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Helping a family member decide what senior community to live in can be an overwhelming decision. But when you factor in memory conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, searching for the right place to call home is another complication.

As families start the selection process, there are a few questions to ask of each option, according to Nate Cyrill, program director of Long Term Care Ombudsman in Cleveland; Kathi Greco, director of community relations at Rockport Senior Living in Rocky River; Schonda Grays, executive director at Rose Senior Living Beachwood in Beachwood; and Jason Welther, community development director at Windsor Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care in Beachwood.

“No. 1 is families are always interested in (their loved one) being engaged or having activities provided,” Welther said. “That is key for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, keeping them as active as possible. There are things they are still able to do. The second thing is the overall care of residents. When you’re walking around and looking at how the staff is treating the residents, do they look clean? Does the place smell good?”

But even though nursing home visits aren’t permitted right now due to the pandemic, Cyrill said there are other ways to get the information one needs to make a choice.

“If you take the scenario where someone isn’t (touring) and they are just trying to learn more about the home, look at what the facility is telling the public on their website and other written material,” he said. “Do they specifically highlight the care for those with memory conditions? The loved one that needs care now, can that facility meet those needs now as is and any changes in the future? What is the facility’s ability to be flexible?”

A good memory care facility should be able to offer a few things for memory care patients.

“Honor and empowering each resident as an individual is fundamental,” Grays noted. “The care team should have a deep understanding of your loved one and their interests in order to nurture their memories and engage them in meaningful activities.”

Greco added, “Person-centered care is the best way to care for a senior with memory concerns. We always want to make sure we are joining the resident on their journey. No two residents are the same, so making sure the care is individual to each person is key.”

Though it might be difficult considering the nature of Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to involve the senior in the selection process.

“They should always consider what their loved one wants,” Cyrill stated. “We all want to be involved in our own lives to the greatest extent possible. If you’re self-aware, you’re going to want to be involved in that decision process. Where it gets tricky is when the person is not self-aware.”

As families start to narrow down their options, there are a few deciding factors to account for – all culminating if the choice feels like the right one.

“Though the price is a concern, don’t always make it the biggest one,” Welther noted. “Don’t always be impressed by the chandelier in the lobby. If you really like what a facility has to offer, but they might not be the most glamorous looking, give them a chance. Also, consider the place mom or dad will be most comfortable in. Your first gut reaction is almost always the right choice.”

Greco said, “Families really need to do their research on the options they have narrowed it down to. Ask family and friends, ask on Facebook if anyone has had any experiences. Families have to think of safety first. There is no reason to be conflicted if you know in your heart it is the right time to move.”

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