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Questions to Ask When Looking for an Alzheimer's Care Facility

Finding the right facility

If you and your family have decided that your aging loved one needs full-time or live-in Alzheimer’s care, finding the facility that feels right can be challenging. There are a lot of factors to consider, from physical safety to staff to programming to cost or location.

Knowing your needs

In order to figure out whether a facility has what you need, you first need to understand the needs of your loved one, yourself, and your family. Make a list of what your loved one struggles with, or what your family struggles with in caring for them. You can consider:

Physical needs: how much mobility assistance does your loved one need? Do you need to make sure that social, recreation, or outdoor spaces are walker or wheelchair accessible? Does your loved one need help with feeding, bathing, or toileting?

Behavioral needs: does your loved one wander or look for exits? Do you need to make sure they have a solo space to spend time in? Is your loved one often angry or aggressive?

Medical needs: does your loved one need assistance accessing physical therapy or other ongoing medical resources? Does your loved one have a medication regimen that they will need assistance with? Does your loved one have a chronic condition that requires intervention (dialysis, diabetes care, etc)?

How to find the right answers

As you tour facilities or interview staff, bear in mind that asking the right questions can get you the information you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to follow up with additional questions, or even, “can you tell me more about that?” The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll feel as you make a decision about a facility for your loved one’s Alzheimer’s care.

Ask safety and security questions:

  • How are exits and entrances secured in this facility?
  • How do guests enter and exit? Is any member of the public allowed to visit?
  • Are residents able to freely access outdoor areas? How are outdoor areas secured?
  • How are individual residential rooms secured?

Ask questions about the staffing:

  • How many staff have medical training or certifications?
  • Is there a physician on staff or who regularly visits the facility?
  • Is there a nurse on duty? What schedule does that nurse keep?
  • What is the resident to caregiver ratio during the day? During the night?
  • Is visiting or outside medical care accepted?

Ask about their programming:

  • Do residents have individual care plans?
  • Do you accept residents who are incontinent? Do you accept residents who are bedridden?
  • How do you care for residents who become disruptive or aggressive?
  • What resources do you offer to interact with or stimulate residents in your Alzheimer’s care program?
  • Do you provide music therapy, pet therapy, religious services, or community interactions on site?
  • What is your dining program like? Can it be adapted for individual residents’ needs?

Ask about their policies:

  • What intake, assessment, or evaluation is completed prior to accepting a resident?
  • How do you communicate residents’ status or updates to families?
  • What is your medical emergency protocol?
  • What is your policy for discharging residents?
  • How do you accept payments? What is your fee structure?
  • How do you work with health insurance policies?

Trust your gut

Take the time after you visit a facility or speak with a staff member to reflect on your interaction. Did it feel honest, open, friendly, and forthcoming? Did you have to push to get answers to your questions? Did residents seem comfortable and peaceful? Was the facility accessible and easy to move around?

If you’re not feeling sure about your interaction with a facility or staffer, it might be a sign that a second visit is needed, or it might be a sign that that facility is just not a good fit for you and your family. Don’t be afraid of requesting second interviews, or to visit a facility at a different time of day. The more information you have, the more able you are to make a decision that’s right for your loved one’s Alzheimer’s care.

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