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She lists six crucial questions to ask when assessing a nursing home for someone with dementia:
• Is the dementia unit large enough that the resident will not feel confined?
• Does it offer activities appropriate for the person’s intellectual abilities?
• Is the environment positive — colorful, but not too stimulating or confusing?
• Are there music and singing? “Many residents with advanced dementia still sing or play musical instruments, even if they can no longer express themselves in other ways,” Leefer said.
• Is the staff trained to handle patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s? How does the staff deal with patients who act out?
• Are residents kept clean and well dressed, and are they treated with the same respect as those in other parts of the facility?
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a checklist for finding a nursing home at www.alz.org/visitinganursinghome.pdf. The list describes desirable characteristics of the building and its environment, including the facility’s services, room designs, meal arrangements and recreational activities.
But no matter how good a facility might be, experts say that continued family support and involvement are critical to ensuring good patient care. Plan to spend several hours with the patient on the day of admission, when anger, hurt and acting out are likely. Visit often on different days and times, and get to know the staff.