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Alzheimer's and Dementia Care

Your loved one may need more care in a year or two than today.

If your relative has Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, he or she may need supervision and assistance with daily activities. Some assisted living facilities are better able to meet these needs. It is important for families to choose a facility that is well prepared to serve individuals with dementia.

Since most forms of dementia are progressive, your loved one may need more care in a year or two than today. Think about whether the facility would still be able to care for your relative if he or she were to become more impaired.

Special Services

  • What levels of care is the facility licensed to serve?
  • Does the facility have a special unit for residents with dementia? (This is more likely in a large facility.) If there is a special unit:
    • How does the care in that unit differ from the care provided to other residents?
    • How do costs differ from those in the other areas?
  • What training on dementia is provided to the staff?
  • How many staff members work in the facility on each shift, and what are their duties? (This will give you an idea of how much staff attention your relative would receive.)
  • What activities are available for persons with dementia?
  • How are behavior problems handled?

Ask to see the schedule of activities for the residents. Look for activities that are appropriate for your relative.

Safety Features

Your primary concern is the safety of your older relative. Some assisted living facilities have special safety features for persons with dementia. Ask if the facility has:

  • Alarm systems to alert staff when confused residents leave the facility. Ask if the facility's alarms can be heard throughout the building.
  • Enclosed paths (indoors or outdoors) where residents can safely wander.
  • A plan in place for active supervision of residents 24 hours a day (including back-up plans for staff absences).

Safety features to look for:

  • Medications are stored in a secure location
  • Toxic substances, such as cleaning supplies, are securely stored
  • Dangerous areas, such as basement steps, are locked or disguised
  • Lighting is bright and even, free from shadows and glare. Nightlights are placed in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways.
  • Walking areas are free from obstacles such as magazine racks, floor lamps and coffee tables
  • Knives and other sharp utensils are out of reach

Red Flags
If you see the following things when you visit, this facility may not be a good choice for your older relative with dementia:

  • Residents with physical restraints (While this may be legal if ordered by the doctor as part of the service plan, it may indicate that staff cannot find less restrictive ways to keep residents safe.)
  • Residents who appear over-medicated (drowsy, dazed)
  • Lack of activity – residents sitting alone, or TV as the only activity
  • Locks on the outside of bedroom doors

The Alzheimer's Association offers helpful information about the three stages of Alzheimer's disease.