Today’s seniors have more options than ever before when it comes to assisted living and memory care services. In fact, a quick online search of “assisted living near me” will reveal that Tallahassee alone boasts 57 agencies that offer home health in some form and over a dozen senior living communities. This leaves most seniors wondering, “What’s the difference and which option is best for me?”
Memory care needs are unique and not addressed by all home health or senior community options. Here, we’ll share some of the main advantages of choosing a memory care facility over in-home care to help you narrow down your options and make the most informed decision
Azalea Gardens Assisted Living & Memory Care, located on Ox Bottom Road in Tallahassee, is a beautiful memory care facility designed with the well-being of your friend or family member in mind. To learn more, schedule a site visit with our compassionate team today.
Decades ago, we saw senior care trends shift from long-term care facilities to home health services, which allowed seniors to stay in the comfort of their homes as they age. Today, retirement, assisted the living, and memory care communities have responded to the needs of the modern senior, leading to more and more seniors foregoing in-home care for community living and all of the amenities it affords.
A quick online search for assisted living near me might leave you more overwhelmed as you find that they are many options to consider for your loved one. Here, we’ve compiled some of the primary reasons our residents and their families chose Marshall Pines Assisted Living & Memory Care over home health and other options.
While there are lots of things you can do to make it safe at home – like installing handrails in the shower and removing throw rugs – memory care communities are designed with the risks unique to patients suffering from dementia in mind, providing the safest setting of all. Some features memory care facilities offer that are generally not available at home include:
Seniors who live at home are at higher risk of isolation, especially as it becomes difficult for them to do the things they enjoyed in the past. When you choose a community, your loved one has “neighbors” they can visit without ever leaving home, a wide variety of events and activities to choose from, and common spaces designed to accommodate friends and family who visit. When you schedule your site visit and community tour, you’ll be pleased to observe lively conversation, belly laughs, activities, and gatherings to support the social well-being of each resident.
Living at home comes with variable and sometimes unpredictable monthly expenses: a high water bill after a running toilet or an unexpected furnace repair, for example. Likewise, the cost of care when living at home can fluctuate depending on needs. Many residents and their families share that one of the reasons they chose Marshall Pines was for peace of mind; they know exactly what it’s going to cost from one month to the next and that rent price includes meals, care, maintenance, activities, transportation, and more.
The best memory care facilities base their floor plans, staff training programs, menu options, and activity programming on the latest research on memory impairment in seniors, ensuring that all aspects of your loved one’s experience nurture their social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual well-being.
To learn more about the differences between home health care and memory care communities or to schedule a tour of Marshall Pines today, contact our friendly team
If you close your eyes for a moment (after reading this sentence, that is) you should be able to conjure up fond or even not-to-fond memories of your mother – picking you up after a fall, cheering you on at a competition, giving you some timely life-changing advice. Sadly, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your mother to eventually lose all of those same memories to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, if she hasn’t already.
According to recent studies, more than seven million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Nearly two-thirds of them are women.
Needless to say, holidays like Mother’s Day can be a challenging time for a mother living with Alzheimer’s. She may feel a sense of loss because of the changes being experienced as a result of the disease. Beloved traditions may have to be adjusted to accommodate new realities. And at the same time, many adult children and care-givers may not be certain how to celebrate a day that no longer holds any meaning for the honoree.
Yet, regardless of your mom’s particular circumstances, Mother’s Day can remain a meaningful and enjoyable occasion for you and your family. Planning will take more thought and each family’s unique circumstances will need to be taken into consideration. But chances are, Mom willl enjoy spending time with you or anyone who appreciates and pays attention to her.
Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that can ensure a Mother’s Day celebration you both will enjoy:
You probably used to take Mom out on Mother’s Day to give her a day off from cooking. That tradition may no longer hold much importance if she lives in a Sunshine Retirement Living memory care community and has her meals made for her each day. If you do decide to go out, make sure she is comfortable with crowds and does well in a different setting than what she’s used to. If she’s agreeable to the idea, consider ordering for her, because she may not remember what her favorite foods are or what’s best for her to eat.
