Living with dementia


Assessing a long-term care facility

Contact your local Alzheimer Society for information about the long-term care application process in your area. Some communities will have several homes to choose from. Once you have compiled a list of long-term care homes in your area, call and ask some general questions such as:

  • Is there a waiting list?
  • What is the cost for living at the home, including the cost of extra care as the disease progresses?
  • Will the person with dementia be able to live there throughout the course of the disease?
Narrow your list based on the answers you receive. When you have shortened the list, you will want to visit the home yourself. If appropriate, you may wish to consider having the person you care for visit the home, too. You will have your own set of priorities to consider, and some of your expectations may be more important than others. Keep these in mind as you begin your search.

The following are general questions that may be helpful in assessing the quality of each home you visit. Pay attention to your "gut" feelings as you begin to tour; they can help you decide whether a home is appropriate for the needs of the person you are caring for. You may find it useful to bring along a friend or family member for input and support as you visit each home. Talking to the residents and their family members can also be helpful.

Questions to consider when visiting long-term care homes

Area of concern  Questions to ask 
Is the home conveniently located? Will you be able to visit easily? Does public transportation run nearby?
Are the kitchen, day rooms and bedrooms clean and tidy, and free from unpleasant odours?
Is the menu varied, nutritious and tasty? Can the home accommodate special dietary needs? Is food available throughout the day? Is snacking possible? Are mealtimes flexible?
Are they private? Are they clean? Are they easy to find? Are there grab bars and other safety devices present?
Are staff specially trained to care for someone with dementia? Is there ongoing staff training about dementia? Is the home "home-like"? Is there a separate unit for residents with dementia? Can residents walk safely indoors and outside?
Resident-to-staff ratio
What is the resident-to-staff ratio? What proportion of residents have dementia?
Do all staff interact with residents on a regular basis, and in a friendly and personable manner?
Is there a variety of meaningful activities for groups and individuals? Are there therapeutic activities, such as music, pet therapy, and horticulture? Are there opportunities to socialize? Is there flexibility in the routine?
When can you visit? Can you have privacy with the resident? Can you take the resident for outings?
Understanding behaviour
Do staff try to understand what residents are communicating through their actions (such as a person pacing because she is looking for a family member)? Do they use restraints (physical, chemical, environmental)?
Are there smoke detectors? Are there slip-proof mats in the baths, grab rails, etc.?
Is the home accredited by an independent body? What were the results of the most recent provincial/territorial inspections?
Medical care/ continuum of care
Can you continue to use your own doctor or is there a resident doctor? Is there a doctor on call? How often does the doctor visit? Can you meet the doctor? How are medical emergencies handled? Are there situations where the home will no longer be able to provide care to the person?
Care philosophy
Does the home focus on individual resident needs? Can it accommodate flexibility in routines? ("My mother has never been a morning person.") Are there regular care planning meetings that include family members?
Individualized care Is consideration given to individual cultural, religious or spiritual needs? Are other languages spoken?

Even after an extensive search, be aware that you may not find everything you want in a single home. Try to remain flexible. Ask yourself how you feel about working together with staff to meet the needs of the person with dementia. Moving the person to a long-term care home does not mean that your role as a caregiver is any less important than before. You may find that you have a different focus, such as staying connected to the person and advocating for quality dementia care.

You can promote quality care for the person with the disease by sharing the Alzheimer Society's Guidelines for Care booklet with staff. A copy is available from your local Alzheimer Society. Your local society can also provide staff training and education.

If you make the decision to arrange for care in a long-term care home, see the other pages in this section for advice on preparing for the move and helping staff get to know the person with Alzheimer's disease.

Last Updated: 04/23/14
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