It can be difficult to place a loved one in a memory care facility. You may want to help them yourself, but at some point, it often becomes necessary to allow trained staff to provide expert-level care. When that time comes, you generally want to make sure that you choose the best memory care facility available, perhaps one that will care for your loved one in the same way you would. It can be important to look for amenities like, sufficient supervision, highly trained staff, individual care plans, and a rich activity program, among others. During this process, it can be helpful to speak to a licensed mental health professional about any concerns or difficult emotions you may be experiencing. Online therapy can make it simple to connect with a therapist and schedule sessions at a time that fits into your existing routine.
Medication Stability During Transfers
One of the things to look for in a memory care facility may be its protocol for handling transfers between the facility and local hospitals. Many patients who need memory care also have physical health concerns, and those concerns may require transfers to and from a hospital on occasion. How these transfers are handled can make a huge difference in the outcomes for your loved one.
Use Of Cutting-Edge Technology And Therapies
New technologies and therapies can be implemented at memory care facilities across the nation. Choosing a memory care facility that makes use of cutting-edge technology and therapies may improve the quality of life of your loved one.
One such technology can be the use of robotic pets. Studies have long shown that having frequent visits from pets can help memory care patients. One study looked at how a robotic pet could fill this need with unique therapy for memory care patients. The study found that once they put clothing on the robotic pet, it was generally treated like a dog or baby by the patients, with very favorable outcomes.
Use Of Music
It can be helpful to look for a memory care facility that uses music as part of its regular daily therapies. Studies have shown that music can be very therapeutic for patients with dementia. Playing certain music from various periods may help them with memory recall.
In addition, patients may learn new songs, even when they are unable to form other types of new memories. This generally keeps the brain working and active. It can greatly improve their quality of life and promote longer life.
Safety Of Memory Unit
One of the most important things to look for in a memory care facility can be the safety of the memory care unit. In general, there must be heightened safety for the facility or the unit if it is part of a larger long-term care facility.
Ideally, there should be locked doors on all exits and entrances to the memory care unit. These doors should be controlled by electronic locks that require a code to be entered to open the door.
Many memory care patients tend to wander and could become lost. Even if they do not find their way out of the facility, if they wander away from the memory care unit into the main facility areas, they could become lost in rooms or areas that present dangers to them or other residents.
Level Of Supervision
Some memory care patients require more supervision than others. If your loved one has advanced dementia or Alzheimer's, they may require nearly constant supervision. Make sure that the memory care facility you choose offers enough staffing to provide this supervision at the level they need.
Not all memory care facilities may be equipped to maintain constant supervision and extreme cases. It can be important that, when you are interviewing the facility, you make clear the level of care that your loved one requires so that they can assure you whether they are equipped to care for your loved one.
Quality Of Nursing Care
Consider the quality of the nursing care at the memory care facility as well. Some memory care facilities focus on daily care with the help of CNAs and may only have one registered nurse on duty at specific times of the day. These facilities may not be equipped to tend to physical health problems.
If your loved one has physical health concerns, such as diabetes or other health problems that require constant monitoring and care, make sure that the memory care facility you choose is staffed to provide this care. When interviewing the facility, let them know about the special physical needs of your loved one and make sure that they can meet them.
Regularly Visiting Doctors And On-Call Doctors
The memory care facility should be regularly visited, and on-call doctors should generally be available for the residents. Physical illness can be common in residential care facilities, and various physical ailments can arise due to dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The physical medical needs of your loved one should be met regularly.
Having a doctor who regularly visits the facility, as well as an on-call doctor, may ensure that any physical health conditions may be diagnosed and treated quickly. This can improve your loved one’s quality of life and may also extend their life.
24-Hour Registered Nurse Coverage
Some memory care facilities only have a registered nurse during the day, while CNAs frequently run the show overnight. It can be ideal if there is a registered nurse on-site running the floor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This can be important for making sure that physical health does not fall by the wayside while daily care is provided.
When there is a registered nurse on staff at all times, it means that if a CNA notices elevated blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, or other concerns, there is generally someone there who can determine whether additional medical attention is required. CNAs are typically only equipped to facilitate daily care and take vitals. A registered nurse normally has more knowledge and capabilities to ensure health concerns are addressed.
