Finding the Right Memory Care Community: 50 Essential Questions to Ask

Elderly woman and caregiver looking through a photo album in a memory care facility
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By: Merritt Whitley, editor

All memory care communities are different. The staff, day-to-day operations, technology uses, and care techniques vary. It’s important to find a community whose requirements and services best align with the needs of your loved one.

Your loved one is one-of-a-kind as well. Whether they have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, their memory care requirements will be unique too.

The first step in finding the right memory care community is to think about your loved one’s mental and physical needs. Begin by answering the following questions to establish a list of clear and specific needs:

Questions to ask yourself about your loved one

  • Does my loved one show aggression or have a behavior disorder?
  • Does my loved one wander, get lost, or seek exits frequently?
  • Does my loved one need help eating or drinking?
  • What is my loved one’s level of mobility? Do they walk independently or require a walker or wheelchair?
  • Does my loved one experience accidents or need help toileting?
  • Does my loved one need 24/7 supervision?
  • Does my loved one need any ongoing medical attention for treatments such as dialysis, diabetes, or colostomy care?

Questions to ask the memory care community

Ask about staffing

The following questions can give you a better idea of the involvement and experience of the staff. The Joint Commission’s Memory Care Requirements for Nursing Care Center Accreditation outlines many examples of best staffing practices, requirements, and what you should look for. However, here are some additional questions to gauge expertise and preparedness:

  • Is your facility and staff accredited?
  • Is training ongoing for staff? How many hours of training do they receive?
  • Are any staff members certified dementia care managers (CDCMs)?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • What is the staffing ratio during the day and at night?
  • Does each resident have an individual care plan? If so, how is this determined?
  • Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
  • Can you care for wheelchair-bound or bedridden residents?
  • Are you able to care for residents who are physically aggressive or those who exhibit disruptive behaviors?
  • Can outside or visiting care be arranged? If so, who coordinates the care?

Ask about safety

Each memory care facility will have different safety features and technology. These questions are especially critical to the well-being of your loved one:

  • How is the community secured? Are the buildings and ground secured?
  • Is a nurse on duty 24 hours per day? If not, how many hours is a nurse on duty, and what are those hours?
  • What medical services are available?
  • Is there a visiting physician? Is it easy to seek medical help if needed?
  • Are there emergency alert systems, enclosed courtyards, or color-coded hallways to reduce anxiety and assist with navigation?

Ask about cost and community policies

Find out what you’re paying for, what happens if there’s an emergency or if your loved one’s needs change, and other important policies:

  • Is there a thorough assessment of the applicant before admission?
  • What types of care are not provided? How are residents transitioned from memory care to skilled nursing?
  • How often do you update families about the resident’s well-being?
  • What is the policy or procedure for handling a medical emergency?
  • What is the cost structure? Is there one flat fee, or separate fees for housing and care? Are there any additional fees?
  • What is the discharge policy?

Ask about memory care treatments

These questions can be tailored to the personal needs of your loved one, but here are several therapeutic and treatment options to ask about:

  • Pet therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Reminiscence therapy
  • Parkinson’s care
  • Vascular dementia care
  • Do rooms or additional stimulation therapies include light or art therapy?
  • Do you have an assisted living to Alzheimer’s care bridge program for early-stage residents?

Ask about amenities and features

Many memory care communities offer a variety of amenities, so it’s important to decide what your loved one could benefit from the most:

  • What are the living arrangements? Memory care cottages? Neighborhood style?
  • Do they have a special memory care dining program? How is food served? Are escorts to meals available?
  • Do they have walking paths or circular paths for residents?
  • Are concierge services available?
  • Are there any fitness or wellness programs offered?
  • How many meals or snacks are provided?
  • What amenities or features separate you from other memory care facilities?

Your memory care gut check

No matter how much information you’re able to gather, it’s always a good idea to trust your instincts. Ask yourself:

  • Does the staff appear to be knowledgeable and caring?
  • Is the community easy to navigate?
  • Does their philosophy of care resonate with me?
  • Would I feel comfortable and at peace if my loved one lived here?

Take our memory care checklist with you

Our memory care checklist will help guide your search as you find the right community for your loved one. If you need additional help, our Senior Living Advisors can help you narrow your search and answer questions throughout your journey.