Many people in the early stages of Alzheimer Disease live safely at home,
even though they may need plenty of memory cues like lists and notes. Over time,
though, Alzheimer Disease causes memory loss and thinking problems that could
make living at home problematic. For example, Alzheimer patients who are in the
mid- to late-stages of the disease have been known to leave appliances such as
the stove or the coffee pot on, and wander to unsafe places such as a busy
intersection or unfamiliar part of town.
When this happens, families may consider seeking a more appropriate,
supportive living environment such as a retirement residence or long-term care
home with a program or unit designed specifically for people with Alzheimer
Disease. For persons in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's who need 24-hour
supervision and care, this kind of setting with specially designed programming
provides the care they need, and also gives them a chance to live in a place
where they can continue to enjoy life.
Making the decision to look for a residence that provided specialized
Alzheimer care for a loved one with Alzheimer disease is never easy. However,
when families find the home, where they know that their loved one will be happy
and safe, the transition can be smoother for everyone.
The following are some questions to ask when looking for expert Alzheimer
care for a loved one.
What do you do to make sure the residence feels like the patient's
An important feature to look for when visiting an Alzheimer care unit is the
feeling of home. If the unit doesn't smell or sound like what you'd expect in a
regular home, it may not be the right place. Since people with Alzheimer Disease
need the comfort of feeling like they're at home, many Alzheimer units offer the
little details that make a big difference, for example, hanging quilts on the
walls for a homey feeling or offering meals family-style in a dining room or
What opportunities do you provide for my loved one to participate
in meaningful activities?
Many Alzheimer programs provide scheduled activities, but some go a bit
further and offer residents a chance to engage in meaningful activities
throughout the entire day, including the evening hours. Some residences have
designed rooms to resemble soda shops, libraries, boutiques, sunrooms and front
porches that residents have access to 24 hours a day. While Alzheimer patients
may have trouble remembering the recent past and the present, many remember the
days when they were younger. Rooms like those mentioned above can help residents
remember those happier times from many years ago.
How will you keep my loved one safe?
Since many people with Alzheimer are continually looking for "home," they
tend to wander without regard for their own personal safety, so it's important
to ask about the program's safety measures. Consider asking if your loved one
will be living in an area that is secure 24 hours a day. If residents have
access to the outdoors, such as a courtyard, you will also want to ask how that
area is secured.
How is your staff trained to handle the complex issues of caring
for a person with Alzheimer Disease?
Ask the program director if the staff has had special training to
understand the effects of Alzheimer Disease and if they promote ongoing
education. In addition to asking the staff questions about the program, ask
residents and visitors how they feel about the program and its staff. You may
want to consider spending some time in the unit so you can see firsthand the
interaction between the residents and staff.
For information on Alzheimer Disease visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada