Assisted Living: Making the Right Choice
As a Dementia Consultant, I often meet people in one of two situations:
- A person with dementia needs to move into Assisted Living for the first time.
- A person with dementia is living in Assisted Living and they’re not doing well and moving is an option on the table.
The bottom line is that not all Assisted Living options are created equally but how can one know what to look for? I directed a Dementia Neighborhood with 25 single-occupancy apartments. Our marketing team, as many are, were great! It is important to remember that understanding the needs of someone with a specific dementia is not their expertise. And while many communities have new technologies or the latest designs and best practices, no community is one-size-fits-all. So, it is up to us to look at things with a fine tooth comb to make sure that the person we know will be a good fit there. I have compiled a few tips that have helped me guide my clients through this process. The first step is for those who are currently living in a community and steps 2-5 apply to everyone.
Speak to the directors at the current community.
If you’re moving from home, you can skip this one! But, for the person who is currently living in a facility and wants to move into another one because they’re unhappy, I first recommend speaking to the current community. Any kind of change can be traumatic for someone with dementia. Having someone who is experienced in Assisted Living care plans review the current care plan can be helpful. I have helped clients clearly identify their expectations and concerns and facilitated a meeting between them and the community to resolve issues and preventing a move. If you absolutely are not comfortable doing this, then it is time to move on.
Be clear about your expectations.
It is easy to tour a community and believe that they are the answer to all of your challenges and it’s great! It’s the “high after the tour.” However, the person who tours you is not the person who writes the care plan or oversees the care. When you have the opportunity to meet with the person who does, you must be clear in your expectations. Just like how I’ve helped clients review their current care plans and establish their expectations for resolutions, I have also helped clients do this prior to moving into a community for the first time. This helps to bring clarity and confidence during an overwhelming time.
Ignore the Kitchen.
Have you ever heard the saying “A kitchen sells the house?” Well, it is the same with Assisted Living and while a brand new community may be the best option, the purpose of this exercise is to ignore the aesthetics and listen to their experience and knowledge. I have had clients be very successful in a brand new community while another client came to that same community and they weren’t successful. It depends on the person. The brand new fixtures, perfect paint, and larger rooms may blind you, try to look past that and consider the layout, the structure, and the living options. Which brings me to my next point.
Know who you’re looking for.
Is the person you’re looking for a walker, for example? Does the community allow an opportunity for that? Perhaps it has long hallways, an outdoor walking path, or is it situated in a circle. Keep in mind that other behaviors that accompany walking may become problematic. I had a resident who loved to walk but she would hit a dead end in each long hallway, open the other resident’s door, and then she would rearrange things. This became problematic because it upset the residents who lived in those apartments (Virginia State Regulations prohibit the locking of doors in Dementia Care Units). Additionally, we had to be strategic about who moved into those apartments at the “dead ends” since residents who walked often explored these apartments in particular. Both are things to keep in mind! If you’re looking for someone with Dementia, make sure the community has a designated area for those with dementia. If it is a group home, make sure the home is designed specifically for those with dementia.
Transitions are important
Be prepared to give some time and space to the person with dementia. Talk to the community about their recommended transition plan. I personally recommend my clients allow at least a week for the person with dementia to get settled. But make sure the community is on board with this decision and agree upon a plan to obtain updates as the days pass.
Moving into an Assisted Living Community is an expensive, time consuming, and potentially traumatic decision. By following these guidelines, you can feel confident in your decision. If you need more guidance, contact us! We are happy to help with any or all of your needs. You should feel confident in your decision.