Either way, people with Alzheimer’s do best when following a schedule. So eat at Mom’s usual time, before she gets too hungry, and preferably in familiar surroundings. Sticking to her normal routine will help keep the day from becoming disruptive or confusing. And don’t overdo it. If necessary, plan time for breaks so she can rest in a quiet area away from noise and crowds.
If going out doesn’t seem like a good idea, most Sunshine Retirement communities will be serving special Mother’s Day brunches that you’re both sure to enjoy. Or feel free to bring the meal to her from one of her favorite restaurants. Just don’t be afraid to reminisce about favorite foods and the memories you share surrounding special meals. While you’re at the facility, why not join in one of their group activities?
Your mom may not expect gifts for Mother’s Day any more, but they are always welcome. Especially those that stimulate the senses, such as flowers, a soft blanket, scented lotions, or a photo of the two of you together. Photo albums, ID bracelets and comfortable clothes also make nice gifts. But often, the best gift of all could be a CD or iPod of her favorite music that she can easily play. Music has more power to stimulate positive memories than anything else. Plus, it encourages movement and dancing.
Having a conversation with someone dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia can sometimes be difficult, which often presents a challenge on how to create a special moment. If your mother still has her long-term memory intact, as many people with dementia do, reminiscing about a past you share is a good way to connect. Consider looking at a photo album of a past trip you’ve taken together or some childhood events. Enter her world and share her reality.
If she talks about random things from the past – Elvis Presley, her brother or childhood dog, Queen Elizabeth – go along for the ride and see where the conversation goes. If she doesn’t recognize who you are, but has memories of a son or daughter, invite her to share them without explaining who you are. But if conversations aren’t going anywhere, then just find an activity you can do together successfully and enjoy the moment. Go for a walk. Do some gardening or a jigsaw puzzle together. Read a story or listen to music.
While watching someone you’ve loved all your life slowly slip away from you is understandably traumatic, try to acknowledge that the person who does exist is still a lovable human who needs compassion. Recognize that you still have a relationship with your mother in whatever form it may be. Nurture it and treasure every moment that you have left.
For more information and support, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. A trained social worker will be happy to answer your questions or concerns. Learn more about Alzheimer’s in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center at alz.org/care. For more tips on supporting a family member with Alzheimer’s, join the ALZConnected online community, and find more information about your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter services and programs.
When your loved one is suffering from dementia, you are often struggling alongside him or her, learning how to cope with role reversal and how to communicate lovingly and effectively. Changing your communication style is necessary to maintain positive communication, encourage your loved one, and prevent distress. We hope these tips are helpful as you work to adjust to the new normal of loving somebody with dementia.
Nothing hurts more than stopping by to visit somebody close to you in a memory care facility only to find that she doesn’t remember who you are. Not only is it painful, but it can lead to frustration, shame, and embarrassment for your loved one. You can avoid all of these unwanted outcomes by simply introducing yourself right when you get there and often afterward. Try a casual introduction like this: “Hi Mom. It’s me, Jane.” If you can tell she’s confused a few minutes later, you can say it kindly again: “It’s me, Jane.”
Dementia makes it increasingly difficult to process complex information. When speaking with your friend or family member experiencing memory loss, speak slowly in a regular tone of voice, choosing simple words with fewer syllables. Ensure sentences are short and clear.
Don’t confuse clear, simple communication with baby talk. Older adults can hear lower voices better than high voices, and baby talk can feel condescending to an older adult with rich life experiences, especially if he or she raised you. Treat your friend or family member like the competent, experienced adult they are by speaking your regular tone of voice.
Talk about the things your loved one knows and remembers, like their childhood, home, or the occupation they enjoyed when they were younger. Dementia often affects short-term memory without impacting long-term memory, especially in earlier stages of the disease. For this reason, your friend or family member will likely take comfort in memories that happened before the disease struck, while identifying less with memories that have occurred since the diagnosis or symptoms began. He or she may not be able to recall recent events but recall memories from kindergarten or raising their own children when they were young.
