Choosing an Alzheimers or Dementia Facility

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Watching your loved one’s cognitive state decline to the point of needing round-the-clock help is hard, but an Alzheimer’s and dementia facility can provide the necessary care and support. Knowing what to look for in a quality facility can make this period of transition easier.

Evaluate the Facility

Alzheimer’s and dementia facilities may be freestanding or one unit of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Some patients may require the additional care available in a nursing home. However, Alzheimer’s residents in a nursing facility should be housed in their own unit, away from other residents.

Good facilities make accommodations for the needs of their residents. Noise levels should be kept low, while light levels should change throughout the day. Bright lights during the daytime and dim lights when the sun goes down help residents maintain normal schedules. Easy-to-read clocks and calendars also help patients stay in a day-to-day rhythm.

In a dementia facility, decorating is about more than just looking nice. The building should be home-like, rather than institutional in appearance, and a circular hallway set-up is less stressful to residents than hallways that lead to dead ends. Solid colors are preferable to patterns, and color consistency throughout the facility is important. For example, all bathrooms could be painted the same color. Additionally, rooms should be labeled with both words and pictures, and these signs should be placed at eye level.

Safety is key. The unit should be located on a quiet street, away from traffic. Doors should be secured or residents should wear alarm units, so the staff is alerted if anyone tries to leave. Of course, if the doors remain locked, there must be a safe plan for quick evacuation in case of emergency.

Evaluate the Staff

To provide quality care, a facility must have adequate staff. Look for a ratio of one staff member for every four residents.

A specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia facility should have dementia-specific services that distinguish it from a regular nursing home. The staff in this area should receive additional training to help them work with these patients, and the facility should have a dementia specialist on staff or available for consultation. Activities should be planned with the needs and abilities of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in mind.

To learn more about the staff’s preparedness, inquire about how they would respond to certain situations that often arise among dementia patients. Tailor your questions to your own loved one’s habits; for example, if your senior often repeats questions, ask how the staff would handle that. Also, find out about their policies on using physical and chemical restraints.

Questions about bathroom practices might be awkward, but it is important to explore this aspect of care. Despite their cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients should be encouraged to use the restroom for as long as possible. One way to learn more about a facility’s attitude toward this practice is to ask what percentage of the residents are in diapers. Another good idea is to ask whether staff will provide restroom assistance as necessary.

Alzheimer’s and dementia require a specialized form of elder care, and dedicated facilities can provide the support that both patients and family members need. However, not all Alzheimer’s and dementia facilities are created equal, and thorough research will help family members choose the best care for their loved ones.