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10 Questions to Ask Memory Care Communities

A categorized breakdown of the best questions to ask when touring memory care communities. The questions range from pricing to activities to staff and more.

If you’ve made the decision to look for a memory care community for an aging loved one, it’s natural to have mixed emotions. On one hand, you feel relieved to have help with the physical, emotional and psychological demands of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, on the other, you feel anxious about care, safety and quality of life.

Visiting a community is the best way to know what to expect from a memory care facility. As you tour communities, asking the right questions can help you determine which community best suits your loved one, while making you feel confident with the decision to seek help.

Here are important questions to ask at memory care facilities when visiting  to help ensure you make the most informed decision possible.

What Type of Care is Provided?

Memory care communities typically help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and managing medications. But what other care is available? Here’s what to ask:

  • What happens if health needs change?
  • Are there RNs or LPNs on staff and are they available 24/7?
  • Is there a visiting physician?
  • What about on-site physical or occupational therapists?
  • Is hospice or end-of-life care allowed on site?
  • Can we continue to use the same health care providers?

Ask About the Community Environment

Memory care communities should be easy to navigate, promoting a resident’s freedom and independence.

  • Is the community (or neighborhood/wing) purpose built (designed exclusively to benefit those living with memory loss)?
  • Is the community easy to navigate with wayfinding cues and orientation features?
  • Are there secure courtyards that walking paths, areas for activity, water features and other special touches designed to appeal to the senses?
  • Does the décor feature calming colors and patterns that help mitigate stress and create a positive experience?
  • Are there interactive life skills stations designed to spark memories and create moments of happiness?
  • Does the apartment come furnished?
  • Is the apartment shared or private?
  • Is the bathroom shared or private?
  • Are the apartments customizable?
  • Ask to see a state survey or Department of Health
  • Are pets allowed?

What Safety Measures are in Place?

Peace of mind is easier when you know a loved one is safe. What to look for in the memory care facility you are considering:

  • Is the memory care community or unit secure?
  • Is there security on-site after hours?
  • Is the community gated?
  • What type of specialized technology is available to further ensure safety (fall prevention, wander management systems, motion sensors, wearable smart devices, fire safety and special building materials like antiskid flooring)?
  • What happens in case of a weather emergency, power failure or evacuation?

What are the Community’s Staffing Requirements?

Knowing the community has qualified staff in place can make all the difference when it comes to your loved one’s quality of life – and  your peace of mind. Having the same staff members regularly assigned to care for your loved one can lead to more personalized care. Plus, you’ll feel more confident their needs are being met if you have a consistent point of contact when you have questions or concerns.

  • Is there a dedicated memory care team?
  • What is the ratio of staff to residents (the lower the ratio, the better the community will be able to create a safe, person-centered environment)?
  • Ask about the staff turnover rate. Job longevity can point to a positive work environment for staff which can foster pleasant surroundings for your loved one.
  • How many staff members are on each shift and what are their duties?
  • Which care team members are on-site 24/7?
  • Is someone available 24/7 for emergency maintenance?
  • Are staff members required to pass background checks?
  • How often are physicians and registered nurses on-site?
  • What emergencies are staff expected to manage, and how are they trained for them?
  • Is there a written plan of care for each resident, and how often is it reviewed and updated?
  • Is there a staff member who coordinates healthcare visits from a nurse or therapist, if needed?

What Kind of Dementia Training Does the Staff Receive?

Understanding your loved one’s individual abilities is a critical part of their care. Memory care staff should be trained in how dementia affects cognition, communication, and emotion and be equipped to manage  aggression, confusion, wandering and agitation. Staff who participate in ongoing professional training are better prepared to handle these issues.

  • What type of dementia-specific training does the staff receive?
  • Is the staff dementia certified?
  • Are staff members required to attend ongoing training that keeps them up to date with current best practices in memory care?
  • Does the staff receive regular inclusivity training?
  • Is there specific training on how to provide person-directed care?

What Type of Memory Care Programming and Activities are Offered?

Activities and programs involving the arts, games, physical exercise and social interaction can boost mood and slow the progression of dementia.

  • Does the community offer specialized programming designed to ease stress, build confidence, and enhance life?
  • Are there planned activities like gatherings, games, outings and entertainment to ensure your loved one enjoys both structure and a feeling of engaged purpose?
  • Ask to see a schedule of activities available to memory care residents.
  • Does programming encourage family members to be partners in their loved one’s care?
  • How do you encourage/support resident participation in daily life?
  • What measures are taken to ensure programming is customized to individual abilities and interests?

What Services are Provided?

Be sure to ask what services are available and if they are included in the cost.

  • Do you have transportation services for things like medical appointments, grocery stores and off-site events?
  • Do you provide housekeeping or laundry services, and how often?
  • Do you provide on-site spiritual services?
  • Are salon/barber shop services available?
  • Do you have a variety of wellness programs to help residents stay healthy?
  • What amenities can residents use within the community?
  • Do you have a maintenance team?

What Meal Options are Offered?

Most memory care communities offer three nutritious meals a day, plus snacks.

  • How many dining venues are available?
  • How many meals are provided per day, and are snacks provided?
  • Are mealtimes flexible or is there a set schedule?
  • Are meals served family style?
  • Does staff assist residents with eating?
  • Can you modify menu options to meet specific needs?
  • Can friends/family come for a meal(s)?
  • Is there private dining for special events?

Family Participation and Communication

Regular communication with caregivers will help ensure you’re your loved one is getting the attention they need. You’ll also want to know who to contact regarding their daily care and who to talk to if you feel issues aren’t being properly addressed.

  • Ask how often you’ll receive updates on your loved one’s health.
  • How frequently do you  meet with staff to review the care plan?
  • Is there a guest room/suite?
  • Are there family support groups available on-site?
  • What time can family and friends visit?

What is the Cost?

Although the cost varies based on location, memory care can be expensive because more staff is required. And prices may increase if a higher level of care or specialized services such as diabetic injections or incontinence care are required.

  • What is your entry fee and is it tax-deductible?
  • What’s covered in your monthly fee?
  • What are the fees for higher levels of care?
  • What are your ancillary services and their fees?
  • Can I use my long-term health insurance?
  • Is there a pet deposit?
  • Do you have any other one-time fees, like an administrative or community fee?
  • Is there a fee for a second occupant?
  • What happens if a resident runs out of money?

What is the Discharge Policy?

There are several reasons a memory care resident may be discharged from a community. Perhaps the level of care they need exceeds what the community can offer, or they may become aggressive and pose a danger to themselves and others. Knowing the community’s policies will give you a solid understanding of the extent of the care they are able to offer so you’re not taken by surprise if discharge becomes necessary.

What Does Your Gut Say?

This last question is for you to ask yourself. No matter how well-appointed or well-recommended a memory care community is, trust your instincts to help you find the community that’s right for your parent or loved one. If you don’t like the way a community smells or aren’t drawn to the staff members you meet, make a note of it. You’re looking for a community that instills confidence that your loved one will be safe, comfortable and well cared for.

Where You Live Matters

Equipped with this list of memory care questions to ask, you’re ready to begin your search for the best possible environment for your parent. But you probably still have many questions and concerns.

Where You Live Matters is a senior living resource offering research-based, unbiased guidance on senior living topics. Consider exploring our database of articles on finding appropriate care for a loved one with dementia or learning more about advancements in memory care technology. We’re here to help.

Originally Published: July 18, 2022 – Updated On: May 10, 2024