If your friend or a family member has forgotten a painful memory – such as the loss of child or spouse – you may choose not to remind them if will cause them to experience the stages of grief over and over again. It’s important to know that every resident of a memory care facility experiences dementia and memory loss uniquely. In some cases, believing their spouse or child is alive but does not visit is more painful than knowing that they have passed. Use your judgment and rely on the expertise of staff to decide what to share and when.
Acceptance is critical while you grieve the partner or parent your loved one used to be. Asking questions like, “Do you know what day it is?” or “Do you know who I am?” might help you better understand the stages of dementia your friend or family member is experiencing or gauge their level of understanding, but it can quickly lead to confusion and frustration for the person struggling to answer these basic questions. Instead, simply offer love and understanding, providing the information they need. “Today is Monday, March 5th, and it’s 53 degrees outside,” is a great example of a way you can add value.
A common question potential residents ask is, ” What’s the difference between assisted living and personal care? ” Here, we’ll provide clarification to help make your decision as easy as possible while you seek independent living or personal care for seniors in Sandy Springs.
In short, there are very few differences between the care provided in assisted living residences and personal care homes. In fact, the primary difference between the two is the kind of license they hold, not the kind of services or quality of services that are provided.
While not all communities are the same, most have these in common whether personal care or assisted living:
Additionally, both assisted living and personal care communities to offer the ability to age in place; that is, stay in the community if their needs increase. Sometimes, moving is inevitable, but both types of communities aim to keep residents for as long as possible to limit the number of moves required and the impact that results.
The primary difference between personal care homes and assisted living facilities is the license they hold, and which license they’re granted by the state agency depends largely on the building construction. Because there are no significant differences in the services or care provided, many professionals continue to challenge the state’s decision to classify these very similar communities differently.
Many people are surprised to find that because personal care and assisted living are so similar in their services and delivery of care, they have more options to explore and more opportunities to find a community that meets all of their needs. These tips can help you narrow down your options and make a choice you feel good about:
The factors that most families consider priorities in their search include the culture of the community; the friendliness and accessibility of staff and leadership; the services provided; cost; and the potential to age in place. Knowing your priorities – including your must-haves and non-negotiables – can help guide your decision and ease stress during the process.
Hammond Glen is a modern independent living and personal care community nestled in Sandy Springs. To learn more about the difference between assisted living and personal care – or to schedule a site visit with Hammond Glen – contact our friendly team today. We can’t wait to meet you!
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2019.
Memory care is often plagued by the stigma of years gone by despite the dramatic evolution that memory care has undergone in the last decade. Today, when you choose a modern memory care facility, you can expect a full range of services designed to not only keep your loved one safe, but to help them thrive physically, mentally, and Emotionally.
Here are a few clues that make it just a little easier to know the difference between outdated and modern memory care.
While an outdated community may exclude patients with cognitive decline or memory problems from group activities, modern memory care facilities design their activities specifically for residents just like this. If you observe a group activity, you should see that the activity brings joy to its participants, they receive help and accommodations if they need them, and nobody is ever Excluded.
Just a few of the activities that can engage the resident with Alzheimer’s disease (or another form of dementia) include exercises, games, spiritual services, baking, and music.
If you ever choose to tour a community and overhear a staff member telling a resident that they just aren’t able to participate in an activity because it will be too hard for them or they might be disruptive, you are not touring a modern memory care facility.
Multisensory stimulation incorporates all of the senses and often helps people who have dementia. Many modern memory care facilities incorporate multisensory stimulation to calm and sooth residents, helping them feel relaxed and at ease. Bright colors, stark contrast, notable smells, relaxing sounds, and interesting things to touch are all components.
While outdated communities might appear sterile and hospital-like, today’s memory care communities should incorporate rich textures, aromatherapy, white noise, and a myriad of opportunities for residents to work with their hands and sense of touch like indoor gardening or seashells. Weighted blankets can also reduce anxiety and help your loved one feel safe and secure.
