Finding the Best Alzheimer’s Care Facility
Ask the Right Questions to Find the Best Care
As the disease progresses, finding an Alzheimer’s Care Facility might feel like you’re giving up but in reality, it’s a loving choice that keeps your loved one safe and provides them with the best care possible. How do you find the best place to care for your loved one?
When you think of an Alzheimer’s Care Facility you probably think of a nursing home, but there are other options if the person can still partially care for themselves.
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are homes or apartments in a retirement community where the person can live as independently as the disease allows. Think of a CCRC as a collection of small homes or apartments on the property where the person can slowly move from near independence to constant care as needed.
Group homes are homes where a small number of Alzheimer’s patients live alongside one or more caregivers. These homes may not be regulated or inspected but still might provide quality care.
Assisted living facilities are places with rooms or apartments for patients who need help with daily tasks. Some may be specifically for Alzheimer’s care while others may or may not have a special unit for Alzheimer’s patients.
Finally, a nursing home is for patients unable to care for themselves and will often have special units with staff trained to care for Alzheimer’s patients.
First, speak to the patient’s doctor about the progression of the disease and see what kind of facility makes the most sense. Then, talk to support group members and others about Alzheimer’s care facilities in the area. You can also check Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare page or qualitycheck.org to find more facilities to check.
Once you make a list of facilities to visit, how do you know what to look for and ask? Before you schedule a tour, ask if they have a unit dedicated Alzheimer’s patients. Many communities now specially cater to these patients. Unless a particular facility is known for quality care even without a special unit, it might be best to limit your search to places that have special care for Alzheimer’s patients.
Also, ask about general pricing and insurance information at this time. No need to go through the evaluation process if the facility doesn’t accept Medicare (most do) or is out of your price range.
How to Evaluate Alzheimer's Care Facilities
Put a checklist of questions and observations together that you can take with you. The checklist might include:
- What’s your first impression? Does it have a general sense of cleanliness? Is the property well-maintained?
- Smells: You’ve likely been to a retirement community that has a questionable stench. Don’t write off foul odors as normal.
- Were you greeted by a friendly, smiling person?
- Was there a sign in process with security in mind?
- Did the décor seem overly dated or was there clearly effort put into keeping the facility from looking old?
- As you walk the facility do you see any trip hazards, slippery floors, or other safety concerns?
Don’t just look at the common areas where residents congregate but look at the kitchen, bathrooms, rooms where residents live instead of the pre-staged room. Also, look outside and in other areas that don’t look like part of the tour. That’s where you’ll find how the facility is truly cared for.
Do you still find smiling, happy faces as you walk the less public areas? Sure, somebody may be having a bad day—caring for Alzheimer’s patients isn’t easy but there shouldn’t be a general sense of negativity as you talk to staff.
Specifically, ask to see the Alzheimer’s care unit. Some questions to ask might include:
- What makes the Alzheimer’s care unit different than the general care areas?
- What’s the daily schedule for Alzheimer’s patients?
- How does the facility ensure safety for these patients?
- Is there a safe area for Alzheimer’s patients to go outside?
- How do patients get to doctor’s appointments?
- Ratio of staff to patients?
- How is the staff specially trained for Alzheimer’s patients?
- Is there a doctor who checks on residents? If so, how often?
Finally, ask for references. Talk to the families of current residents to see how their experience has been.
If everything sounds good, ask to see the contract so you can read through it in detail before signing.