Knowledgeable And Trained Staff
Not all CNAs and nurses may be trained in memory care. While CNAs and nurses may have the skills required to care for the physical needs of the patient, they might not have the required training to be able to handle times of extreme confusion.
It can be best to choose a memory care facility that trains its staff specifically in memory care therapy and techniques. When this level of training is provided to staff, they are usually better able to cope if the patient becomes agitated or confused. This can improve their quality of life and keep them out of danger.
Low Turnover Rate
A high turnover rate in a facility can be an item of concern. If the memory care facility has a large amount of nurse or management turnover, it could mean that it is not a well-run facility. Staffing could be a problem, potentially contributing to nurses being overworked. It’s also possible that the level of care may not be up to par, possibly causing staff to leave for positions in facilities where care is taken more seriously.
Ask the memory care facility you are considering about their turnover rate. How long has their longest-employed nurse been on staff? How long have their CNAs been on staff? How long has the facility been under the current management?
Having a high turnover rate can also be confusing for memory care patients. They may become confused about where they are and why they are there. If you add constantly changing faces and names to try to recognize and remember, it can make things very difficult for your loved one.
Adequate Staffing Ratio Both Day And Night
Some memory care facilities have higher staffing during the day than they do at night. A fully equipped and staffed memory care unit generally needs to have adequate staffing at all times of the day. While it can be true that patients should be sleeping at night, so not as much care may be required, it can also be true that Alzheimer's patients sometimes have episodes of confusion called “sundowners” during the nighttime hours.
You might ask the facility staff about the ratio of staff to patients during all shifts. While it can be acceptable for there to be fewer staff at night, there should typically still be adequate staffing to handle any problems that may arise.
Individual Care Plans
The memory care facility should generally have an individual care plan for your loved one. Some facilities may focus only on the basic level of care and group activities to help with quality of life. However, your loved one may have specific needs. The memory facility should be prepared to treat them with kindness and respect and give them individual care at the level they need.
Rich Activity Program
A rich activity program may be another thing to look for in a memory care facility. When residents are active and social, it can improve their quality of life and give them more favorable outcomes with their memory loss or retention.
Activities may include celebrations for holidays and birthdays, as well as group activities like bingo nights, board games, or card games. Outdoor activities, such as nature walks or gardening, can also be very helpful for maintaining physical health.
Professional Communication Practices
When interviewing the memory care facility, it can be wise to ask them how they will communicate with you and others in the family, as well as with your loved one's primary care and memory care doctors. Communication practices can be an important thing to consider, because if the lines of communication are not open and frequent, it could mean that your loved one's needs are not met promptly.
Procedures For Medical Emergencies
You should also ask the facility about their procedures for various medical emergencies. While not very common, medical emergencies can occur when your loved one is in a long-term care facility. These events must generally be handled professionally and promptly to ensure that your loved one is getting the best care and outcomes.
Ideally, in a medical emergency, an ambulance will be called immediately while nursing staff assesses and treats the patient to the best of their abilities. The family and the patient's doctors should also typically be contacted immediately, regardless of the time of day or night.
Cleanliness And Organization
The facility and residents should normally be kept clean and orderly. Ideally, a memory care unit will be clean and organized, but it should not appear sterile, like a hospital. It should feel cozy and lived in. However, it must still be clean, disinfected, and organized in such a way that memory care patients can find their way around and locate the items they need.
Small And Controlled Number Of Residents
As a general rule, the smaller the number of residents in a memory care unit, the better quality of care they may receive. Too many residents in a very large facility can be overwhelming for a memory care patient. It can also lead to staffing problems, which can mean a lower level of care for your loved one.
It can be best if the memory care facility is divided into units with similar patients. For example, if your loved one has very advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may be in a separate unit with only a few other patients who need that level of care, while other patients who do not need as much supervision may be in another unit.
Safe Outdoor Areas
Enjoying the outdoors can be important for your loved one’s quality of life. Look for memory care facilities that have safety outdoors. A gated area with electronic locks on the entrances and exits can be best.
The quality of the outdoor area can also be important. Safe walking pathways, comfortable benches, and well-kept garden areas can be physically and mentally stimulating. If not, there should at least be some places for the patients to sit and enjoy a summer breeze or autumn leaves.
