Selecting a memory care facility for a loved one affected by a memory-impairing illness such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can seem daunting. There is so much to consider. Knowing the right questions to ask memory care facilities can help families get started as they face this important decision.
Millions of Americans – in fact, a projected 13 million by 2025 – live every day with the effects of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you’ve noticed worrying signs of memory impairment in a loved one, you are not alone. Millions of families also are searching for the best memory care facility for their family members, and many of them feel lost and alone.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Knowing what questions to ask memory care facilities can turn an overwhelming task into a manageable one. Here is a checklist of questions to ask and information to gather to help you evaluate and then select the right memory care facility for your loved one.
Start by researching memory care facilities within a certain distance radius. After you’ve identified several facilities that may fit your family’s needs, use the checklist below to compare the different advantages of each. Many families find it convenient to keep track of this information in a spreadsheet or file of some sort.
You may be able to answer some of these questions by reviewing the organization’s website. But you will want to schedule an in-person, on-site tour to fully assess the community, its staff members, and the environment it fosters.
Some facilities even offer respite care, which allows the caregiver to take some much-needed downtime and gives the resident and family an opportunity to evaluate the community first-hand on a short-term basis before making a longer-term commitment.
Questions to Ask Memory Care Facilities
- How close is the facility to cherished loved ones and friends?
- Is the facility part of an environment with which your loved one is already familiar?
- What safety features does the facility provide?
- How does the community secure residents against wandering?
- Does the community have an emergency alert system?
- Is the community enclosed, fenced, or otherwise contained?
- Is a nurse on duty, on site, 24-hours a day?
- What does the community do to prevent falls?
- Is there a dementia-specific (special care) unit?
- What level of medical care does the community provide?
- How is each resident assessed upon entry and how is the personal care plan designed?
- Do physicians or nurse practitioners visit the facility or are families responsible for transportation?
- Are consult medical services available including dental, vision, or podiatry?
- Is a registered nurse on site at all times?
- Is medication dispensed by a credentialed nurse or a lower-level medical technician?
- What kinds of personal assistance are given to each resident?
- What is the policy for handling medical emergencies?
- Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
- Are residents with psychiatric illness as their primary diagnosis on the same unit as residents with dementia?
- Is transportation available for medical appointments and shopping?
- Are therapies (e.g., physical, occupational, speech, recreational) offered on site?
- What type of training has the staff received?
- What is the ratio of staff to residents during the day and the night?
- How well trained are staff members in interacting with memory care patients?
- What is the average length of tenure of the staff?
- Are families encouraged to participate in care planning?
- How do I communicate with my loved one in memory care?
- How are families informed of changes in their loved one’s condition or care needs?
- Can families visit their loved ones? If so, when, and for how long?
- How often can families call and speak to their loved one?
- How are families notified of a medical emergency?
- Are families encouraged to communicate with staff?
- How is personal care such as bathing, grooming, or toileting done to ensure respect and dignity?
- How often is personal care delivered? If according to a schedule, is it flexible enough to accommodate an individual’s preferences?
- Do residents appear well-groomed, clean, and dressed appropriately?
- Are residents comfortable, relaxed and involved in activities?
- How are dementia behaviors – resisting care, anger, aggression – handled?
- Is a hair salon or barbershop available on site?
- What is the community like, overall?
- Is the community free of unpleasant odors?
- Are there common areas, and if so, how well furnished are they?
- Do indoor spaces allow freedom of movement and promote independence?
- Is there a designated family visiting area or a private place to have visitors?
- Does the facility offer access to the outdoors such as a patio or garden?
- Are indoor and outdoor areas safe and secure? Are they monitored?
- How large are the rooms?
- Are rooms private or shared?
- Are residents allowed to bring familiar items from home, such as photos, bedding, a favorite chair, etc.?
- How often is housekeeping and laundry service provided?
- What meals are provided?
- How are meals served?
- Is help available to ensure my loved one is eating?
- Are special dietary needs, such as gluten-free, kosher meals, or pureed food accommodated?
Recreation and Leisure
- What social and other activities are offered?
- Are religious services and celebrations available to residents?
- Is a robust schedule of activities available? If so, ask to see an activity schedule.
- Are activities available on the weekends or during evenings?
- Are activities designed to meet various needs, interests, and abilities?
- Are appropriate services and programming, such as small groups or special quiet rooms, available based on specific health and behavioral care needs?
- Are physical therapy programs offered on site?
- Are fitness activities or classes available to help keep your loved one physically active?
- Is the facility run by a for-profit or not-for-profit organization?
- What are the costs and financial considerations?
- What are the monthly fees?
- What services does that fee include?
- Are there additional fees, such as a deposit or entry fee?
- Are there level of care costs and how is this determined?
- Do prices increase annually? If so, by how much?
- Does long-term care insurance help cover the cost?
- Does Medicare or Medicaid help cover the cost?
- Does the community have a financial or insurance coordinator to help families navigate payment and insurance policies?
- What happens if my loved one runs out of money during their stay?