Though they may not be able to form their words or organize their thoughts the way they used to, physical memory is often still intact. What this means is that many times, those suffering from dementia will still fold a hand towel when you hand it to them or rock a baby (or even a doll) in their arms. For this reason, modern facilities can help residents feel important and needed by providing nostalgic experiences like baking, rocking a baby doll, fixing something, or grading a paper. Activities should be customized based on the resident’s life story – their hobbies, interests, and career.
Things to look for when touring a facility include residents at work; perhaps they’re folding towels or setting the table before dinner. These therapeutic activities are a critical component of memory care.
While the modern memory care facility is safe and secure for your loved one, it shouldn’t look like a lockdown unit. Today’s communities take advantage of innovative design choices and cutting-edge technology to reduce the risk of safety events without compromising the comfortable, home-like setting they need during this phase of their lives.
The Haven in Pittsburgh, one of the most recommended retirement communities in Pittsburgh, ticks every box: a robust, inclusive activities schedule ensures that your loved one is always able to participate – and more importantly, able to participate in a meaningful way that feels good. The community atmosphere is designed to stimulate the senses and bring back happy memories, and residents are always able to help as long as it feeds their souls.
To learn more about The Haven or schedule your tour of our community, stop by or visit our website today.
Today, when you choose a modern memory care facility, you can expect a full range of services designed to not only keep your loved one safe, but to help them thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2019.
When a senior loved one begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, it can leave families feeling worried, confused and downright overwhelmed. Even for spouses and adult children who sense that the diagnosis is eminent, having it confirmed can be heart-wrenching.
Alzheimer’s is a disease with no known cure and it’s difficult to predict how quickly it will progress. That’s why, it is wise to be prepared for what is likely to happen and to be able to discuss it openly with your loved one and family members before it’s too late. At the same time, it’s important to have a resource like Sunshine Retirement which has several communities that specialize in all aspects of Memory Care. They can provide answers to your questions as well as give your loved one the most compassion and best support possible 24 hours a day.
For starters, let’s learn more about the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s disease and what to expect at each stage. (Keep in mind that many physicians and treatment facilities may condense these stages into as few as three – Mild, Moderate and Severe.)
During this stage, there may be no evidence of memory problems or other detectable symptoms of dementia. However, you may notice your loved one repeating stories and anecdotes, or making the same comments more frequently than normal.
The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age-related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by loved ones or physicians.
At this stage, the family members and friends of the senior may begin to notice cognitive problems. Performance on memory tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function. People in Stage 3 will have difficulty in many areas including:
People with Stage 3 Alzheimer’s may also frequently lose personal possessions, from small, insignificant items to valuables.
At this stage, clear-cut symptoms of the disease are apparent, including:
During this stage of Alzheimer’s, people begin to need help with many day-to-day activities. They may experience:
At the same time, people in Stage 5 maintain functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.
People with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:
Because the disease is a terminal illness, people in Stage 7 are nearing death. They lose the ability to communicate or respond to their environment. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. They may even lose their ability to swallow.
While you and your senior loved one might feel like you have no control over what happens next, there are steps you can take in the early stages that will keep you feeling in charge and empowered. It all begins with communication.
Sit down as a family and give your senior loved one the opportunity to share their wishes for dealing with the difficulties ahead. This will probably take more than a single conversation. But together, you can create a plan, one that may include arranging residency in a retirement home or community that specializes in Memory Care 24/7, such as The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana, The Gardens at Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas, Windsor Heights in Beachwood, Ohio, The Haven at North Hills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana.
First and foremost, don’t rush your loved one into a big announcement. They likely need time to digest the news and decide how to proceed. Unless their safety or decision-making capacity is an immediate concern, follow their wishes. They might choose to tell people closest to them on their own, or they might ask you or another loved one to do so.