Getting Help With Your Choice
Finding a suitable memory care facility for your loved one can be vital for their well-being and your peace of mind. You can get help choosing a memory care facility by speaking with a licensed mental health professional.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, there is generally no need to sit on a waiting list or spend hours researching licensed therapists who are specifically trained to meet your needs. After completing an initial questionnaire, you’ll normally be matched with a licensed professional in as little as 48 hours. Additionally, you can attend appointments that fit your schedule from the comfort of your own home, as long as you have an internet connection. This asset may be particularly helpful for people who are acting as the primary caregivers for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In such cases, it can be difficult to leave the home if there is no one available to supervise your loved one while you attend therapy.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
Studies have shown that online therapy can be an effective way to help people manage emotions like guilt or grief, which they may experience as they go through the process of transitioning their loved one to a memory care facility. In a study assessing one internet-based therapeutic intervention, participants experiencing depression and anxiety related to challenges with being a caregiver were sorted into two groups. In one group, caregivers received minimal interventions, mostly via e-bulletins, while the second group participated in a “Mastery Over Dementia” internet therapy method. The latter generally demonstrated effectiveness in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety among family caregivers.
What are the qualities of a good memory care facility?
A good memory care facility is one you can trust with the care of your loved one. Some qualities to look for include an adequate staff to resident ratio, individual care plans, and the availability of medical services. Staff should participate in ongoing training and communication should be ongoing. Safety features such as 24/7 hallway surveillance, locked exterior doors, and emergency call systems are also important.
What questions should I ask at memory care facilities?
When interviewing memory care communities to determine which one is the best choice for your loved one, you may ask questions including:
- How do you screen and train staff?
- What therapies are available to residents?
- How many meals and snacks are provided a day?
- What living arrangements are available?
- How do you communicate with family members?
- What does a typical day look like for residents?
- What cleaning procedures are in place?
What to look for when choosing a dementia care home?
Knowing what to look for in a memory care facility can help you choose a place that best meets the needs of your loved one. A few factors to look for are:
- knowledgeable and trained staff, including 24/7 skilled nursing staff
- enriching daily schedule
- availability of therapies such as memory enhancing therapies
- communication standards in place
- strong cleaning procedures
- supervision from a medical director
How do you interview a memory care facility?
Interviewing various facilities can help you choose the right memory care community for your loved one. Ask to take a tour of the facility, meet with staff members such as the director and skilled nursing staff, look at a typical room, and watch some activities. You may also ask a variety of questions such as:
- What kind of training does your staff receive?
- Tell me about an average day.
- How do you keep residents safe?
- What does a personalized dementia care plan look like for your residents?
- What cleaning procedures are in place?
- How do you communicate with families?
What is the difference between memory care and dementia care?
The difference between memory care and dementia care depends on the level of support that is needed. Memory care more closely resembles assisted living communities and is best for people who can still perform many daily living tasks independently. Dementia care is suited for people with advanced memory loss who may require 24/7 care and supervision.
What makes a good dementia unit?
One of the most important features of a good dementia unit is the availability of well-trained and empathetic staff members. The care that residents receive in their memory care community often depends on who works there. When the same staff members work with residents over time, they get to know their preferences and can better meet their needs.
What stage of dementia is memory care?
Someone with dementia may need round-the-clock memory care when they reach stage three or stage four. Needs will vary from person to person and depend on an individual’s cognitive decline.
What should I expect in a memory clinic assessment?
An initial memory care assessment may be used to determine what stage of dementia a patient has and what level of care they may require. The type of assessment used will depend on the individual care facility, but some common formats include the Mini-Cog and the Mini Mental State Examination. These assessments may test critical thinking, memory, problem-solving, and other skills.
What should I expect from a memory clinic home visit?
A memory clinic home visit may be used to evaluate a patient who is experiencing memory loss. Before the visit, they may be asked to have lab work or diagnostic imaging done. During the home visit, the evaluation may begin by reviewing the patient’s medical and memory history. There may then be cognitive testing, neurological screening, and a physical exam.
What questions are asked in a dementia memory test?
The questions of a dementia memory test typically depend on what assessment is used. Some prompts that may be used include:
- draw a clock showing a certain time
- complete simple math equations using addition or subtraction
- spell a word forward or backwards
- orientation (date, location, current events)
- remember and repeat a list of words
- copy drawings or figures
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