The term Alzheimer’s is dreaded amongst families and caregivers, yet many are not certain exactly what it involves. By way of a definition, it is important to realize that Alzheimer’s disease is an incurable brain disorder that will become progressively worse. Attacking the memory centers of the brain, the illness gradually progresses to a point where a patient’s memory, ability to reason and make sound judgments, as well as her or his ways of communicating with others is seriously compromised.
Advanced cases of Alzheimer’s disease are often defined by a patient’s increase in anxiety, aggressiveness, as well as hallucinations. Sadly, very often as the disease progresses those closest to the patient find that they are no longer able to provide the overall care needed to not only keep the patient safe, but to also ensure that she or he will experience an improvement in their quality of life. For this reason, long-term Alzheimer’s care facilities are very often the answered prayer, yet sometimes loved ones are unsure how to approach a facility to find out whether or not they are a good fit for the patient.
Very often it appears overwhelming to a caregiver, yet with a few well-placed questions much of the details will be worked out well before your loved one will need to transition from the home environment to the long-term care facility. Here is a list of ten questions that will get you started:
1. Speak about money. The facility should have an established rate sheet that explains the fees for services rendered as well as the incidental charges that may be incurred. For instance, a basic monthly fee should include room and board, etc., while regular incidentals could include the monthly visits of a licensed cosmetologist for hair and nail care.
2. Who will be the attending physician? Facilities general have one or two attending physicians who will visit each patient once a month and oversee the immediate care as well as prescriptions. Yet perhaps you and your loved one will prefer your own doctor to be the attending physician, in which case you will need to make sure the facility will accommodate your wishes.
3. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Sure, the lobby will almost always be clean, but ask to see the lunchroom, the adjacent restrooms, etc. Are they clean? Is the floor slippery? Are electrical outlets covered with intact plates? Are there handrails in the restrooms?
4. Is entertainment provided? Most often there will be a lounge with a television set, but what else is there? Take a look around and ask for a schedule. There should be group activities, perhaps some crafts, scheduled outings, and maybe even some spiritual events.
5. Is the facility licensed? They may look great, but are they licensed? The administrative offices should be able to give you a copy of their license. Furthermore, check with the State Department of Social Services to ensure that there are no unresolved complaints against the facility. Another place to check is the Better Business Bureau.
6. Take a look at the staff. If a lot of staff is huddled together talking and socializing while residents are put in front of the television sets, this is not a good sign. Similarly, if you cannot find a staff person anywhere, this is again not a good sign.
7. For individuals with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, be certain to ask about a special care unit at the long-term care facility. Ideally, this unit will be well equipped to deal with the increasing infirmities of your loved one without the need to move her or him to another unit.
8. Talk about restraints. As the illness progresses, the need for medical or even physical restraints may become very real. Do not be ashamed to ask about them and find out what the facility’s stand on these issues is. If it does not match your own, move one to another facility. Remember that above all else you want to ensure your loved one’ continued quality of life, and spending a lot of time restrained is not part of that.
9. What are the policies for family visits? Be certain to discuss who may visit and how often.
10. Last but not least, ask for references and do not be afraid to call them.
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