Needless to say, it’s important to be well-informed about the disease when you talk to family and friends. Many people are well aware of Alzheimer’s disease and can become trusted mentors to help guide you forward. Others, however, will be aware that Alzheimer’s exists, but don’t understand it. It is a complex disease that involves more than just forgetfulness and memory loss.
This link from the Alzheimer’s Association website can be especially helpful for sharing with people as you discuss the diagnosis. It covers topics ranging from symptoms and brain changes to current research.
As you or your loved one begins sharing the news, you’ll likely have people ask you for advice on communicating with the senior. Over time, your loved one’s verbal skills may become impaired, which can be very frustrating to him or her. Here are a few tips to help communicate with loved ones:
We hope this information makes it easier to understand and deal with the aggressive approach of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as to break the news to friends and family of your loved one who should be informed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact any of Sunshine’s Memory Care communities.
If you’ve ever stood at an open fridge for three minutes trying to figure out if you were heading for an apple or last night’s leftovers, no doubt you’ve noticed the effect of aging on your brain. Anyone over 45 has been there–but is cognitive decline inevitable? Or is there something you can do about it?
Although there’s no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, we think there is something you can do. That’s because of the mounting evidence that suggests that healthy habits may delay cognitive decline. Chief among these healthful practices is eating foods that boost the health of your brain.
In fact, chefs at Sunshine Retirement Communities prepare many meals based on one of the world’s healthiest diet, the appropriately named MIND (or Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay) food plan. Created and studied by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, this diet was ranked among the top five diets by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive year. (It ranked #4 in Best Diets Overall (tied), Best Diet for Healthy Eating (tied), Best Heart-Healthy diet and Easiest Diets to Follow.)
We chose the MIND diet because of the spectacular results shown in the MIND diet trial. For this study, researchers tested more than 900 older adults, who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. They found that those closely following a MIND diet, a hybrid of the highly regarded DASH and Mediterranean diets, may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53 percent. Results, which were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in 2015, showed that those who strictly adhered to the food plan had the cognitive function of someone 7.5 years younger. The study also revealed that participants who didn’t rigorously stick to the diet still lowered their risk for cognitive decline by a significant 35 percent.
MIND emphasizes foods linked to improved cognitive function like kale, berries, fish and beans. In addition to recommending 10 groups of food to eat, the diet discourages five kinds of food that have an unhealthy effect on the brain like butter, fried foods and red meat.
At Sunshine’s memory care communities and, increasingly, at our independent living, you’ll see dishes based on vegetables (especially green leafy veggies), berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, beans, and poultry. Our chefs avoid or limit ingredients such as butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, and pastries and sweets. “The MIND Diet has proven to be exceptionally beneficial for overall brain health and our culinary team has ensured that the dining program is not only healthful and nutritious but also delicious,” says Luis Serrano, CEO, Sunshine Retirement Living. “At all of our senior living communities across the country, we are continually researching and implementing advanced new programs and services that aim to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents.”
Our chefs work to accommodate each residents’ various desires and dietary restrictions. In addition to creating meals that foster brain health, our chefs also offer gluten-free and vegetarian options. Dining programs at our communities always offer residents several menu choices as well as a selection of fresh and healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon refreshments.
Although the effects of aging are unavoidable we believe that eating brain-healthy food, exercising moderately and participating in our Memory Care programs, will keep memory issues at bay for as long as possible.
After spending the last two weeks focusing on the signs and symptoms of dementia as well as what to look for in a Memory Care facility, we decided it was time to share what one of Sunshine’s communities is doing to help residents overcome their memory difficulties.
Studies show that music can have a powerful effect on people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, even those with advanced stages of the disease.
“There are certain areas of the brain that are still relatively intact even as a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s takes effect,” says Suzanne Hanser, PhD, department chair of music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston and former program director of San Francisco’s Alzheimer’s Association.
“In particular, the limbic system, and specifically, the hippocampus, which retains long-term memory and has retained emotional impact. Music triggers these long-term memories. So we see people who have not spoken in years begin to sing songs that they knew in their early teens and early adulthood.”
