September is World Alzheimer’s Month, so throughout the month, we’re talking about Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Did you know there is a difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia? A lot of people use these interchangeably but they are actually not the same thing. This is a very important topic because about every three seconds someone is diagnosed with dementia. Today there are over 50 million people around the world suffering from dementia and that number is expected to increase significantly to about 152 million by 2050. So, it is a big deal! What am I talking about when I say Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the same? Well, Alzheimer’s is actually the most common type of dementia, but dementia could actually be caused by a variety of things. Think about when you have a fever. A fever could be caused by an infection. A fever could be a side effect of the medication you’re taking. It could be a number of things. Well that’s the same thing with dementia. Dementia could actually be caused by drug or alcohol abuse. Someone in advanced stages of Parkinson’s could develop dementia, and someone who suffered a stroke could be at risk for having dementia. It is not a specific disease like Alzheimer’s, it is actually a syndrome which is a collection of symptoms that causes chronic memory loss, impaired judgment and personality changes. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is an irreversible degeneration of the brain that impacts someone’s memory and thinking skills. As mentioned, it is the most common type of dementia, but the two are not the same.
When you have a family member who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s there may come a time when they will to transition into an assisted living facility. I know your first thoughts are; I will google a nice facility, maybe read some reviews, look at the amenities they have, how clean and pretty the pictures are. But there are other things that you should also consider. Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing an assisted living facility.
- What is the staff to resident ratio? Who are those people specifically? What type of training did they receive and will continue to receive? Do they actually have training specific to dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients? Because you want to make sure that the people who are in place are able to safely interact with your loved one.
- Does the facility offer skilled nursing care? It may not be something that you need right now, but even if they don’t offer it, do they have someone in place who can help you navigate through the process, perhaps help you transition your loved one to a skilled care facility? There’s nothing more frustrating than having to move a loved one and not knowing where to start.
- How secure is the facility? Can people just walk in and out? Do they have to be buzzed in if they don’t live there? Is it safe enough that residents can’t push the door and run outside? That’s very important. And even if it’s not something you’re considering or having issues with right now, as the illness progresses, having a loved one in an unsafe or insecure environment could really be dangerous.
- Does the facility accept Medicaid? Even if they do not accept Medicaid, is there someone on staff who’s knowledgeable enough to assist with the Medicaid process? Is there someone who can help you transition your loved one to a facility that accepts Medicaid. Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities are expensive? While you and your loved one may have enough cash to pay out of pocket right now, if they’re in such a facility for a significant amount of time, you may not be able to sustain the cost long term. Medicaid may become your only option, so it’s something to consider.
- What is included in their cost? When they say all inclusive, what does that really mean? Are you going to have to pay out of pocket for certain medications? Are you going to have to pay out of pocket for supplies? Those are all the things you should consider, so that you can determine what the true cost or care will be on a monthly basis. More than likely, not everything that your loved one needs will be covered by the facility’s monthly cost.
- Consider speaking with a Certified Senior Advisor. There are certified senior advisors who can actually help you navigate through this process. I actually have some in my network. Certified Senior Advisors visit these facilities, they know the ins and outs, and they can navigate you through the process and help you find the right one for your loved one. This is not something you have to do alone. If you are in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Union, Stanly, York, Chester and Lancaster counties in North and South Carolina, my friend Mike Mannion can help you. You can learn more about him here.
Now if you didn’t know that your search for an assisted living or memory care facility should not just stop at a Google search and that you can actually get some assistance in finding the right facility for your loved one, Now You Know! Remember to check out our next blog as we continue with World Alzheimer’s month.