How To Choose Alzheimer’s Care

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Special care units are a relatively new concept, so certification standards for nursing homes and adult care residences do not specifically address these programs. You will need to rely on your own judgment when considering a special care unit.

Visit more than one special care unit and compare them. Use all your senses when you visit—sight, smell, and hearing are all important. Be sensitive to the overall atmosphere and how the staff interacts with the residents.

Ask about the number of staff on duty at all times and find out about any special training they’ve had. Generally, the more staff available, the higher the quality of care. Some reports find a daytime ratio of six residents to one staff person to be adequate in a special care unit; others feel that a ratio of eight to one can also result in quality care. At night, when residents are in bed, a higher patient to staff ratio may be fine.

Get a written description of the services and programs offered by any special care unit along with the charges or fees associated. This description should clearly explain how the special care unit differs from the rest of the nursing home or assisted living facility. It should emphasize special training the staff receives and describe the environment. Before choosing a special care unit, you should be confident that the higher price charged for care in the unit will actually result in better care for your relative. You may find that your relative can be adequately cared for in a regular unit.

Finally, talk with someone about special care units. Your state ombudsman, your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, or your local Area Agency on Aging are all good resources. They may be able to provide you with a more detailed consumer checklist to help you compare special care units.

All dementia special care units should focus on the individual needs of the resident. Care plans should be developed, implemented, and reviewed often. All patients should be treated with respect and dignity in a physical environment that encourages independence while promoting safety.

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