How to Find a Nursing Home for Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

As heartbreaking as watching someone suffer from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is, it can be sheer agony to have to find a nursing home for that person. Difficult as it may be, it is important to develop a plan for finding a nursing home that will properly care for your loved one with dementia when you can no longer do so. Here are things to consider when making that plan.

 

Method1

Determining Whether a Nursing Home Is Needed

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    Look for signs of how the dementia is progressing. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, the person may appear and function close to normal. As the dementia progresses, however, the person’s ability to think and reason declines, often progressively faster. Signs such as the following may mean the person needs the care a nursing home can provide: progressively worsening memory, such as asking the same question again and again, forgetting both the answer and the question and that he or she asked it in the first place, difficulty in communicating verbally, increasing difficulty in bathing, dressing, using the bathroom or just moving around, disorientation, including confusion in directions and habitually wandering off and forgetting how to return home, putting things in places where they don’t belong, such as sticking a purse in the freezer or a meatloaf under a cake cover, loss of reasoning skills, such as forgetting the concept of numbers or ignoring a whistling teakettle on a hot stove, severe mood swings ranging from joy to anger or sadness in a matter of minutes, and loss of interest in things that used to matter
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    Have the person undergo a complete physical and mental examination. A family physician can sometimes perform the entire examination; but more likely, the doctor will refer the dementia sufferer to a neurologist, gerontologist or geriatric practitioner to properly evaluate whether the person’s symptoms have worsened to the point where he or she should be placed in a nursing home.
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    Consider your ability to care for the person at home. Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers need a safe, structured environment as well as things to do and people to talk to. It takes time and effort to provide these things, requiring the primary caregiver to sacrifice other areas of his or her life. You may initially be able to provide a suitable environment for your loved one, either alone or with the help of family, friends or a hired caregiver and adult day-care programs, but the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s will likely mean moving your loved one to a nursing home at some point in the future.
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    Also consider the toll on your own physical and emotional health when serving as a caregiver. Your own needs matter in making the decision to place your loved one in a nursing home.

 

Method2

Finding a Nursing Home

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    Determine your ability to pay for nursing home care. Find out whether the nursing homes you’re considering are covered by private medical insurance or government funding. It may be necessary to pay a portion of the care cost out of your own pocket until insurance kicks in.
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    Research available nursing homes online. If using an online search engine, enter specific keywords such as “Alzheimer’s care” or “dementia care.” You can also go to government Web sites such as Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare, independent review sites such as CareGrade.com or SeniorsApprove.com, or background-checking sites such as LexisNexis’ ChoiceTrust.
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    You can also contact individual nursing homes through their websites. Use their online forms to specify Alzheimer’s disease or dementia care when contacting them, if they have such forms available.
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    Consult with experts in nursing home care for recommendations. These experts may include family doctors or specialists in dementia care, as well as social service agency representatives, clergy and state and county health departments. They can direct you to which nursing homes have good track records in taking care of dementia patients and who to contact at those homes to arrange an interview.
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    You may also want to consult with your state’s long-term care ombudsman, whose office usually has insight into the rankings for a given nursing home as well as a record of complaints filed against that home and their resolution.
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    Balance your loved one’s needs with your own. Look at the quality and cost of care, as well as how far away the home is. While it may be tempting to put someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia in an out-of-the-way facility, both you and the loved one suffering from dementia will be happier if you and other friends and family members can visit regularly.
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    Visit prospective nursing homes. Look at a nursing home’s overall appearance and cleanliness. Also look at how well-staffed the home is on both weekdays and weekends and the overall attitude of the staff. Note how frequently the residents are visited by observing how full the home’s parking lot is. Look at the residents themselves to see if they appear clean, well-fed and reasonably happy.
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    Take along copies of any nursing home checklists you may have found online.They’ll help you determine what you should be looking at if you don’t trust your own common sense.
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    Be aware that a strong antiseptic smell may mask odors of urine or fecal matter, indicating that the nursing home has difficulty handling incontinent residents, as may having a large number of residents on urethral catheters.
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    Listen as well as look. If you hear something that sounds like the home may not provide adequate care for your loved one, trust your instincts and validate it in the interview before deciding to place your loved one in the home.
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    Interview the nursing home’s administrator and staff. In addition to looking over the nursing home inside and outside, interview the home’s administrator and members of the nursing staff to evaluate whether or not the nursing home would be suitable for your loved one.
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    Ask the administrator or director of nursing how the home handles Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as well as how it handles general issues such as nutrition, falls and incontinence. You should also get copies of recent health inspection reports and ask how the home remedied problems identified in those reports.
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    Ask the staff about the workload, employee morale and turnover rates, as well as the ratio of staff nurses to nurses from medical temporary services and how many families hire private nurses to assist in caring for their loved one.
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    Ask both the administrators and staff about any upcoming changes in ownership. If the nursing home is to undergo a change in management, the change could be either beneficial or negative. You’ll need to investigate the incoming owner as you did the home itself.
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    Ask residents’ families about the quality of care the home delivers. It’s helpful to corroborate the information given by the nursing home’s administrator and staff with the observations of residents’ family members to give you a more complete picture of the home. Ask them how the home handles nutrition, falls and incontinence and how well it manages their loved one’s dementia care, as well as their opinions on the residents’ quality of life.

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