Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities

Sometimes you have to turn the tables, shift your perspective and look at things from a different angle in order to find the right answer. This is certainly the case when it’s time to search for the right type of memory care for yourself – or a loved one.

Life takes on a rather drastic shift indeed when it’s time to plan for memory care, and the key is to remember that while this move may feel like a sacrifice of autonomy, freedom and “life as you know it,” choosing the right memory care community means reclaiming all of those things in a slightly different way.

Asking the Right Questions Leads to the Right Memory Care Community

Taking a gently assertive role as you interview (yes, interview!) prospective memory care communities via their director(s) and staff, you will know when you find “the one” for you.

You are the one who controls the final decision regarding where – and by whom – loved ones will be cared for as their Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, and that requires consistent “interviewing skills” as you learn which memory care communities or centers meet the attentive criteria you require of them.

The following questions are in alignment with The Joint Commission’s Memory Care Requirements, and are organized by:

    • Staffing
    • Policies & Fees
    • Amenities

They serve as a comprehensive guideline for the types of information you should have on-hand as you move forward in the decision-making process – and you are encouraged to add your own questions to the mix.

With the director’s/staff permission, it is a good idea to record these “interview/introductory” meetings so you can be present in the moment, knowing you can play the recording back to jot down the answers later on.

Ultimately, after visiting the centers on your list, you’ll be able to compare “apples-to-apples” via their answers – eliminating some and bumping others to the top of the list – as you narrow in on your final choice.

Questions Regarding Memory Care Staffing

Do you have a Medical Director on staff?

Memory Care StaffWho’s at the helm, so to speak, when it comes to steering the physical and emotional well-being of the residents in the right direction? Having a Medical Director on staff indicates the community is dedicated to serving both the physical, as well as the mental/emotional, health of their residents – and has the leadership in place to do so.

Are there RNs or LPNs on staff? If so, how many? Are they on-site 24/7?

Most high-quality memory care centers have RNs and/or LPNs on staff to oversee any physical and/or medical needs that may arise in the course of a day. Nursing staff report directly to the community’s lead physicians as needed.

Consistent staff assignments (the same caregivers caring for the same patients) builds meaningful connections that foster personalized care. Ideally, trained medical staff are available 24/7.

What is the staffing ratio for each shift?

Those with dementia and dementia-related conditions are not as inherently regulated by the circadian rhythm. Thus, unlike other assisted living communities, memory care centers should maintain a consistent staff:patient ratio, around the clock.

What medical services are available?

The bulk of the residents’ medical needs can be diagnosed/treated with some basic, on-site medical services, including:

  • Labs
  • X-Rays
  • PT/OT/SP Therapy
  • Home Health
  • Hospice
  • Podiatry
  • Pharmacy
    Not only does this expedite care, it eliminates confusion associated with resident location changes and non-routine appointments.

What types of training does the staff have? What are staffing ratios for each shift?

All members of of the caregiving staff should maintain ongoing, annual training in alignment with current best-practices for memory care. Participation in professional education/training should be documented.

The higher the ratio of staff:resident, the better a memory care facility typically comes to promoting resident safety and well-being. Optimally, you’re looking for a 1:6 resident/staff ratio or better.

However, according to payingforseniorcare.com, “…time and time again, relevant research has shown that assisted living communities with full-time RNs and direct care with in-house nursing staff have a direct impact on resident outcomes.”

Questions Regarding Memory Care Policies & Fees

For this section, we’ll simply list the set of questions because your interest in the answers may vary depending on your situation, and the questions’ intent is relatively straight-forward:

  • Can my loved one stay here through the end of life or do they have to move if their care becomes too extensive?
  • What types of care can your community NOT provide?
  • What is the policy for a medical emergency/ER visit?
  • Does a staff member go with the resident on ER visits?
  • What is the policy for notifying family members?
  • What is the discharge policy?
  • Is the community all-inclusive or are there additional costs?
  • What are the additional costs i.e., cable TV, phone, medication fees, care level fees, activities/outings, transportation?
  • Can my loved one come back if they have to go to rehab?
  • What happens if my loved one is no longer ambulatory?

Questions Regarding Amenities and Outings

One of the defining features of great memory care communities is they are not out-of-the way places where residents go to deflate or wither on the vine. Rather, they are vibrant communities where those with dementia and related forms of cognitive decline go to receive top-notch care while being able to create a new, colorful and creative version of their life.

Outings for Memory Care Patients This requires beautiful grounds, community gardens, recreational and creative opportunities as well as safely organized outside trips into the community.

Questions worth asking include:

  • What are the daily activities like? How many days per week?
  • Do you charge for outside activities? i.e. Lunch Outings, Museums, etc.
  • Do you have Semi-Private and Private rooms? If cost is of concern, semi-private rooms can save residents thousands of dollars per year.
  • Ultimately, memory care communities should provide a rich spectrum of daily activities – offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. This ensures your loved one has access to fun, interesting and stimulating activities regardless of when his/her “best hours of the day” may be.

Potential activities should cross the spectrum of the residents’ potential interests, hobbies and preferred modalities, including art, poetry, music (both played and performed), dancing, games, hobby activities, supervised cooking, sports and physical activities as well as social engagements.

All of these types of activities have been proven to slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s and enhance the mood of those who suffer from cognitive decline.

But don’t forget the most important question of all…

Which memory care community makes you feel the most safe, comfortable and secure?

Your gut instincts matter. While answers to these questions are important, the feelings and intuition you receive as you tour prospective communities are every bit as valuable as the black-and-white answers you review.

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