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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Stephanie's experience helpful.

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The Situation

My stepfather was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at age 60. For the first couple of years, you could barely tell anything was wrong with him. He went for miles-long walks everyday by himself, spent time reading, doing word puzzles, and working in the yard, which he loved. He declined, but gradually.

During the fourth year, he had to have his gallbladder removed in an emergency surgery. Anesthesia often has the effect of making Alzheimer's worse, and it did so in the case of my stepdad. His needs became too much for my mom to handle on her own anymore. So she and I began touring the assisted living facilities in the area that had memory care programs. I was an active participant in helping her make the decision of which home to choose, and I asked many questions at each place. Here's what I learned about choosing an Alzheimer's care facility for your loved one.

Problems and Issues Encountered

The major decision we were faced with was to find an Alzheimer's care facility that was of utmost quality. After seeing how horribly and borderline abusively Alzheimer's patients were treated at the rehab facility he had to stay at for a week after his gallbladder surgery, we knew what we didn't want. Now, we had to tour about a dozen facilities across three cities and two counties to find what we did want.

Every single place we saw seemed too clinical, and the patients seemed unhappy. These places were like warehouses to store Alzheimer's patients, and we witnessed many staff members being short or rude to people who needed kindness. It was very discouraging to see so many people in horrible places.

Further, the people giving the tours at these facilities were really putting the hard sell on us. They wanted us to sign my stepfather up right away to move in, before we had a chance to see more places or to discuss the place we'd just seen. A lot of them kept calling after we'd been there to see if we still wanted to send him there. Plus, they were very evasive about questions, and they would simply focus on their qualifications rather than directly answer anything related to how patients were treated.

We were almost ready to give up and just hire a private nursing company to come to the house to take care of him when we went to see the last facility on our list. It was the last because it was the farthest away — 40 minutes from my mom's house, and she does not like to drive. However, this place impressed us as soon as we walked in the door. It was set up like a small town. I called it "Disney World for Alzheimer's patients."

The administrator took us on a tour, introduced us to every patient we encountered by name, and then took us to a room where we could talk. After my stepfather's experience at the rehab facility, I was wanted to find out if this facility ever restrained patients or refused to let them go back to their rooms to sleep if they got up at night to go to the bathroom or get a drink. To my relief, the philosophy was to pretty much let patients do whatever they like. The facility even had secured outdoor gardens where patients could safely roam alone. Since it was my stepfather's habit to have a snack late at night, I asked if that could be accommodated and was told there was always someone in the kitchen to hand out food and drinks, no matter how late it was, and that he would be given something if he wanted it.

The facility was the only one in the area that was totally devoted to dementia patients and nothing else. The staff knew how to go "into the moment" with patients and always made them feel like they were important. There was entertainment and activities every day, and those that were able could sometimes go on field trips. Family was welcome any time — there were no visiting hours, as every time was good for visiting. When we were told the staff all helped out with the patients, that everyone from administration to maintenance knew each patient's care plan, and that patients were considered family, we knew we'd fount the right place. Mom wrote a deposit check right there.

My stepfather has been there about nine months now, and he couldn't be happier. My mom visits three to four times a week, and like the administrators told us during the interview, her time with him is much more quality-based now that she doesn't have to deal with the more unpleasant aspects of caring for an Alzheimer's patient. She gets the best of him now. We couldn't have made a better decision.

If I Could Do It Over Again

If I could do it all over again, I would simply research places in the area that dealt only with dementia patients and ignore the ones that were essentially assisted living facilities with dementia wings. The best care for an Alzheimer's patient is to be had at a place that specializes in Alzheimer's and that alone.

My Advice to You

Don't leave your loved one anywhere that has the wrong "vibe" to you or at a place where they're pushing too hard to sell you on it. Also, avoid places where the staff doesn't answer questions directly and where the patients seem unhappy. Look for a place that gives the patients autonomy and respect as independent human beings, where the staff genuinely cares about the patients and shows it, and where there are lots of activities to keep them from getting bored, so they can continue feeling like part of the world. If you can find all of these things in a place that specializes in dementia care, you've found the perfect place for your loved one.

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