That is why music therapy has become an important element of treatment at most Memory Care facilities. It has proven to:
But at the Clairmont, one of Sunshine’s communities in Austin, Texas, Life Enhancement Director Tina Bertelle has taken music therapy to a whole new level with what she calls “Drumstick Fitness.”
“I came up with the Drumstick Fitness idea in 1997 working with early-, mid- and late-stage Alzheimer’s patients,” said Tina. “I slowly began incorporating drumming into the Clairmont with seated exercises and getting residents in the habit of marching with their feet while their hands are doing different things. This causes the brain to literally rethink and learn new things no matter if your 9 or 99!”
Cardio drumming classes, like Drumstick Fitness, Drums Alive and Pound have been around for a few years. But the benefits you receive when you take this type of class are so much greater than those of your average aerobics class. In addition to being a cardio workout, here’s why drumming is so good for you:
Makes you smarter. Drumming is a great workout for your brain, because it accesses your entire brain. Research shows that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronizes the left and right hemispheres. So when the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere begin to pulsate together, your inner guidance system – or intuition – becomes stronger.
Induces deep relaxation. In one study, blood samples from participants who participated in an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal in stress hormones.
Helps control chronic pain. Drumming can certainly serve as a distraction from pain. Better yet, it promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, which are the body’s own morphine-like painkillers.
Boosts your immune system. Studies show that drumming circles boost the immune system and help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS.
Creates a sense of connectedness. Drums have been used in every culture for many purposes from religious rituals to sporting events, and as a way to communicate or signal. Drumming circles and group drumming classes provide an opportunity for “synchronicity” with your own spirit at a deeper level, while also connecting with other like-minded people.
Provides a way to access a higher power. Shamans often use drumming as a means to integrate mind, body and spirit. Also, the “medicine” drum is still used in many Native American ceremonies today for good reason.
Releases negative feelings. The act of drumming can serve as a form of self-expression. You can literally drum out your feelings and remove negative emotions.
Makes you happy. Drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and Alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria. Don’t believe us? Participate in a drum circle and see how happy it makes you feel.
Many Clairmont residents definitely concur about the happiness aspect.
“I like it a lot!” says Ann Hogarth. “It’s a really physically fun session. Before you know it, you’ve worked out your whole body.”
Betty McSpadden enjoys the challenge. “It’s difficult and it makes me think as well as proud when I get the rhythm right,” she says.
Resident Betty Ford agrees. “I’ve tried it and I love the way it’s totally different from anything I’d ever thought of trying.” Her experience convinced her best friend to try and see how fun it can be, which is exactly what Tina Bertelle loves to here.
“I’ve added a biweekly Drumming for Beginners intro class and Weekly Fitness to really make what they learn resonate deep in their soul,” said Tina. “Drumming has a proven Healing Frequency. It’s a powerful teaching tool we can all learn and use throughout Sunshine!”
All in all, it sounds like Drum Fitness is a form of therapy that, well, just can’t be beat.
If you visited these pages last week, you may have read our exploration of the signs and symptoms to look for when a parent or loved one is beginning to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This week, in part 2 of our review, we’ll take a deep dive into the next logistical step: What to look for in a Memory Care facility.
Memory Care units, also known as Special Care Units (SCUs), are often housed within an assisted-living or skilled-nursing facility. At best, they can offer a home-like environment, activities that improve residents’ quality of life, and a staff extensively trained in caring for people with dementia. But at worst, they may offer little more than a locked door.
Common services to look for include 24-hour supervised care, medical monitoring and assistance with daily living tasks, in addition to a pleasing environment that is easy for residents to navigate.
“There are no consistent standards for Memory Care,” says Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care.
What’s more, according to Scott Mayeda, a Southern California resident whose father has dementia, there are no Trip Advisors in the Memory Care world, referring to the popular website and app for travelers.
“You can’t just go online and find nearby facilities rated in terms of their quality of care and costs with frequently updated testimonials,” he says. “I learned that the hard way with my dad’s first facility.”
