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Comparing Assisted Living Memory Care Requires An Expert Eye

I have been hired to find an assisted living community with a memory care component for a client in southern Cook county or Will County in Illinois. Defined in general terms, assisted living with memory care is an extension of assisted living that caters to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. This form of care is a wonderful alternative for individuals who have dementia but are not yet ready for a nursing home. The communities with memory care provide the resident with heavy cueing to remind him or her to begin the activities. The staff is trained to handle the behaviors that often accompany the diseae. For example, activities are provided on a structured, 12-hour basis including the residents’ activities of daily living in order to keep them mentally stimulated and occupied.

During my research, I compared nine communities on the basis of cost, staffing, activities, living areas, and and the attitude of the person conducting the tour. Here is what I found in each catagory:

As far as what you can expect to pay for your loved one’s care at one of these communities, the cost for a studio will range from $4,500 to $6,800 per month depending upon whether the charges are on a tiered or package basis.

I found the staffing to be pretty consistent, with the staff-to-resident ration being about 1 to 8, with one being 1:9 and another 1:7. Note, these ratios may include the nurse, the assistant director of nursing, the activities aides, and the resident aides. The nurse passes the medications and may be present in different time increments, generally ranging from 12 hours to 24 hours.

All of the communities posted schedules that documented that the activities were taking place on a 12-hour basis. I was happy to see excellent participation in the morning exercise routines that were being conducted at some of the communities. I also observed that some were staffed with enough activity aides to work one-on-one with some of the residents. However, i experienced disappointment at communities where I observed residents sitting in the hallways at ten o’clock in the morning with no preparation being made for future activities. Yet, in most communities, there was time for Jeopardy around 3:30 when everyone needed a rest.

When I arrived at the communities, I was escorted on the tours by 7 Admissions Directors and 2 Executive Directors. Out of the nine people who took me on the tours, only two asked me probing questions about my client to determine whether the person’s needs could be met. The same two asked me questions about my business and how they might be able to accommodate my clients in the future. The others simply went through the paces of giving me the tour and sent me on my way in less than 30 minutes.

For those of you who have never toured one of these communities, there are generally two types of layouts. One layout is a single-story building that is divided into “neighborhoods” of 15 residents or so. The residents each have their own studio or one-bedroom apartment, but they share a common living room and dining room area. Many of the one-story communities have an enclosed outdoor area where the residents may go outside if the weather is pleasant. I was very surprised at the difference in philosophies regarding the residents’ freedom to go outdoors. Keep in mind that many memory care residents are ambulatory, but prone to wandering. Therefore, such communities are secured. Many of the buildings are designed to include hallways that satisfy the symptom of pacing. When I posed the question, “What happens when a resident goes outside?” responses varied as follows:

1. Our residents wear a wristlet and we monitor them by a GPS system.

2. Our community has a video camera so that we can observe who has gone outside.

3. We do not allow the residents to go into the courtyard unescorted.

4. Our staff walks our floors in 15 minute increments so we can observe where everyone is.

5. The door is alarmed.

6. Well, we’re not going to get up and run every time someone goes outside!

As you can imagine, some of the responses were themselves alarming. I also had cause for concern because about half of the communities had a shower in the residents’ bathroom, which in my opinion places the resident at risk for falling or other incident if they leave the shower running. But, if the staff members are making their rounds, that sort of incident shouldn’t occur.

As you can tell, choosing an assisted living community for your loved one a thorough analysis. It is a complicated process and therefore can be emotionally challenging. I can help you streamline the process!