How To Find Residential Care for Alzheimer's Patients

Older adults with Alzheimer's disease or dementia will eventually need 24-hour daily care. Finding the right long-term care facility and caregivers is essential.

It's important to note that while dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability affecting daily life, Alzheimer's is a specific type of dementia. The difference between the two is the cause and progression of symptoms. Family members of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's have many difficult facts to accept, including the need for specialized care in a long-term care facility.

Alzheimer's Disease Basics

Alzheimer's is a progressive condition, and those afflicted are eventually unable to live independently. Alzheimer's patients lose their memory and cognitive ability at differing rates. The heartbreaking and inevitable outcome is that they lose the ability to recognize people they know or perform basic daily tasks.

But, as society progresses, so does the level of care for Alzheimer's patients. While science tries to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's, the long-term care community becomes better at effectively caring for Alzheimer's patients.

Dementia care and general memory care are evolving similarly to give the best health care possible.

Alzheimer's Facility Basics

Some facilities 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 with different care levels while your loved one stays within one community.

Memory care units can still promote independent living while safe for older adults and staff members. Eventually, memory loss may lead to structured 24-hour care needs or end-of-life 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.

Consider the staff, the facility, the programs within the facility, and the type of medical treatment patients get. You should also consider the long-term care costs. 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 the staff offers its patients. First, ensure that the facility has certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who provide care.

CNAs will have the most direct interaction with your loved one and have the ability to make their day comfortable or not. 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:

  • Are 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 treats 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?
  • Do staff develop individualized care plans for each resident that address specific needs, preferences, and medical requirements?
  • How do staff handle communication and family involvement?
  • Is the facility licensed and accredited, adhering to state regulations for LTC and memory care? Is it accredited by any relevant organizations that ensure high standards of care?

While it's not an exhaustive list, these questions should help you to determine whether a specific facility is right for your loved one.

Also, 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 are 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

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 (Alzheimer-related and for other conditions) and take care of any physical or emotional problems that may arise.

On Alzheimer-related drugs, you should ask about the facility's policy on administering behavior-controlling drugs. Late-stage Alzheimer's patients can get 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 one to get sedated if they don't need it.

Ask about the facility's policy on dosage and frequency, and look around at the current residents to confirm what the facility tells you.

Evaluate the Condition and Upkeep of Alzheimer's Facilities

You should thoroughly investigate the facility itself. Ensure the facility is clean, well organized (which also tells you 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 appropriate 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 watch residents and control unruly behavior.

Specific safety features to look for include:

  • Secured entrances, alarmed doors, and a layout that minimizes the risk of wandering.
  • Safety features such as handrails, non-slip flooring, and easily accessible emergency call systems

You don't want your loved one to get injured by another resident or harm themselves or another resident. You also don't want your loved one 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 that stimulate the mind and encourage interaction.

Along with activities that target residents' minds, physical activities should stimulate hand-eye coordination and general physical stamina.

You should watch some of these activities and how the staff runs them when you visit the facility.

Background Check Any Nursing Facility

You can investigate elder care facilities through local government agencies and the Better Business Bureau. Look for any investigations or complaints against a facility. These are obvious red flags against placing your loved one there.

Ask for references from current residents' families and review online feedback and ratings from residents' loved ones. You may also want to check law enforcement agencies to ask 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 know they get the proper care and attention. The Alzheimer's Association is a good resource for information or long-term care planning.

An elder law 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.

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