Ultimately, Mayeda discovered someone locally who acted as a consultant and directed him to the home his father is in now.
But if you’re considering memory care for a loved one, you need to do your homework to find out exactly what services are being offered at each facility. That means:
Here is an extensive list of categorized questions to ask to help make the decision easier.
Is the facility able to accommodate people at all levels of dementia, or only at specific levels?
What is the monthly rate for housing and care? What services does that rate include?
Who assesses residents’ health and cognitive functioning? How often is that assessment repeated?
Does each resident have a formal, written plan of care?
Does the facility help with all ADLs, including bathing, toileting, and eating?
What is the policy for handling medical emergencies?
How does the facility communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?
What is the discharge policy? Why might a resident be asked to leave the facility?
If the facility is part of an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community, is the memory care section separate from other areas?
Is the memory care area all on one level?
Are the residents’ rooms private or shared? How do prices vary for each?
Is the facility laid out with circular hallways so that residents aren’t frustrated by cul-de-sacs?
Is there an enclosed, secure outdoor area with walking paths?
Does the facility feature even, good lighting in hallways and common areas?
Does the facility feature nonslip floor surfaces in all rooms, including bathrooms?
Is the interior and exterior of the facility secure?
What methods are used to keep tabs on residents and make sure they don’t wander out of the building or off the grounds?
Orientation and comfort:
Are doors and rooms labeled clearly, both with words and pictures, to help residents orient themselves?
Do residents have “memory boxes” outside their rooms to help them identify the right room and to help staff members get to know them better?
Does the facility feature good natural or faux-natural lighting in residents’ rooms and common areas?
Is the facility generally pleasant, clean, and peaceful?
Does the facility accommodate special care needs, such as physical aggressiveness and wandering?
What kind of dementia-specific training do staff members have?
Do staff members seem to know each resident’s name, personality, and background?
Do staff members seem kind and attentive to residents’ needs?
What is the staff-to-resident ratio during both day and night? (The ratio should be at least 1 to 5, especially for later-stage dementia. “If you don’t have that, you end up with people placed in front of the television,” McFatrich says.)
Is there an RN, LVN, or CNA on staff?
Do most of the staff members have a long history there? Or has there been a lot of turnover recently?
How do the staff members deal with difficult behaviors, like aggression, mood swings, and sundown syndrome?
What is the facility’s policy on the use of restraints — both physical and chemical?
Food, activities, etc.
What meals are provided? Are special nutritional needs and dietary requests, such as kosher meals, accommodated?
Does the food look appetizing and taste good? Do residents seem to enjoy it?
Is there adequate staff to assist those who need help eating? Are there residents calling out who are being ignored?
How does the facility encourage eating among residents who are uninterested in food — or how does it encourage residents who tend to overeat not to be unhealthy?
Does the facility offer spiritual or religious services that your loved one would enjoy attending?
Does the facility allow pets? Does the facility have any of its own pets?
What activities are offered to residents (exercise, physical therapy, social, etc.)? Do they seem like they would engage your loved one?
Does the facility offer regular exercise sessions for residents who are physically able to participate?
What resources are available to engage residents’ long-term memories?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consider the one factor that patient advocates say can all but guarantee more successful residencies: proximity to family and friends. Even a good facility can’t make your loved one a happy camper without you and other family members being there on a regular basis and being very involved, even though they may not remember who you are.
“It’s definitely sad that I’m no longer able to reminisce and share memories with my father,” says Mayeda. “But I find that we can still laugh and enjoy each other’s company just by being in the moment together.”
Sunshine has Memory Care facilities in Pharr, Texas, Beachwood, Ohio, and Mishawaka, Indiana, all of which offer programs and specialized care that are designed to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. To find facilities in your area that offer memory care for your loved one, go to CommunityResourceFinder.org. Also, A Place for Mom can help you devise a plan and offer local expertise on the communities available in your area. Think about talking to friends and others you may know who have gone through this decision-making process. Their insights can help you in your search and give you much-needed support in what can be a very trying time for your family and your loved one.