When I was looking for a permanent home for Nana, I realized there are not a ton of great places out there. For most assisted living homes, memory care seems to be an afterthought. Like the facility only added that service when they realized some of their residents needed it, but the care was not designed specifically for Alzheimer’s.
It took several months of searching and countless tours before I found the perfect home for Nana. In an effort to help some of you who may be facing that tough transition from family caregiving to finding a permanent, long term home for your loved one, I put together a quick list of some of the specific things I looked for in the perfect home.
Cost: While price shouldn’t be the most important factor when deciding on the ideal home for your loved one, it will likely be the first worry you have when your search begins. One common pitfall I noticed while touring facilities is that many offer a la carte pricing systems. This is a terrible concept for an aging loved one who will certainly require more advanced care as time passes. A la carte pricing would be fine for someone with unlimited financial resources, but for someone on a fixed income it’s important to know exactly how much you will pay each month. With the exception of extra services like haircuts, manicures, etc., the facility should be able to provide a fixed cost for living there each month. It should include cost for meals, full assistance with activities of daily living, and details about when to expect price increases. Your monthly cost should not flex depending on medication management or how many meals are eaten, etc. Costs can be fixed for life - that was an important decision factor for my Nana’s placement. There is a cost of living increase each year that may flex, but overall we know what the monthly expense will be for her home. Some other cost factors to consider: Does the facility accept insurance or Medicare/Medicaid? Do they have resources to help you secure financial assistance if you qualify?
Environment: Every facility I visited was unique. A couple things I looked for in each included room options and an open floor plan. My Nana never was at home, even when she was. It was important to me to find a facility that she would not feel locked up in and that she could safely wander throughout. I looked for lots of natural light, large, open rooms and outdoor space she would be welcome to enjoy. Other things to consider for your loved one: Is the living space open, warm, and friendly, or locked up and so secure it feels uncomfortable? If they have a pet, is the facility pet friendly? Will caregivers completely care for the pet? Does your loved one need their own room or would a room share be more appropriate? My Nana never liked to be alone, so a shared room not only provides her with company, but it’s also slightly less expensive than if she had her own room.
Quality of Life: It’s the little things that a facility and caregivers offer that can make or break your loved one’s experience and either make it smoother for you or just another stressor. What kind of schedule does the facility keep? Routine is important for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Does the facility keep a routine that will be advantageous for your loved one? How often are residents showered? Do they provide medication management and full assistance with daily activities like brushing teeth, going to the restroom, etc.? Do they have regular activities? My Nana’s home coordinates daily group activities and regular field trips. How attentive are the caregivers to personal needs? Do they ask you for specific likes and dislikes or preferences for your loved one? How are personal belongings stored? Does the care include cleaning services and daily upkeep and laundry? Are meal services provided and if so, do they pay attention to favorite foods/drinks? Are beverages offered or always provided?
Making the decision to transition my Nana to a sustainable living arrangement was one of the most difficult, but ultimately I knew it had to be done. It’s little things like those above which helped me identify places that would be in my Nana’s best interest and ultimately provide my family with peace of mind in the long run.