About Alzheimer's Care?
number of residential care settings that provide Alzheimer's
care-including assisted living, adult foster homes,
group homes, and special care units within skilled nursing
facilities-has exploded during the past five to 10 years.
If you or your loved one has Alzheimer's disease, the
following information can help guide you through the
maze of care options to find the facility that best
meets your needs.
Now for Care Later
When considering residential care options, planning
ahead is key. It's best to become familiar with available
care options in your community long before an admission
is needed. Too often, people don't want to think about
a possible need for residential care in the future,
so the admission takes place in a crisis, without the
time and knowledge to evaluate available options.
with increased awareness of Alzheimer's disease, more
people are diagnosed earlier, allowing them to plan
for the future, including their financial, legal, and
residential care needs. For example, a person with an
early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can talk about
his or her preferences and visit local residential care
facilities. He can make his decision and share with
others where he wants to live should the time come when
he can no longer live alone.
families researching the many options available, a helpful
tool is the free Alzheimer's Association brochure, Residential
Care: A Guide for Choosing a New Home. This brochure
covers six areas people with Alzheimer's and their families
should study when evaluating a residence, including
Commitment to Alzheimer/Dementia Care, Assessment and
Care/Service Plans, Ongoing Care, Activities, Staffing,
and the Environment.
Commitment to Alzheimer/Dementia Care
This area focuses on the philosophy and mission of a
care setting. Staff should be able to discuss and describe
their residence's philosophy of care. Does the philosophy
and mission address the unique needs of persons with
dementia? Do you see the needs of current residents
being met as you walk through the community?
about admission and discharge criteria. Request specific
examples of situations that would result in a resident's
discharge from the setting or unit. Be cautious if staff
members are unable or unwilling to share examples or
specific discharge criteria.
and Care/Service Plan
A good residential care provider will spend a significant
amount of time getting to know the person with Alzheimer's
disease and his or her family and friends. The staff
should ask many questions about the person's past and
present including interests, family relations, likes
and dislikes, hobbies, communication styles, daily routine,
you walk around a care setting, watch to see whether
staff are interacting with residents on a personal level
and appear to know personal things about each resident.
More than anything else, you'll want to be confident
that the person with dementia will receive the best
care possible. All staff must recognize residents with
Alzheimer's as unique people and treat them with dignity
how staff members approach residents. Are they talking
to residents or talking to each other? Do residents
seem alert and active, or are they lethargic and sleeping?
Are residents freely moving around the area or are they
restrained? These are important things to look for when
touring each setting.
Find a care provider that believes activities are much
more than just structured group functions. Activities
should be defined as everything a person does throughout
the day. Staff should be skilled in creating meaning
out of each task a resident undertakes. However, other
more structured activities that are individualized to
each resident should be available every day as well.
What are residents doing in the evening and on the weekends?
Do residents appear to be stimulated and engaged in
The most important component to quality care is a committed,
dedicated, and knowledgeable staff. Ask the staff about
the training they receive. Do the interactions you see
between staff and residents appear genuine? Are staff
members addressing residents by name? Do staff members
appear happy and content or do they seem stressed and
also want to know adequate staff is available to meet
everyone's needs. Ask how many residents each direct-care
staff member is responsible for in the unit. As you
walk around, do you see residents with unmet needs or
not receiving needed attention?
The physical building and interior decorating offer
the first impressions when you walk into a building.
But quality of care is so much more than the furniture
or wallpaper. Care providers have made significant advances,
however, in incorporating the environment into the total
care offered to residents.
is the first concern for most people. Ask the staff
what measures are in place to provide a safe and secure
environment. As you walk through the residence, do you
spot potential hazards? Examples might include cluttered
hallways that increase the risk of falls, poor lighting,
confusing hallways, and loud and frequent overhead paging
systems. Check to see whether the residence encourages
registration in the Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return
program (nationwide identification, support, and registration
important environmental feature is the availability
of outdoor space. Residents should have easy and independent
access to a secured outdoor space. Do you see residents
using the available outdoor space?
you consider care environments, be sure to keep this
resource handy to help you make an informed decision.
receive more information on Safe Return (key
elements of dementia care), or to receive a copy of
Residential Care: A Guide for Choosing a New Home,
contact your local Alzheimer's Association chapter or
call (800) 272-3900.
based on the original article published in Assisted
Living Today, "Adding Alzheimer's to the Picture,"
by Marlene Mahn, MSSW.
You should be comfortable with the care philosophy
of the residence you choose. Do the philosophy and
the mission address the unique needs of persons with
dementia? Expect the staff to take time to get to
know each resident.
are a key element of Alzheimer's care. Activities
should be defined as everything a person does throughout
the day. And, structured activities should be individualized
to each resident.
committed, dedicated, knowledgeable, and well-trained
staff is the most critical component of quality Alzheimer's