How do I find the best adult day center for my mother?

This can be a complex task, not unlike finding a nursing home for a loved one. There is a matrix of criteria you’ll want to check and meet. One of the first is checking into your options BEFORE day center services are ever needed. This will help both you and your mother.

You can find available adult day center lists from the local Area Agency on Aging or ARC. Winnow down your options by asking whether staff members are trained to work with people with Alzheimer’s.

Once you find some you are considering, your first move should be to make an unannounced visit to one of them and ask for a full-facility tour. When this happens, observe whether participants at the center seem happy and content. Are they truly involved in an activity or just sitting around with a TV on? Television isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it shouldn’t just be a personality-free baby sitter. Activities could be created to use it for sing-alongs or discussions, for example. Look around and watch to see if the participants interact freely with one another. Try to learn if staff members encourage individuals to be as independent as possible.

Next, learn what’s needed to be admitted. Each facility has its own policies. Typically, a physical from a doctor and a medical history must be given, as well as a TB test from the last 12 months, or a chest x-ray. Ask if the facility itself can do the TB test (and if there is a cost for it). Make sure you go through the admissions packet carefully with someone at the center.

Ask about all policies and procedures and pay particularly close attention to anything concerning fees. Inquire as to billing policies — including whether they bill in advance or after the fact. How do they handle absences? If you think of additional questions, be sure to call back to get answers or clarifications. If you let some centers know you’d like assistance filling out papers, they’ll help you get it done.

You’ll want to check out licensing issues. Some states require licenses for these operations. They should be posted and available upon request, including how many participants it can legally serve at one time. Find out if the center has been cited for deficiencies — and whether they’ve been corrected, of course.

Inquire about the staff-to-client ratio. There should be at least one staff member for every eight participants with Alzheimer’s. Meet the facility director and staff and observe how they interact with everyone. Gauge whether they’re attentive to you and your needs. You should ask about the age of the facility, whether staff members are trained to work with Alzheimer’s and how wanderers are monitored.

Here are some other questions to ask an adult day center you’re contemplating using:

• Do you have a social worker on staff? Someone knowledgeable in assisting with resources, financial assistance, counseling, discharge planning, etc.?

• What are the philosophy and goals of the center and its various leaders?

• What are the direct staff members’ credentials?

• What is the rate of employee turnover?

• Is there a charge for late pick-up?

• How long and frequently does a participant have to attend?

• What are the emergency procedures?

• How are meals prepared and what special diets can you accommodate?

• What does a “typical” day’s routine consist of?

• How involved can family members be at the center?