Caregivers to those living with dementia or other memory loss conditions (like Alzheimer’s) are a special category of people; and it’s no coincidence that “care” is in their title. But despite if this role is assumed by a family member, spouse or partner, close friend, or a person who is hired or contracted through an outside agency, the inherent responsibilities can be very overwhelming. But there is no more difficult task than needing to make the decision for the person to move into a new home, whether a memory care home or a memory loss facility.
When choosing a residential care setting of any type, it is integral to be asking the right screening questions, but where do you start? Getting the news that your loved one has dementia can feel paralysing and there are so many things to think about before you can even consider looking at memory care residential facilities. The best place to start if you’re facing this difficult decision is to get a handle on the various settings and specific care that each type offers for the stages of dementia:
- Assisted Living Facilities: These types of facilities fall in between independent living and a nursing home, and not all offer services specifically for people living with dementia. However, if they do, they are optimal for a person in the early stages. In addition to housing, they typically offer meals, on-site health care, and much more.
- Nursing Homes or Long-Term Care Facilities: These types of care homes are meant for more long-term or permanent residence. They are for those in the mid- to late stages of dementia since they provide around-the-clock care and long-term treatment. In the US, since they need to be licensed by the state that they operate in and are regulated by the federal government, they have higher staff-to-resident ratios and varying levels of experience and training for staff.
- Special Care or Memory Care Units: These are designed specifically for individuals in the late stages of memory loss conditions in mind within various types of residential care buildings, including assisted living facilities, and may or may not have locked/secured units. Some states have legislation for these types of units to require specialized training for treating dementia or other memory loss conditions, but not all do so it’s important to ask questions early about the level of care offered.
Scope Out the Right Facility with the Right Screening Questions
Though not exhaustive, the following questions are a great way to assess the fit for your particular relative’s or client’s case and should be asked up front before making any commitment to a facility:
- Are staff trained specifically in dementia care? What is the resident-to-staff ratio, and on average, what is the turnover rate?
- Are specialized programming and services available based on health and behavioral care needs?
- What is the typical activity schedule/daily routine like, such as meals, recreation & outside time?
- Is transportation available for medical appointments or are medical services offered on site?
- Is personal care tailored to the resident’s needs? Is there any flexibility in terms of schedule?
- Is the environment clean, neat, and inviting?
- Is family involvement encouraged and are family members notified when there are changes in the resident’s care needs? Are there specific visiting hours or times?
- Are residents allowed to bring in familiar items from their homes?
- Is continuing care available as a resident’s needs change or as they progress to the later stages?
- Is end-of-life care offered or hospice care available if needed?
- Ask about cost/participation in Medicare or Medicaid, and if there is current availability or not.
- Ask for the latest surveys/inspection reports or go to Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website to see how it is ranked at medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare (if applicable).
If you are a caregiver for a person living with dementia or another memory loss condition, please visit us at to view our product catalogue or download our specialized Wellness app for caregivers. You can also visit to access websites or apps with resources tailored to helping YOU take care of your relative or person living with dementia.