In Long-Term Care homes, individuals living with dementia can be found throughout the residence.
In some settings, there are specialized units that focus on Clients with more complex needs and behaviours, potentially relating to their advancing illness.
In touring a home when you or a loved one are living with dementia, think about the home's preparedness, to give the best level of care in the short and long-term.
Consider the following:
1. Is there a place for outdoor activity where individuals can freely enter and leave the building in a secure setting?
If a loved one living with dementia has become lost, or frequently leaves their current residence, are there measures in place to allow for safe, independent, access to the outside? If there are no secure outdoor spaces, how does the home provide outdoor access to individuals living with dementia? What safety provisions are in place to monitor exits if a client is wandering?
2. Is there a specialized unit for individuals living with dementia, who may have more complex needs?
Is the staff to resident ratio providing care on these units, higher than in other areas of the home? Does this apply to all shifts? If there is no specialized area, how does the staff allocate human resources to respond to heightened care needs, and potential acute behavioural changes? (An infection for example, can cause a delirium; whereby increasing confusion and altering responses to the environment.)
3. Are some of the dining tables height adjustable, to accommodate for wheelchairs to fit underneath?
Standard height tables can impede an individual utilizing a wheelchair, from sitting comfortably close to the dining surface.
Does the home access the services of speech language pathologists if there has been a change in swallowing? Do Dieticians monitor weight loss concerns?
4. What type of education is offered to help staff understand the changing and complex needs of individuals living with dementia?
Are there relationships and services in place with local Alzheimer Societies, psychogeriatric teams, and medical specialists? Is there regular training and education to help staff advocate for, and respond to the changing needs of their residents?
5. What type of recreation activities are offered, to enhance quality of life?
Are individuals living with dementia included in group activities with the entire home, or is there evidence of exclusion and separation? Do activities foster independence as able, and meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs?
6. Is there creative use of alternative therapies: music therapy, reminiscence therapy etc.?
Does the home have a snoezelen room? ( A multi sensory stimulation centre, used for a variety of conditions where there have been changes to brain function.)
Are staff given training in alternative therapies, and/or are there contracted specialists who work with the residents?
Consider the investment in care and services for individuals living with dementia, when touring a home. Any residence that has not identified resources to improve quality of life for their clients experiencing the outcomes of dementia, is behind the times.
If the tour guide cannot answer your questions, ask to speak with the Charge Nurse, Director of Care, or Administration, and don't feel guilty about your persistence. This is a life altering choice and you have every right to seek information.
It is said that there is a rising tide in the future, of individuals impacted by dementia. Homes that are reactive, instead of proactive, will find their ship is running aground before the first wave hits.
Download the free Elderpilot: Long Term care or Elderpilot: Retirement mobile tour apps (iPhones and Androids) for more information. The resource section is full of tips and strategies including things to think about re care needs of individuals living with dementia. The apps will guide you on your tours, providing prompts, recording your observations and creating a report to share with others. Looking for more help? Visit us at www.elderpilot.com. and read my blogs.