see your loved one enjoying it? Maybe not, but don’t let that deter you. As residents adjust to their surroundings and staff, you might be surprised that they’re willing to try something totally new. If most of the residents appear relaxed and involved, that’s a good sign. Look to see if staff encourages those residents who choose not to participate.
In some memory care communities, residents are grouped by their cognitive level. The goal is to improve their quality of life by maintaining or slowing down the progression of decline. For residents who are in the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s, participation in life skill activities may spark connection.
If you can, schedule one of your visits at a mealtime. That way, you’ll be able to observe how therapeutic diets are handled and how residents are helped if they’re unable to feed themselves. Of course, you’ll want to know how appetizing the food is. Feel free to ask for a sample. Healthy snacks and beverages should be available at all times, but you’ll want to know how nutrition is monitored.
Take in the atmosphere of the dining room. Family and friends should always be welcome to share a meal, but the overall environment should be calm with no major distractions like TVs.
Are you getting smiles and greetings from the staff passing by in the hall? Never underestimate the power of being friendly, as well-trained employees make the difference in the quality of care.
A good memory care community will have a medical director, clinical licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists on staff. These professionals will monitor your loved one’s health, manage medications, and keep accurate records. If you decide to move your loved one into the community, they’ll be the ones to partner with a primary care physician to create a personalized plan for health and wellbeing.
Watch how staff and residents interact and decide if that is how you want your loved one treated. Notice if the resident is being referred to by name, if they’re being talked to with kind, simple, easy-to-understand statements, and if assistance with mobility is gentle.
Lastly, check the staff-to-resident ratio. Although there is no mandated number, 1:5 or 1:6 is usually deemed adequate. Find out how the community covers for employees unable to come to work that day.
As you go through the commons area, are there comfortable couches and sitting areas for family visits? Stop by the activities rooms, fitness areas, pools, and other areas to check if they’re well used and well maintained. Many residences have a barber and beauty shop on site.
Your loved one may be used to a spacious home, but when dealing with dementia, a smaller square footage studio equipped with safety features and modifications can be adequate for their needs. Decide whether you want to bring furniture or have the apartment furnished for you. Will there be housekeeping services? If so, how often?
When you hear the words “all-inclusive,” ask for a list of the services covered. Find out about community, pet, and other pay-as-you-go fees, plus what the policy and costs associated with moving out are.
Although Medicare does not pay for memory care residence, ask about Medicaid, Veterans Aid & Assistance, long-term care, and other insurance coverages. How does the community handle instances if the patient is no longer able to pay?
Before you leave, ask for the community’s latest state survey. The health department makes regular, no-notice inspections of memory care facilities rating them on care, services, and their environment. The surveys evaluate policies and procedures, resident care, quality of care and quality of life, medication administration, medical records, kitchen sanitation, staff competencies, dietary needs, equipment, safety, and overall wellness of the community.
That’s a lot for you to take in all in one visit, so when you narrow down your choices, stop by again until you feel informed and comfortable. By moving mom or dad into a trusted, well-run, well-maintained memory care community, you can not only improve the quality of your loved one’s life, but it can free you to enjoy the moments and memories you share even more.
At Tiffany Springs Senior Living Community, our approach to memory care is guided by our Courtyard program based on life enrichment. Our memory care residents find fulfillment and motivation in a comfortable, safe and nurturing environment. We invite to visit to see our Courtyard Memory Care in action.