12 Key Questions to Ask a Memory Care Facility

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

If you have a loved one going to memory care, the idea may seem frightening and overwhelming at times. Visiting a memory care community may also bring up some reluctance, even if you know that it may be the right thing to do.

Residents of memory care require special care due to their cognitive impairment. If you are a family caregiver, you may be more aware of this.

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Caring for someone with dementia can be very challenging. While you can’t do anything about the mix of people in the community under consideration, you can prepare and also find out important information about any potential memory care facility.

After all, it is important to find out what kind of care your loved one will receive.

Questions to Ask the Staff While Choosing a Memory Care Facility

You may be reluctant to ask questions when considering memory care because you don’t know the right questions to ask. Having memory care options is a good thing, but how do you distinguish between communities and choose the right place? Questions can generally be divided between “nuts and bolts” and care. Our suggestions can help you make the right decision. 

1. What is the cost?

If money is no object, then this question is not relevant. But, if finances are tight or time-limited, you don’t want to have a situation where you have to move your loved one to a different community or nursing home care because of your money running out. 

Memory care is generally more expensive than assisted living due to the higher staff-to-resident ratio. Some communities will be all-inclusive, and others will have monthly costs based on the amount of care your loved one requires. Also, ask about any built-in yearly increases.

2. What kind of training requirements exist?

Even if people in a memory care facility deal with patients with cognitive impairment, the staff may not always be adequately trained to do so. You will want to ask specifically about the training that staff receives and any ongoing training requirements.

Wandering, agitation, and confusion are common in people with dementia and require special management techniques. The other question to ask is how the staff deals with the transition into memory care. Your loved one may need a significant amount of time to adjust to this new environment. 

3. What is the staff to resident ratio?

Since people with dementia require much more individual attention, a higher staff-to-resident ratio makes sense. Otherwise, there is not enough staff to manage residents who might need additional comfort and care.

Each state has its own staffing requirements in assisted living and nursing homes, but good memory care will exceed the state requirements. Overnight coverage will be less intensive but still needs to be adequate to address residents’ needs. 

4. What is the activities schedule?

Activities are vital to the well-being of memory care residents. However, not all activities will work well for everyone, as it can be challenging to meet everyone’s wide-ranging cognitive levels. Some communities attempt to divide residents into activity groups that have similar impairments.

For those that don’t, ask about memory care activities and the availability of one-on-one time with your loved one if they need it. 

5. Do you accommodate special meal preferences?

If your loved one is on a special diet, you will want to know if the kitchen can accommodate your request. Dietary requests could include a vegetarian or gluten-free diet. Other preferences might involve a mechanical soft diet for swallowing problems or a diabetic or low salt diet.

6. Who is in charge?

When asking this question, you will want to keep in mind which answer you are looking for. The first thing you will want to know is who is responsible for the day-to-day care of your loved one? In other words, who do you go to with concerns or complaints?

The line and method of communication are crucial to getting good care. If information is not passed on to the right person, problems will persist or worsen. 

The second thing you will want to know is who to go to at the top. If you aren’t resolving your issues, the buck has to stop with someone. Hopefully, it won’t get to that point, but it is good to know who that person is.

7. What nursing services do you provide?

Personal care needs like bathing, dressing, and hygiene are standard for any kind of memory care facility. But what if your loved one has other needs like diabetic or catheter care?

What are the limits to nursing assistance in memory care? If the nursing staff is unable to meet your loved one’s regular nursing needs, you may have to arrange for that care as a separate cost or through home health.

8. What is the discharge policy?

Unfortunately in some cases, a resident can no longer be cared for in memory care due to several factors. Each community is somewhat different in its approach to this issue, and you will want to know what the discharge policy is. Here are some possible reasons for discharge:

  • A resident is a danger to themselves or others. A resident might be asked to leave if there is persistent aggression, assault, or sexual acting out. The facility has a responsibility to protect its staff and other residents. 
  • A resident requires extensive ongoing nursing or medical care that the community can’t provide.
  • A resident requires too much physical assistance. For example, two people are needed to get someone out of bed each morning. 
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Questions to Ask the Staff While You Visit a Loved One in a Memory Care Facility

Now that you have made your decision and your loved one is in memory care, your work is not finished. It has just begun. Put your advocate hat on and plan to monitor your loved one’s care. Most memory care staff appreciate an involved family member but above all, remember to be kind and courteous. 

9. Is my loved one participating in activities?

Knowing the level of involvement in activities will give you some idea of your loved one’s comfort and engagement in the community. Isolation and loneliness are not healthy, and if your family member is not attending activities, what are they doing instead?

Mental stimulation and social connection are essential for everyone. It could be that the activities are too advanced or the staff is not making enough of an effort to engage your loved one. 

Participating in activities with your loved one, either one-on-one or in planned groups might help. Suggest some games or crafts that they have been comfortable with and enjoyed in the past. Activities directors will typically ask about these activities upon admission, but it is challenging to find something that everyone likes and individual time can be limited due to staff constraints.

10. What are my loved one’s vital signs?

Measuring someone’s weight, blood pressure, and oxygen levels gives insight into their health. If your loved one is losing weight, perhaps they don’t like the food or have anxiety about eating with others. High or low blood pressure is an indicator of something amiss.

Low blood pressure in particular can be a sign of dehydration, which is a serious problem for older people. The memory care staff might need to encourage your loved one to drink more fluids.

11. How is my loved one’s mental health?

Depression is very common among people with dementia. It is important to recognize that if your loved one is exhibiting signs of depression, you are able to help. An experienced geriatric physician can prescribe medication to help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Ask the staff if they have noticed problems with apathy, loss of interest, and isolation. It can be tough to distinguish between the symptoms of dementia and depression.

Also, ask about signs of anxiety that might indicate difficulty adjusting to the community. Staff will appreciate any recommendations you have for helping your loved one feel more comfortable. After all, you know your family member best, and you might offer some helpful tips.

12. What can I do to help?

You might be surprised at the answer you get and how much staff will appreciate this question. Staff may be reluctant to tell you what they need from you if you don’t ask. Don’t be surprised if the team asks you one of two things. One is to visit less often, and the other is to visit more often. 

When someone first moves to memory care, the transition may be made harder by frequent visits from family members. Your loved one may ask to go home repeatedly. It could take some time to adjust, and visiting less frequently might help in the short term.

Once your loved one has settled in, life gets busy, and your visits drop off. Ask the staff if visiting more often would be helpful. The staff might also ask for care or personal items to make your family member more comfortable.

The Kinds of Questions to Ask a Memory Care Facility

The move to memory care can be overwhelming for both you and your loved one. Stay flexible through the process but ask the right questions before and during the move for a successful transition.


Sources:

  1. “Depression.” The Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/depression

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