daugther and husband caring for their senior mother and wife

How to Evaluate a Memory Care Community.

When your loved one with Alzheimer’s or memory loss needs care and you have to figure out how to manage it, you’ll be faced with many decisions. Sadness, stress, worry and guilt can leave you confused regarding what your next step should be.

Your research can include online investigation, searching throughout your neighborhood or following up on leads from trusted sources. But experiencing the community firsthand will answer your questions and give you the best picture. Here is how to prepare for your visit to an assisted living or memory care community.

Take Note of Your First Impression.

The minute you walk through the door of a senior living community, you begin to form your opinion. Consider the curb appeal of the building, grounds and landscaping. Now see how that impression carries through as you tour. Take note if a staff member or resident immediately greets you. Does the area look and smell 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 ask you questions. 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 or incontinence, ask how staff are directed to deal with it.

Is the Memory Care Community Secure? 

Technology has changed the way we ensure seniors in memory care 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? It’s advisable to ask now.

While you want the environment to look homelike 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.

How Involved and Engaged Are the Residents?

A good memory care activity schedule should include programs based on a variety of interests and cognitive 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 10 minutes. Can you see your loved one enjoying it? 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.

Taste a Meal, Inquire About Nutrition.

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.

Is the Staff Friendly to You?

Are you getting smiles and greetings from the staff you pass in the hall? Never underestimate the power of friendliness. Well-trained, responsive 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 help with the 24-hour care, including activities of daily living, monitoring your loved one’s health, managing medications and keeping 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 well-being.

Female Nurse Bending Down To Smile With Senior Male Patient

Are the Memory Care Amenities Appealing?

As you go through the commons area, are there comfortable couches and sitting areas for family visits? Stop by the activities rooms, fitness areas, art studio 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 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.

Sit Down With a Financial Counselor From the Memory Care Community.

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 the policy and costs associated with moving out.

Although Medicare does not pay for memory care residence, ask about Medicaid, Veterans Aid & Assistance, long-term care and other insurance coverage. How does the community handle instances if the resident is no longer able to pay?

senior couple sitting down with memory care advisor

High Ratings in Nursing Home Surveys.

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.

As you can see, this is a lot 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 Oakley Courts Assisted Living & Memory Care, our approach to memory care is guided by our commitment to life enrichment. Our memory care residents find fulfillment and motivation in a comfortable, safe and nurturing environment. Give us a call to schedule a personal consultation.