William G. Hammond, JD
Caring for an Alzheimer's patient can be a huge burden.
When it becomes too hard and too time consuming for you to take care of your loved
one, it may be time to look for a nursing home.
When you feel comfortable,
then you can start planning ahead which will help avoid crisis situations later.
You may not ever need a nursing home, but act in a proactive manner just in case
the day comes. It is well known that making decisions in a crisis situation can
be very difficult and stressful on everyone, so make sure you plan ahead of time.
may find information and a list of nursing homes in your area from your local
Alzheimers Association, or an elder law firm. They are most likely to have
a list of facilities that offer dementia care or at least a dementia unit.
you find the nursing home that will be the most appropriate for your loved one
with Alzheimers, make sure you check the following:
- What is
- When was their license accredited?
- Is the facility
location convenient for you and your family for frequent visits?
does the staff react to questions -- are their greetings warm and welcoming, do
they interact with your loved one?
- How well do the resident participants
socialize with other people?
- Are visits allowed and are they encouraged?
- What is the staff ratio per patient? It should be at least 1 staff member
for 8 persons.
- Is it possible to take a tour of the facility and the
- If there is a waiting list, how long will it take before your
can be accepted?
- Do they have a single room or do they
share with another patient?
- Are these rooms furnished or unfurnished?
If unfurnished, you will be able to bring your own furniture and decorate your
room as wanted.
- Are there elevators? What kind of emergency plan do they
have if a patient needs to be evacuated promptly?
- How do they handle
patients that wander and what kind
of security do they have?
are some of the questions you can ask on your first visit. You can always come
back later or give them a call later if you have other questions.
aspect of the nursing home to take into consideration is the financial issue.
Most insurance companies will not cover these costs. When your loved one is being
admitted in the nursing home you selected, the admittance staff will be able to
assist you and discuss the payment options with you. Make sure to ask what
is included in the fees or contract:
- Is there an ongoing process
for assessing a resident's need for services and how often are those needs evaluated?
- What additional services and staff are available if the resident's needs
- Is there an agreement available which discloses healthcare, accommodations,
personal care and supportive services, all fees, and admission and discharge provisions,
emergency services if necessary?
- Is there any government or other programs
available that may help
covering the costs?
- What happens if funds
are used up and full payments can no longer be made.
- Does the facility
You want as well to have a good knowledge of the
environment and the type of healthcare your loved one is going to receive:
type of healthcare and personal care are
Do they have routine
exams available, like vision and
What is the qualification
of the staff members?
staff available to assist residents who
experience memory loss
or disorientation, and how do they handle it?
take care of the doctors appointments?
Do they drive
there and wait for them?
There is one more thing to consider
when deciding if the nursing home is appropriate for your loved one with Alzheimers.
Will he/she be happier than at home? Many people do quite well in nursing homes.
your loved one enters the nursing home, he/she can still leave for short trips
to sleep over at family and friends. If he/she is unhappy, a transfer to another
facility or a return home with assisted living may be an option.
also doubt how beneficial a dementia care unit can be for your loved one who has
Alzheimers. If the dementia unit is developed and staffed correctly, it
can be very valuable. The idea of a dementia care unit is to provide specialized
This includes staff training specifically for dementia, smaller units
to ease feelings of being overwhelmed, a quieter environment to prevent over-stimulation,
and a locked unit safe for wandering and pacing.
Wandering and pacing are
symptoms that most Alzheimers patients experience. Instead of trying to
stop them from this behavior, dementia units let them continue it in safe surroundings.
Most facilities for Alzheimers care have their own activity director and
many times the direct care staff are also trained to participate in activities
with the residents with dementia.
To obtain more information on facilities
in your area that offer dementia care units for Alzheimers patients, contact
your states Department on Aging.
Submitted: 27 September 2004 ©
William G. Hammond
William G. Hammond, JD is an elder law attorney and founder of
The Alzheimers Resource Center. He is a frequent guest on radio and television
and has developed innovative solutions to guide
families who have a loved
one suffering from Alzheimers.