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What to look for in a Memory Care Community

happyincommI still recall the three days before my parent’s were moved from Independent Living into Assisted Living at their Continuing Care Retirement Community.  Because it was a “life care” community, we didn’t have to do the community search. However, the idea of moving them from their 1,800 square foot apartment to about 500 square feet made me physically ill. My Mom was vehemently against the move and threatened to move out. The community forced the move because they were now a danger to themselves and others.

I called in my siblings to help with the move and they all rallied to support this transition.

I still was sick over the guilt I felt knowing my Mom didn’t want things to change. I understood, but also knew I couldn’t keep plugging the holes in their day-to-day routines they could no longer manage. What surprised me the most was how happy my parents were after the move to the MUCH smaller apartment.

What I see today are a host of confusing choices for families to make. There are now at least 10 new memory care communities that are offering hotel and spa-like amenities in our metro-area. They are lovely communities, but the room size and the counter finishes should be the last thing you consider when you make a choice for a Memory Care community.

Here are my recommendations on the key steps to take:

  1. Tour the community at different times.
    Breakfast: How do the residents look? Are they dressed and is their hair brushed? What is the vibe of the room?
    3 PM:  Is there an activity going on and how many of the residents to you see?  How many are gathered around a television? Do you see a lot of the residents sleeping?
    6:30 PM: After dinner when many residents with memory issues might be agitated.
  2. Do the employees know the residents? As you tour, do you see the employees engage with the residents and do the residents respond when spoken too?
  3. Is there a Family Council? Does the community respond to requests from the Family Council? Ask to speak with the President to understand how the community addresses issues. There are always issues, so ask for the President to describe something recently they raised and how the community responded to it.
  4. Ask how they deal with end-of-life and how many of their residents did they lose in the past year?
  5. Find out how many residents they have discharged? We have a community that sends the residents with behavioral issues they are unable to control to the hospital and they decline to allow them back into the community leaving the family in a lurch.

Do you like the soft side of the community? That is what matters when you have someone with dementia who can’t be their own advocate.

You need to do your due diligence. I’m seeing families fall for the allure of the facility and skip the real meat of understanding how the community engages with and cares for the residents. They have a good spiel and the community is lovely, but what you need to learn is how do they care for those living there.  A year later, I see families frustrated and unhappy with how the community is responding to their loved ones needs.

I fell in love with the community representative when we moved my Mom (see link to those postings below). When she moved, I noticed the difference. She had a unique connection with my Mom. Luckily, the Executive Director for the community was engaged and had made a connection with my Mom as well. However, staff changes and it’s a testament to those communities that have employee longevity.

Don’t be swayed by the granite counter tops and larger rooms. In my experience, more space wasn’t necessarily a good thing for someone living with dementia. Look for the communities with good track records, and where you see the staff truly engage with their residents and that have residents that respond. That is the real testament to good memory care community. Advised. 

A few older posts on my journey to find the right community for my Mom. 

Your Mom is Not Doing Well in Assisted Living

What is Right for Mom? Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

Flirting with Normal

How Activities Benefit Individuals with Dementia

Mom Would Never Dance if She Living with Me

3 comments on “What to look for in a Memory Care Community

  1. Bless you for sharing your experiences. I’m sure it was a painful time and I can only imagine you must relive it when sharing. Thank you.

  2. So many good points. Mom would have been about size and decor. I shudder at the choices our kids will have to make. Maybe I will.go back to my happy place where someday I just don’t wake up. Thanks for all your insight Kay!

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