There is a new trend where many Retirement Residences are providing care for individuals living with evolving memory losses. I suspect with the growing wave of seniors who are demonstrating memory changes from mild cognitive impairment to dementia; there is a growing demand for alternative care and services aside from the Long-Term Care setting.
As a health care consumer (think fee for service) living with dementia, it is prudent to establish a fundamental understanding of the home’s long-term plan regarding YOUR future.
For the residence, this is ultimately a business relationship, and it is prudent to approach their ability to meet your needs with a similar resolve.
During this type of decision-making, I like to approach my assessment based on the
Care, Compassion, Competence, Commitment and Cost
Here are 10 questions to ponder on your tour:
1) What type of ongoing in-house education is provided regarding dementia? Is staff trained in techniques such as Gentle Persuasion Approach (GPA), "Stop and Go" and other applicable hands on instruction? is there elder abuse training?
2) Does the organization utilize the local Alzheimer Society to facilitate education for staff? The Alzheimer Society is an integral source of information, however should not be the only resource for education. There is a high demand for their services, often over large geographical areas. Proactive Retirement Residences should have additional education offered in-house by a multitude of resources. The home should be fostering a staff “champion” to lead the team regarding education about dementia.
3) Is there adequate nighttime staff if the retirement home has created a secure unit for individuals that may wander? Is there a Registered Staff member available and on site 24/7?
4) Are staff assisting individuals to complete their activities of daily living, including assisting to the bathroom, bathing aid, support with meals as needed etc.? Is the cost structure for these services clear and transparent?
5) Are families advised of any free government sponsored programs to assist in personal care? Example: Ontario (The CCAC will provide bathing supports for those who qualify under the regulations)
6) What provisions are in place to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of both individuals if a couple is admitted and one must be in a secure unit? Does the Residence foster a sense of acceptance as part of the home’s culture? Will the couple be welcomed at social events for well seniors?
7) Does the home have clear policies regarding the parameters of care that they can provide and at what point they would facilitate a transfer to a LTC home?
8) Are families/significant others kept abreast of changes in care needs so provisions can be made for Long-term care planning, if required to avoid a crisis situation?
9) Are there recreational activities that support meaningful activities and are geared to foster self-esteem and act as a social outlet?
10) Is there a physician who is available on an on call basis as well as providing regularly scheduled home visits? Are referrals to Geriatric assessment teams, memory clinics, physiotherapists, occupational therapists etc. supported by the medical team?
Although there is a great deal of food for thought, searching for a forever home is an important decision.