Older adults with Alzheimer's disease will eventually require 24-hour daily care by professionals. Finding the right long-term care facility and caregivers is essential.
Family members of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's have many difficult facts to accept. One of these is that your loved one will need specialized care in a long-term care facility.
Alzheimer's Disease Basics
Alzheimer's is a progressive condition, and those afflicted will eventually become unable to live independently. Alzheimer's patients lose their memory and cognitive ability at differing rates. The heartbreaking and inevitable outcome is that they will eventually lose the ability to recognize people they know or perform basic daily living functions.
However, as society progresses, so does the level of care for Alzheimer's patients. While science attempts to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's, the long-term care community increases its ability to properly and effectively provide for the needs of those Alzheimer's patients.
Dementia and general memory care are evolving similarly to provide the best health care possible.
Alzheimer's Facility Basics
There are specific Alzheimer's facilities that specialize in the care of Alzheimer's patients. You can also find mixed-care facilities that offer assisted living arrangements and daily care for people with and without Alzheimer's. Family members can also arrange respite care if they need a few hours or days of home health care.
Some older adults in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease can start with in-home care. They can have a gentle progression to special care living communities. In time, they will likely need to transition to 24-hour memory care facilities.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are transitional care settings that allow for different levels of care while your loved one stays within one community.
Memory care units can still promote independent living while it is safe for older adults and staff members. Eventually, memory loss may lead to structured 24-hour care needs or hospice care.
Factors to Consider When Evaluating Alzheimer's Facilities
In choosing the right nursing home or assisted living facility for a loved one with Alzheimer's, there are many factors to consider.
You should consider the staff, the facility, the programs within the facility, and the type of treatment patients receive. Below you will find details on evaluating each of these aspects.
Evaluate Alzheimer's Facility Staff and Care Providers
One of the biggest concerns is the level of care and care services the staff provides its patients. First, you will want to ensure that there are Certified Nursing Aides (CNAs) who provide care to patients.
These are the people who will have the most direct interaction with your loved one and possess the ability to make their day comfortable or uncomfortable. You will want to ensure the people caring for your loved one are skilled nursing professionals and treat their patients with care and respect.
When visiting Alzheimer's facilities, be on the lookout for the following:
- Is there licensed staff on duty at all times?
- How do the residents look? Are they well-groomed and adequately dressed? This speaks volumes about the level of care the staff provides.
- How does management interact with the CNAs? Is respect given in both directions? How management treats its staff can show how seriously the facility takes the treatment of its patients.
- How does the staff handle situations that arise with residents? Are they professional and compassionate?
- What types of activities do the staff plan for its residents?
- Does the staff keep the facility clean and orderly?
While it's not an exhaustive list, these questions should help you to determine whether a specific facility is right for your loved one. Additionally, it would help if you visited Alzheimer's facilities at different times of the day and evening and on different days.
This can help you get a better feel for the staff and atmosphere. The staff on duty may be outstanding on some days and less on others. You'll want to investigate as much as possible to get the most accurate impression.
Everything else flows from the attentiveness, professionalism, and compassion of the facility's staff. A facility could be brand new and the picture of perfection, but if the staff is subpar, the new facility won't matter to you or your loved one.
Evaluate On-Site Medical Care
Related to staffing concerns, you should also investigate the facility's policy for medical care. Alzheimer's patients are overwhelmingly older patients who also suffer the physical problems of an older person.
Find out who will administer drugs as necessary (both Alzheimer-related and for other conditions) and take care of any physical or emotional problems that may arise.
Regarding Alzheimer-related drugs, you should inquire about the facility's policy on administering behavior-controlling drugs. Late-stage Alzheimer's patients can be aggressive and paranoid and suffer from anxiety and insomnia.
Drugs can suppress some of these symptoms and make life more comfortable for residents, but you don't want your loved ones to be sedated if they don't require it.
Ask about the facility's policy on dosage and frequency, and look around at the current residents to confirm what the facility is telling you.
Evaluate the Condition and Upkeep of Alzheimer's Facilities
In addition to the staff, you should thoroughly investigate the facility itself. The facility should be clean, well organized (which also says volumes about the staff), and appropriately spaced for its residents.
Depending on how far Alzheimer's has progressed, patients will have varying levels of comfort with open or closed spaces.
For the early stage to middle stages of Alzheimer's, patients enjoy more open spaces. Late-stage patients prefer more constrained areas within which to carry out activities.
Whatever your loved one's needs, you should ensure that the facility is safe and has an appropriate level of staff to care for and protect residents.
Evaluate Care Needs Changing and Room Transfers
As Alzheimer's disease progresses, patients should have the care they need without the trauma of moving to a new facility. Alzheimer's facilities should be designed for residents to grow older in the same location.
Evaluate Safety Options
Safety is also a huge concern at Alzheimer's facilities. Residents will become more forgetful and disoriented as time goes on. The facility should have enough staff to monitor residents and control unruly behavior.
You don't want your loved one to be injured by another resident or harm themselves or another resident. You also don't want your loved one to be able to wander off the premises alone.
Evaluate Facility Activities
Activities are another important factor in choosing the right long-term care facility. Because Alzheimer's is a disease that attacks the brain, the facility should have special programs and activities which stimulate the mind and encourages interaction.
Along with activities that target residents' minds, accompanying physical activities should stimulate hand-eye coordination and general physical stamina.
When you visit the facility, you should observe some of these activities and how the staff runs them.
Background Check Any Nursing Facility
You can investigate through local government agencies and the Better Business Bureau. Look for any investigations or complaints that have been lodged against a facility.
These are obvious red flags against placing your loved one in such facilities. You may also want to check law enforcement agencies to inquire about criminal complaints against the facility or staff. Be wary of any issues, such as elder abuse or neglect of patients.
Contact an Attorney
Alzheimer's is a terrible and heartbreaking disease. By choosing the best long-term care facility for your loved one, you can be assured they receive the proper care and attention. The Alzheimer's Association is a good resource for information or long-term care planning.
An attorney is your first stop if you are unsure where to turn or how to handle an older adult law issue. Many offer free phone consultations and can help you understand your options.