Often, family members caring for an elder with Alzheimer’s worry whether they are truly meeting their loved one’s needs. The disease is complex and causes changes that can be hard to cope with. And, it can be tough to communicate with a senior with Alzheimer’s disease who may have lost much of their traditional communication skills.
Some families may feel confident caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s at home longer than others. Either way, Rita Altman, senior vice president of Memory Care & Programming for Sunrise Senior Living, recommends families take a proactive approach to planning for the older adult’s future care needs.
“I always recommend that adult children start talking about and planning for the future when they first begin to detect small changes in their family member,” explains Altman. “If you wait, you may find yourselves making important decisions in the midst of a difficult and unfamiliar situation.”
Signs a Senior with Alzheimer’s Might Need Memory Care
A few signs an older adult with Alzheimer’s might not be safe living alone include:
- difficulty managing finances and paying bills
- forgetting food is cooking in the oven or on the stovetop
- experiencing paranoia or hallucinations
- neglecting personal care and hygiene
- difficulty carrying on a conversation
- unintentional weight loss
- getting lost in familiar surroundings.
While some adult children decide to move a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease into their own home, that arrangement is usually temporary. As the disease progresses, many still seek the support of a memory care program. Researching memory care options in advance is usually the best course of action.
7 Tips for Evaluating Memory Care Programs
Memory care can differ greatly from one community to another. Some programs are part of a large continuing care retirement community, and others are a dedicated area of an assisted living or nursing care center. Whatever type of memory care you are exploring, it’s important to evaluate a few vital components.
- Security of environment : Families often explore memory care programs when they fear their loved one isn’t safe at home. Many are concerned about a loved one’s pattern of unsafely leaving their home in search of something, such as food or a loved one. A secure memory care environment is vital.
- Commitment to positive language: You can tell a lot about a memory care community by the language you hear staff use. Language sets a tone and can help you determine if the community prioritizes a homelike setting. Find a community where team members use phrases like “secure neighborhood” instead of “locked unit” and “move into” versus “placed in” a suite or apartment.
- Dedicated staff members: Caring for adults with Alzheimer’s disease requires special training and experience. Ask every community you visit if the caregivers work exclusively with memory care residents and what additional training they receive. Also make sure to ask how many caregivers are available during the day and after hours. Quality staff directly impacts quality of care, so make sure you get answers to these questions.
- State survey results: Memory care programs that are part of an assisted living community undergo routine inspections by state surveyors. They evaluate the community for everything from the safety of the environment to nutritional quality of the food. Reviewing these results is an important step for evaluating the memory care community. If your state doesn’t publish survey results online, ask the community staff for a copy.
- Life enrichment activities: The structure that comes with daily routine is important for adults with Alzheimer’s and related forms of memory loss. Life enrichment opportunities are a key component of that routine. Ask for a copy of the community’s activities calendar. Make sure it shows a mix of activities and events designed to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of residents.
- Transportation services: Transportation is another important factor. Is supervised transportation available to take residents to and from medical appointments? Is it also available for outings to local parks and restaurants?
- Individual plan of care: Ask if and how an individual plan of care is developed for each resident. Do families participate in the process? How often is the care plan assessed and updated?
Our final tip is the most important one: visit any memory care community you are considering in person. It’s best to do so more than once. Call 888-434-4648 to schedule a tour of a Reminiscence neighborhood at a Sunrise community near you today!