When arranging a move into a retirement community, most senior parents and their adult children prepare a list of what criteria they're hoping for— amenities, recreation activities, onsite healthcare and so on. Unfortunately, future assisted care needs rarely top the list.
While seniors may not consider it, we know that with Alzheimer’s on the rise, memory care is an essential part of the criteria when discovering where you will best be served into your golden years.
Because all communities provide differing levels of memory care for pre-dementia, cognitive changes and Alzheimer's (some provide none at all), there are key aspects to consider when looking for the right place.
1. The community must be secure.
You'll have a big checklist, but this is most important. Get a tour and inquire about the security immediately.
2. Treatment plans must fit your values and wishes.
Alzheimer's and dementia are complex; they can affect all aspects of life and relate to a person's overall health. Choose an organization that aligns with your family's values, needs and wants for treatment options. For example, if your parent eats a whole foods diet and uses specially prescribed supplements instead of medications only, be sure the community you choose employs staff qualified to manage those aspects.
3. Watch out for dust.
It's fairly common for seniors with memory concerns to need extra assistance with personal care activities involving showering and toileting at some point. If their level of care is such that they will be in their own on-site room, it's also imperative that you know you (or your parent) will be looked after, and cleanliness of both rooms and residents can be an indicator of how well a community is able to care for residents who need extra help.
4. Assisted living must offer memory care.
Ask in detail how the programs offered support fun, interactive memory care. You'll want to know that your loved one is being engaged in a natural setting.
5. Look at the menu and sample it.
Study after study shows how nutrition is linked to enhancing and preserving memory. This is especially important for the Alzheimer's patient. Some seniors experiencing memory issues forget to eat or have low appetite. Facilities with superior nutrition programs focus on real, whole foods that are carefully planned to help sustain maximum wellness for residents. If your parent is gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian for example, ask if the kitchen would be able to meet these needs adequately.
6. Flexible visiting schedule.
You'll want to visit your loved ones as much as possible, so be sure the visitor's schedule is flexible and is receptive to privacy as well as on-site community events.
7. Understand the financials front and back.
The cost of assisted care should be commensurate to the services provided and location of the community. Review which services are included in total fees, which may be added on etc. If you are opting for a robust nutrition program for example, be sure your loved one will have access to that in the package you are opting into.
8. Therapy or medical care available onsite.
It's important to know if podiatrists, dentists, and orthopedists are on-site or if you will be responsible for taking your parent off-site for medical services. If your parent needs physical or occupational therapy, will they have access to services at their community?
9. Check accreditations.
Before you fall in love with the community, be sure they are fully accredited to care for persons with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. This includes looking at licensure—both the organization itself and individual staff members— as well.
10. Trust your instincts.
While it may be emotionally difficult to take this step, you’ll see the value in enlisting caring, trained professionals to assist in your parent's memory care. But, don’t take anything at face value, look around when touring the community and simply observe how other residents are being treated, how they're interacting- be conscientious of the overall energy and be sure your gut feelings approve.