My hope is to make this a simple checklist – but don’t discount that this is such a personal and complex topic. My Mom is currently in an Assisted Living facility that is geared toward someone who needs help with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The residents include individuals in wheelchairs, some with vision-loss, and others who have mild cognitive impairment.
The needs of someone who has partial vision loss is very different from someone who has no idea what day it is. For a variety of reasons, we began a search for other living options for my Mom.
On my tour of the first community, I marvel at the communal dining arrangement. My Mom has difficultly making choices and I realize that having to sit alone and then choose a meal is a dis-incentive to visit the dining hall. I understand why my Mom has been choosing to eat most of her meals in her room and makes her own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
My Mom has also started to ask me what she should be doing. She has always been in motion and not knowing what to do to stay busy is difficult for her. Most communities that deal with individuals with dementia offer very structured days with activities that can fit a range of individuals in varied stages.
When looking at a community, I recommend you:
1) Check out the activity schedule. See how the day is structured and attend some of the events to see how they work. Having something to do and being invited would be very helpful for my Mom. All of the offered activities are also geared toward someone with memory loss.
2) Understand the meal service. The first facility I visited explained the family style meal service. They make the delivery of the food feel very home-style and tailor each meal to the residents medical needs and personal preferences — but do that on their behalf. All of the dementia-based care facilities offer this as well as monitor if the resident is eating and make adjustments for them because most are no longer able to make meal choices.
3) Consider other care needs. If a doctor is needed or skilled nursing required, what are your options? How do they manage end-of-life needs?
4) Talk to other families with loved ones in the facility. I visited three different places and only one of them offered me the ability to call the families of other residents. That speaks volumes!
5) Listen to your Gut. One of the facilities I toured was absolutely beautiful. I could picture my Mom in the apartment and we could furnish the whole place with her furniture. However, I realized that the facility with smaller rooms that come pre-furnished that we could tailor with my Mom’s belongings is probably the smarter choice. The idea is to have her engage with the other residents of the community and the smaller rooms encourage that behavior.
As a closing thought, I recall how difficult it was moving my parents from their independent living apartment into assisted living. We had about two weeks to pack, move, store and dispose of furniture, clothing … stuff! While I don’t mean to be so grim, I know that my Mom is never going to get better and the less we have to sort through when she has passed away, the better I will be able to manage and deal with the final bout of grief that will come once my journey with my Mom has ended. Considered.