Tag Archives: dementia care units

How can I get a family council established at my husband’s nursing home? | Chicago Elder Law Attorney Anthony B. Ferraro

When done right, family councils can be very beneficial. Their goal is to discuss issues with staff members in a constructive, non-threatening setting. They are not supposed to be forums for constant complaining or berating of staff. At these meetings, ideas, concerns and possible solutions are shared. It is also an opportunity for bonding with staff members.

If you want to establish a council, speak with the nursing home’s administrator. These councils are common so you might not face much resistance. Establish a place, day and time to meet, as well as a format for how meetings will run and what will be addressed. You’ll also need to determine who will run such meetings, and create a way of informing all residents, family members and staff about them.

The meetings can be informal, or quite formal — complete with minutes being taken. It’s up to everyone to decide. The structure isn’t as important as getting information out and distributed.

One big function of family councils is to help arrange activities that involve both residents and their families. By this, we’re mainly talking about picnics held at the facility. These can help promote a sense of unity among residents, family members and staff.  For more information, look into our Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.


The nursing home changed my father’s medications and now wants to evict him and have him checked him for possible inpatient admission because of aggression. Should I have him assessed if the odds are he won’t be taken back by this facility?

Extreme agitation is typically the source of aggression. If the agitation is under control, the aggression should lessen, if not stop altogether. If you believe the nursing home’s staff members did not handle this the best way possible, you can meet with the facility’s director of nursing and the care-plan team to discuss the situation. If that doesn’t bring satisfaction, you can take it further, to the state’s long-term care ombudsman program. Ombudsmen are trained volunteers who, upon request, advocate for nursing home residents and their families when there are problems with a facility.

If you are confident that staff members did all they could, your father needs to be assessed. Outbursts of aggression are not only difficult on the people around the Alzheimer’s patient, but also on the individual himself or herself. There is little quality to life when one is agitated all the time.

There are various good assessment programs throughout the country. You can learn about some at the Alzheimer’s Association website (www.alz.org). Look for a program near your area. One good thing about an inpatient assessment is the 24-hour-a-day observation. Its value is evident because there can be additions, deletions or changes to medications — and observation of any effects of these changes. You could learn that his medication is causing his agitation. Be sure to keep his doctor informed of what you’re doing and what is happening.

When he is being assessed, you have an excellent opportunity to meet with discharge coordinators or social workers. They can help you find the right facility. They may not recommend any one facility but they can give you guidance.

Another thing to remember is that environment can play a huge role in how comfortable a person is. If your father is not comfortable where he is, a move might be the best idea for him. Even though moving a person with Alzheimer’s can create confusion and possibly setbacks, the odds are he will recover. Your father needs an environment that feels loving and accepting to him. Staff members are usually the key in this regard. So if/when you wind up looking for another nursing home, be sure to meet staff and observe their interaction with residents. Additionally, if your father didn’t live on an Alzheimer’s unit before, look for one now. Their staff members are specially trained to deal with symptoms and issues that accompany Alzheimer’s.



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.