Some assisted living facilities are specially equipped to work with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. This means that the environment is designed to be friendlier to residents with these conditions and that staff has been trained to meet their specific needs. How do you know if a facility that claims to specialize in these conditions is really right for your loved one? The only way is to visit. You’ll want to start by looking at our checklist of things to consider when visiting an assisted living facility, but you should also be alert for how the facility performs in each of the following categories. Environment Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are aided by routine and can easily become over-stimulated. The environment should be calm and peaceful, and the daily schedule should be consistent. Another sign that the facility is friendly to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is cues that enable them to get around and complete tasks on their own, such as personal mementos that make it easy to identify a resident’s room and color-coded guides to common areas. Safety Facilities that cater to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients should have motion detectors or other monitoring systems to alert staff when there might be a problem, such as a resident wandering off. There should be systems in place to insure residents get the right medicine at the right time. Also pay attention to how disruptive behavior and outbursts are handled. The staff should not be using physical restraints or sedation. Staffing First and foremost, the staff should have the compassion to make your loved one feel comfortable. Ask about their training and experience, and consider how many staff members work each shift. Make sure there is adequate staff on weekends and holidays. The facility should also seem to be a pleasant place to both live and work. What does management do to prevent staff burnout? If staff turnover is high, this can be disorienting to residents. Quality of Care How much information does the staff request about your loved one, and is that information then used to design a detailed care plan? Are they taking comfort and psychological well-being into account in addition to health and safety? How many of the residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s? Ask what the staff does differently for these patients. Policies One of the most important things to note is how the facility handles the progression of the disease. How is it decided when additional care is necessary, and to what extent is family involved? Find out what happens when a resident needs to go to the hospital. Will his or her place in the community be reserved, and what are the fees in this situation? In general, what additional costs does the facility charge for care of dementia or Alzheimer’s patients? Watching for how a facility performs on the above categories can help you find a place that is truly suited to your loved one’s needs, and not just marketing a specialization that they don’t really have. Your loved one deserves quality care.