What is the best way to choose the right assisted-living environment for my parents who have dementia?
Securing the right place can often be quite intimidating and overwhelming, but research and planning can ease the anxiety of making the best choice.
If possible, do online research to find facilities near your desired location. For example, caring.com is a nationwide directory of assisted living communities and the Department of Health and Human Services in each state is a good resource for finding a facility. Talk to friends and neighbors about their recommendations. Get referrals from local agencies.
Next, call the facility to find out if they have space available and if they are accepting new residents. If there is a waiting list, put your name on it. Families often put their names on several facility waiting lists so the list may be shorter than it seems.
Ask about costs as they may vary significantly according to your parents’ needs, and ask what methods of payments are accepted.
Tour the facility to help you determine if is a right fit for your parent. Many experts say the most important part of making the decision is listening to your gut instincts.
Make a checklist of questions to ask or particular items you want to observe. During your tour, pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling in each of the spaces.
Do the look pleasant and appealing? Do the other residents look well taken care of and contented? Do hallways have handrails and are they well lit and easy to navigate? Are pets allowed? Is there adequate closet and storage space in the room? Is there a dementia-specific wing or secured area?
Once you’ve seen the room and surroundings, ask about meals and how they are provided, if snacks are available all day and if family members can join their loved ones for meals. You may even request a tasting to know what the food is really like. Also ask about activities and get a current schedule.
Before making your final decision, make an unscheduled visit. Go to the assisted living home unannounced a week or so after your first tour, preferably in the evenings or on weekends. It is a good sign if the atmosphere looks just as pleasant as it did during your tour. If not, you may want to consider another facility.
Finally, ask about costs for any extra services, such as laundry, medications, housekeeping or transportation to appointments and social outings. Ask about religious services if that is important to your parents.
Ask about emergency preparedness and what procedures are in place. Be sure you understand about developing your parents’ specific care plan, the ratio of staff to residents, the turnover rate, staff training (dementia specific) and the number of RNs, LPNs and CNAs employed.