Important Questions to Ask When
Choosing a Memory Care Community

Important Questions to Ask When
Choosing a Memory Care Community

When you or someone close to you needs the services that only a memory care community can provide, then you know how important finding the right community really is. But typically, by the time you find yourself looking for or considering a memory care community, you’re probably overwhelmed. So, to make the task a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of questions to help you.

Memory care is a specialized type of long-term care focused on the needs of someone dealing with memory loss, typically some type of dementia, generally Alzheimer’s – the most prevalent type of dementia. Memory care provides an environment that is structured and safe. The following questions will help as you consider which community is right for your situation.

Research

  • Each state has its own regulatory standards for senior care communities, but memory care is only regulated in approximately half of them. Find the regulating agency and review community audits. Check for reports of neglect or abuse.
  • Is the location of the community convenient to family and friends so they can come visit?
  • Check with your local Area Agency on Aging and the Better Business Bureau to see if you can find any information concerning the community
  • Is the community in a safe neighborhood? Use tools within Trulia, Crime Reports and Neighborhood Scout to evaluate neighborhood’s safety and crime rates.
  • Check Caring.com reviews to see what others are saying about the communities you are considering

General Questions

  • There are several kinds of communities that provide memory care including memory care specific communities, memory care areas set aside within a larger community and personal care homes. Which type of community best provides for the resident’s needs? Is a larger or smaller community better? For some people with memory issues, smaller is better – a lot of faces can cause confusion.
  • Can the community accommodate all levels of dementia or only specific levels?
  • Does each resident have an individual care plan?
  • Does the community provide the level of supervision required for a residents’ comfort and safety?
  • How does the community address the issue of wandering and elopement? Is the community secure/locked down with carefully monitored exits? Is staff available at all times, day and night, to monitor residents?
  • How much assistance do you or your family member require? Will the facility provide for those needs? If help is needed with ADLs, does the community provide assistance with all ADLs? How do they provide for needs as skills deteriorate?
  • What types of care is the community unable to provide?
  • How are residents transitioned from memory care to skilled nursing?
  • What is the fee structure for the community? What services are covered? What services incur extra costs?
  • If you want to provide additional outside companionship or care, does the community allow this?
  • What transportation services are provided?
  • Do you feel the community provides an environment that keeps residents engaged, safe and comfortable?
  • Under what conditions would a resident be asked to leave the community? What is the community’s discharge policy?
  • What is the community’s policy on restraints – both physical and chemical?
  • Does the community allow pets? Or, does the community have its own pets?

Community Design and Maintenance

Indoor and outdoor areas should be clean and well-maintained. Some wear is normal, but the community should not look neglected.

  • Is the community tidy and odor-free, especially bathrooms and dining areas?
  • Are floors and carpets clean and well maintained? Does the community have non-slip floors in all rooms, especially bathrooms?
  • Does the community have adequate lighting in hallways and common areas?
  • Is furniture clean and comfortable?
  • Is the community well-planned and easy to navigate?
  • If part of a larger community, is there a dining room dedicated to memory care residents?
  • Do residents have free access to attractive and secure outdoor areas?
  • Are resident’s rooms private or semi-private?
  • To help residents orient themselves, are doors and rooms clearly labeled, with both words and pictures?
  • Does the outside of each room have personal markers like memory boxes or pictures to help residents find their rooms?

Communication

Communication is very important. Regular meetings will help make sure your family member’s needs are being met. They’ll also keep you up-to-date with the status of their health.

  • How often does the community schedule meetings with the family?
  • How often does the community meet with family members to discuss and update care plans?

Staff

  • Ask about employee training. Does the staff receive memory care/dementia-specific training? How much training do they receive? How often is additional training provided? Is staff certified or tested?
  • Does the staff seem to be patient, caring and knowledgeable?
  • Knowing that consistency and familiarity are important for people dealing with memory issues, find out about caregiver turnover. Do caregivers stick around for extended periods of time? A high turnover rate is a red flag.
  • What is the staff to resident ratio during the day? During the night? Ratios should be at least 1 to 7, especially if dealing with late-stage dementia. Are caregivers awake at night?
  • How does the staff deal with aggressive or disruptive behavior?

Medical Services

  • How does the community provide for ongoing medical issues such as dialysis, a colostomy bag, diabetes or any other issue you or the person you care about require?
  • Is a nurse on duty around the clock? If not, what hours are they present?
  • Does the community have a visiting physician?
  • Does the community provide occupational, physical and speech therapy in an on-site clinic?
  • How does the community deal with medical emergencies? How quickly are you notified when there is an emergency?
  • How often is a resident’s health and cognitive functioning assessed? Who performs the assessment?

Programs & Activities

Thoroughly investigate the community’s calendar of events and speak to the community’s activity director.

  • How does the community provide individualized care specific to each resident’s interests?
  • Does the calendar contain social events and activities that would be of interest to your family member?
  • Does the community make a practice of planning programs around the interests of their residents?
  • Do their programs contain activities that are beneficial to someone with memory issues – cultivate memory and cognitive skills, social skills and health/exercise? Art, music and exercise should be scheduled at least once each day.
  • Does the calendar have a variety of activities that meet a resident’s emotional, social, physical and spiritual needs?
  • Does the community offer reminiscence or pet therapy?
  • Does the community plan holiday celebrations and special events throughout the year?

Memory Care at Berkeley Oaks

These questions give you a good starting point as you begin to evaluate memory care communities. When you talk to staff members and they’re unable to answer your questions or don’t provide the answers you expect, or something about the community feels off, go with your gut instinct. You’re making a very important decision for yourself or for someone you care about. Take your time to find the best options for all involved. The process to find the right community can be hard and emotionally exhausting, but taking the time to research your options thoroughly can make a huge difference in the long run.

If you have concerns as you search for the right community, contact us here at Berkeley Oaks and we’ll do our best to help you find the perfect community for you or someone you care about. We specialize in innovative memory care services and work diligently to meet the needs of residents and their families.