Choosing the right residential care facility is hard, and choosing the right memory care facility is even harder.
Here are some questions to ask to help make the decision easier. As with any residential facility, try to visit at least once to get a good sense of what the facility is really like, not just what the facility's advertising says about it.
This checklist supplements the more general assisted living checklist by asking memory-specific questions, so be sure to print out both to take on tours.
Is the facility able to accommodate people at all levels of dementia, or only at specific levels?
Why might a resident be asked to leave the facility?
Who assesses residents' health and cognitive functioning? How often is that assessment repeated?
Does each resident have a formal, written plan of care?
Does the facility help with all ADLs, including bathing, toileting, and eating?
If the facility is part of an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community, is the memory care section separate from other areas?
Is the memory care area all on one level?
Are the residents' rooms private or shared?
Is the facility laid out with circular hallways so that residents aren't frustrated by cul-de-sacs?
Is there an enclosed, secure outdoor area with walking paths?
Does the facility feature even, good lighting in hallways and common areas?
Does the facility feature nonslip floor surfaces in all rooms, including bathrooms?
Is the interior and exterior of the facility secure? What methods are used to keep tabs on residents and make sure they don't wander out of the building or off the grounds?
Orientation and comfort:
Are doors and rooms labeled clearly, both with words and pictures, to help residents orient themselves?
Do residents have "memory boxes" outside their rooms to help them identify the right room and to help staff members get to know them better?
Are the colors used throughout the facility bold and unpatterned?
Does the facility feature good natural or faux-natural lighting in residents' rooms and common areas?
Is the facility generally pleasant, clean, and peaceful?
What kind of dementia-specific training do staff members have?
Do staff members seem to know each resident's name, personality, and background?
Do staff members seem kind and attentive to residents' needs?
What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- The ratio should be at least 1 to 7, especially for later-stage dementia.
Is there an RN, LVN, or CNA on staff?
How do the staff members deal with difficult behaviors, like aggression, mood swings, and sundown syndrome?
What is the facility's policy on the use of restraints -- both physical and chemical?
Food, activities, etc.
Do residents seem to enjoy the food?
How does the facility encourage eating among residents who are uninterested in food -- or how does it encourage residents who tend to overeat not to be unhealthy?
- Studies have shown that contrasts, like brightly colored plates, can encourage people with dementia to eat more.
Will the facility cater to special nutritional needs or requests?
Does the facility offer spiritual or religious services that your loved one would enjoy attending?
Does the facility allow pets? Does the facility have any of its own pets?
What activities are offered to residents? Do they seem like they would engage your loved one?
Does the facility offer regular exercise sessions for residents who are physically able to participate?
What resources are available to engage residents' long-term memories?
- Some facilities offer fake kitchens where former bakers can feel at home, or stations where residents can fold laundry or do other familiar tasks that might be comforting.