How to Evaluate Memory Care Communities
It can be difficult to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia at home. And it can be equally as difficult to make the decision to move mom or dad into a memory care community. You could experience feelings of sadness, worry and guilt – all of which can leave you stressed and confused about what your next step should be.
When you’re researching memory care communities for a loved one, it can be a challenge to weigh all your living options. Your research may take you online, on a search through your local neighborhood or following up on leads from trusted sources. But the best way to investigate a community is firsthand. We welcome you to schedule a private consultation at Carnegie Village, where our professionals can answer your questions personally and calm your fears.
Some memory care communities are freestanding, but at Carnegie Village, our memory care and rehabilitation care are together on one campus, along with independent living and assisted living. The wing was designed from the ground up to be solely focused on memory care residents, so it includes all the most advanced features.
What to expect.
Even before you walk through the door, you’re beginning to form an opinion of a memory care community. The curb appeal of the building, the grounds and the landscaping will all make an impression on you. Now see how that impression carries through as you tour. Are you greeted promptly by a staff member? Take a minute to check if the area looks and smells clean. Keep checking throughout your visit.
If you’ve scheduled a tour, your guide should be prepared and equipped with brochures and information. This person will be asking you questions, but it’s very important to come with your own list of questions and expect answers.
Be open and honest. If your loved one has behavioral symptoms associated with cognitive impairment, such as apathy, wandering, agitation, incontinence or inappropriate sexual behaviors, ask how staff are directed to deal with it.
Remember to ask about safety.
Technology has changed the way we ensure memory care seniors stay safe. From alarmed doors to secured courtyards, personal monitoring devices and emergency call systems, security is taken seriously. Request a copy of the community’s documented emergency procedures and policies. Will someone accompany your loved one to the hospital if 911 is called?
While you want the environment to look home-like rather than clinical, make sure you take note of the safety and security features. At Carnegie Village, handrails, slip-resistant flooring, additional lighting, signage and wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs make for a more accessible, easier-to-navigate building.
Are residents engaged?
Inquire to see the community’s calendar of events. A well-designed activity schedule should include programs based on a variety of interests and abilities. Ask to take home a schedule to review, then make sure there’s something planned for every day of the week. When you come back for a second time, ensure that the activity scheduled is actually taking place.
While you’re visiting, make a point to observe an activity for at least 10 minutes. Can you imagine your loved one enjoying it? As residents adjust to their surroundings and staff, you might be surprised that they’re willing to try something totally new. If most of the residents appear relaxed and involved, that’s a good sign. For those residents who choose not to participate, does the staff encourage them?
You may find residents are grouped by their cognitive level. The goal is to improve their quality of life by maintaining or slowing down the progression of decline. For residents who are in the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s, participation in life skill activities may inspire connection.
Nutritious meals matter.
It’s a good idea to schedule one of your visits at a mealtime so you can observe the residents and staff interacting. You’ll also be able to observe how therapeutic diets are handled and how residents are helped when they’re unable to feed themselves. Feel free to ask for a complimentary meal at Carnegie Village. It’s also important to ensure healthy snacks and beverages are available at all times in the memory care community, and you’ll want to know how nutrition is monitored.
Expect a friendly staff.
Are you getting smiles and greetings from the staff passing by in the hall? Never underestimate the power of being friendly, as well-trained employees make the difference in the quality of care.
Ordinarily, a memory care community will have a medical director, clinical licensed nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists on staff. These professionals will monitor your loved one’s health, manage medications and keep accurate records. When you decide to move your loved one into the community, they’ll partner with a primary care physician to create a personalized plan for health and well-being. Carnegie has an on-site health and wellness director; clinical licensed nurses and certified nursing and medication assistants; and a life enrichment director.
Watch how staff and residents interact and decide if that is how you want your loved one treated. Notice if the resident is being referred to by name, if they’re being talked to with kind, simple, easy-to-understand statements, and if assistance with mobility is gentle.
Lastly, check the staff-to-resident ratio. Although there is no mandated number, 1:5 or 1:6 is usually deemed adequate.
Look for amenities that matter.
As you tour the common areas, are there comfortable couches and sitting areas for family visits? Stop by the activity rooms, fitness areas, pools and other areas to check if they’re well used and well maintained. Many communities have a barber and beauty shop on-site.
Your loved one may be accustomed to a generous-sized home, but when dealing with dementia, a smaller studio equipped with safety features and modifications is better suited to their needs. Carnegie Village is specially designed for those suffering memory loss, so you can be confident our floor plan is exceptional. Ask whether you need to bring furniture or if you can have the apartment furnished for you. Will there be housekeeping services? If so, how often?
Ask about costs.
When you hear the words “all-inclusive,” ask for a list of the services covered. Find out about community, pet and other pay-as-you-go fees. Remember to inquire about the policy and costs associated with moving out.
Although Medicare does not pay for a memory care residence, ask about Medicaid, Veterans Aid & Assistance, long-term care and other insurance coverages. How does the community handle instances if the patient is no longer able to pay?
Read the state surveys.
Ask to read the community’s latest state survey. The health department makes regular, no-notice inspections of memory care communities, rating them on care, services and their environment. The surveys evaluate policies and procedures, resident care, quality of care and quality of life, medication administration, medical records, kitchen sanitation, staff competencies, dietary needs, equipment, safety and overall wellness of the community.
Keep checking back.
Until you feel completely informed and comfortable, keep checking back on the community with your questions. A trusted, experienced memory care community can improve the quality of your loved one’s life, and it can free you to enjoy the moments and memories you share even more.
At Carnegie Village, our memory care residents find fulfillment and motivation in a welcoming, safe and nurturing environment. We invite you to visit Carnegie Village to see our community for yourself.