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Memory Care Evaluation: What to Look For

Deciding to move a loved one to a memory care home is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. But once you have made that decision, the next question is, “where to?” That question is nearly as hard as the first since choosing the right facility is essential. You want a place where your loved one will feel comfortable and you will feel at ease leaving him or her.

The Basics of Memory Care Evaluation

I talk every day with family members looking at memory care options for their loved one — whether it is a husband, wife, father or mother. When I speak with them, I feel it is important to not give a “sales” pitch. Yes, I run a business and we need residents, but I do not like the idea of trying to sell someone on a location for their loved one. It is so impersonal and goes against everything we do at Heartwood Homes — delivering personal care to our residents. We view every resident as unique and see their spirit in their eyes, their smiles or their response to a loving touch.

I have looked at the competition and know many memory care centers are owned by corporations with headquarters not in our community or worse yet out of state. Much of their focus is on sales — in fact the first contact may be the “sales” department — where at Heartwood Homes, I will likely be the one leading you around. I am not saying those places are “bad,” it is just that they feel impersonal and lack that personal touch. Making the choice to move a loved one into a memory care facility is a personal decision, which is why everyone at Heartwood Homes is focused on providing personal attention to the resident as well as family members.

Choosing where a loved one will live is difficult, but there are some things to look for and questions to ask that can help you during the decision process. I know it is overwhelming so here are some tips on what to look for:

Go On a Tour

You cannot make this decision looking at brochures and websites; those are just marketing tools designed to put the facility in the best possible light. You need to go to the center and experience it for yourself. Use your senses — what does it look like, sound like, and smell like? How do you feel when you are there? Do you feel at ease or uncomfortable? All of those “feelings” mean something so do not dismiss them.

Ask Questions

If you think of something — even if it sounds silly — ask. How the person giving you the tour responds to the question can tell you a lot about the facility and the people who work there (in addition to the answer to your question). Since many people with memory care problems have challenging behaviors, here are some questions to ask to ensure they are a true memory care facility:

  1. How do you handle it if a resident refuses to bathe?
  2. What do you do if a resident wanders?
  3. How do you handle a resident who gets agitated?

The answers you receive should also tell you this information:

  • What are the possible unmet needs of a resident that may be causing these behaviors?
  • How does the facility ease or prevent challenging behaviors?
  • How do staff members honor and respect the resident during challenging situations?

It is also vital to note that assisted care facilities may not be equipped to handle a resident with memory care problems. A dedicated memory care facility should provide a secure environment that cares for a resident’s social, spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

Customer Feedback

Will the facility allow you to contact another family that has been or is being served by it so you can get their thoughts about the care provided? The answer to this question can tell you a lot. Also go online and see what people have to say about the center on social media, Google Reviews or other sites.

What is the Facility’s Philosophy or Mission?

If you ask that question and get a blank stare, that is probably not a good sign. Employees should be able to clearly tell you what the facility’s mission is. At Heartwood, we live by shared values including preserving dignity, nurturing the spirit, celebrating individuality and several more (you can read about them here.) The level of commitment from employees throughout the company to the mission or philosophy is important. While the sales manager may be able to rattle it off, it is more important that the CNA taking care of your mother knows it and incorporates it into how she or he provides care.

Do Not Feel Pressured

Some facilities may put pressure on you to act now — they have limited space, a waiting list and a busy tour schedule. It is vital to take your time in making a decision that feels right to you. Go back for a second tour — people do not often buy a home based on one showing. They want to look at the house again on a different day or bring along another person to get their thoughts. It is ok to do that when looking at a memory care home for your loved one — it is an important decision that should not be forced by someone looking to close a deal.

Choosing a memory care facility for your loved one can be difficult. There are a lot of choices out there, but by taking a closer look and getting a sense of the facility (and the people who work there) can go a long way in helping you make the right decision.