There are several options for residential long term care, but not all of which are suitable for persons with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or another type of dementia. In the early stages of dementia, when persons can still function with independent, retirement housing / independent living, may be appropriate. As dementia progresses, and individuals require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing and dressing, assisted living / memory care homes become a suitable option. Nursing homes, which provide around the clock supervision, are an acceptable option for persons who have moderate to late dementia. However, there are also options designed specifically for persons who are inflicted with dementia. Dementia care facilities, which may be stand alone facilities or a wing or hall of an assisted living facility or a nursing home, are sometimes called Alzheimer’s special care units or memory care units. Learn more about the differences between assisted living and memory care units here. Finally, although on the expensive side, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer care services on a continuum from independent living to assisted living to full-time nursing home care. CCRCs enable residents to reside in a single location throughout the progression of their condition.
Choosing a dementia care facility for your loved one isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. When considering care facilities (you should see several before making a decision), there are several issues that should be addressed to ensure sure that the location is both appropriate and beneficial for your loved one and their needs.
Did You Know? Free assistance is available to help families find an appropriate memory care home for the loved one. Get started here.
When visiting a dementia care facility, try to get a sense of how knowledgeable the staff is with the needs and care of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or other types of dementia. In addition, it’s important to consider if the facility is designed to handle the challenges associated with caring for a person with dementia. For instance, does the facility have special measures for security or supervision in place to prevent wandering or other behaviors associated with dementia? Is rehabilitative or therapeutic support for AD/dementia individuals offered, and how active does the staff encourage facility residents to be? Some facilities may have specialized dementia care units, or in larger metropolitan areas, facilities might exist whose specific purpose is to care for individuals with AD/dementia.
Part of the anxiety that is associated with long-term care comes from wondering what quality of care your loved one would receive at a facility. When you visit, make sure to talk not only to the administration and the staff, but also to some of the residents and their family members. Try to get a sense for how things operate when you are not around. What kinds of staff or health professionals are available on a daily or semi-daily basis?
Remember to ask the purely practical questions. What is the current availability of rooms within the facility? If a waiting list exists, how soon would your loved one be able to gain entrance? Finally, ask how much placement costs and what kinds of payment they take. Medicare and Medigap (supplemental Medicare insurance) will not pay for extended stays in nursing facilities, so discuss with the facility what payment options are available. State-run Medicaid or long-term care insurance may be able to help finance your loved one’s stay.
Finally, when talking to residents and their families, ask whether they are satisfied with the level of involvement and interaction in the facility. How open is the facility to visits from family members and friends? Are there certain hours when you can or can’t visit your loved one? Do appointments need to be made for visitations? Does the facility ask for or allow the input of family members in designing the care plan and activities for their loved ones? As a caregiver, you have a lot of knowledge and experience that is valuable to the continued care of your loved one, even in a long-term care facility.