How beneficial can I consider a dementia care unit for my mother?

If it’s done well — with proper staffing and development — it can be very beneficial. The idea of the dementia care unit is to provide specialized care, which includes trained staff for dementia, smaller units to soothe residents’ feelings and a locked area that will be safe for those who wander or pace relentlessly. The last two are symptoms that most Alzheimer’s patients experience at one time or another. Dementia units do not try to stop it from happening but rather aim to contain it to a safe environment.

If your mother lived in an open facility — not a specialized unit— she might become more confused. Many such facilities are larger, have wide open spaces and high ceilings, and a lot more people coming and going. Those conditions are virtually eliminated in a special care unit. Dementia units raise the level of care while lowering the levels of stimulation. Many have done away with overhead intercoms since they can cause serious confusion or agitation for residents.

The standard for Alzheimer’s care in most facilities is that the special unit has its own activities director. Often, direct care staff also are trained specially to participate in resident activities, which are specifically geared to the residents’ needs.

For more information on special Alzheimer’s care facilities in your area, contact your state’s Department on Aging. It can give you a list of units or tell you where you can find one.

If you have the option, visit at least three of these units in your area before making a choice. As always when visiting a potential home for a loved one, take someone you know and respect who preferably isn’t in the family. That way you can get a more objective view of what’s going on. Meet the staff and observe how they treat the residents, and how the residents respond. It’s not unusual for a facility to have a few deficiencies, but how serious were they and have they been corrected in a timely manner? You need to know these things.

When you make a decision about a facility for a loved one, listen to your gut feeling. It is often a very accurate way to gauge. You still need to take stock of basic needs and questions; talking with the person who accompanied you on your visit will help sort things out. Then you can make a rational decision that everyone can live with more comfortably.

For more information regarding Alzheimer’s, click here.