Oct 2, 2013

Advice for Choosing a Memory Care Assisted Living or a Memory Care Residential Care Home

If you don't do it for a living, it can be difficult to know what questions to ask when you are looking for a suitable assisted living community or residential care home for your loved one.

By Carole B. Larkin
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Before selecting a memory care assisted living or residential care home specializing in memory care you should consider all of the items listed below.

The following will help you ask the right questions and gather the evidence you need to make a well informed decision.

Try and keep this age old English idiom in mind, "don't judge a book by its cover".

Also see these previous articles. Types of Dementia Care Communities, the Semantics of Confusion and Before Looking at Communities for a Person with Dementia Consider This


• Encourages resident independence and functioning
• Ensures dignity and individual expression
• Ensures resident safety
• Provides peace of mind
• Reduces confusion and agitation
• Minimizes the use of chemical restraints (medications to control behavior)
• Promotes family involvement


• Comprehensive assessment addresses the resident's current and changing needs
• Personalizes a plan of care for each resident
• Planning process involves resident, family, and physician( if needed)
• Regular reassessment of needs


• Full-time program director for memory care in assisted livings
• Staff (including care aides) well educated in Alzheimer’s disease process and care techniques
• Ongoing specialized staff training and education
• High staff-to-resident ratios on all three shifts (preferred: under 8:1 under the day shift in assisted livings and under 4:1 in residential care homes)
• Seems attentive to the residents while you are visiting ( not ignoring them)
• Consulting medical director, and other specialties as needed for the residents.
• Interdisciplinary team approach
• A licensed nurse on the premises a minimum of at least 8 hours a day for assisted livings and on call for residential care homes.


• Individually tailored activities scheduled seven days a week (minimum 6 per day except Sunday for assisted living and minimum 4 per day for residential care homes)
• Activities focus on resident's strengths/preferences of things to do
• Active and passive program from life skills to exercise, music, art, current events, and social activities
• Short, flexible and success-oriented activities
• Large group, small group and one-on-one activities


• Self-contained, secure, cheerful yet calm atmosphere
• Enclosed courtyard/backyard
• Dedicated dining, activity and private areas
• Uncomplicated floor plan and visual cues to help residents stay oriented
• Easily accessible bathrooms in common activity area
• Simplified, soothing and homelike atmosphere
• Meets all city, State and county health codes, and has certificate showing it is valid this year.
• Is clean and smells good ( does not smell of urine anywhere in the building.
• Is licensed by the state as either an assisted living or as a residential care home, and the license is current for this year.


• Engaged in activities
• Appear comfortable
• Well-groomed
• Settled, well adjusted
• Generally accepting of the staff


• Family support group meetings for assisted livings
• Ongoing education, support and counseling
• Family conferences and involvement in care planning
• Opportunities for families to socialize


• Individually tailored food and nutrition plans created to individual's needs and capabilities
• Modified menus (diabetic, low salt,etc…)
• Between-meal snacks and drinks
• Innovative food presentation techniques that ease and encourage eating
• Special adaptive utensils available if needed
• Family welcome to eat with resident (may be an extra charge for family member)
Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, DCP, QDCS, EICS is an expert in Alzheimer’s and related Dementias care. She also is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. Carole can consults with families via telephone nationwide on problems related to the dementia. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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You are reading original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room