Dementia refers to the deterioration of intellectual abilities and loss of memory. Although in some cases its symptoms can manifest during middle age or earlier, individuals who are over the age of 65 are generally more vulnerable to dementia. People who suffer from dementia are often called senile because of their impaired intellectual, occupational, and social functions. Some of the symptoms of dementia include:

* Difficulty remembering events or things.

* Stopping mid-sentence during a conversation or stopping in the middle of an ordinary task, such as making coffee or pouring tea.

* Difficulty remembering the names, faces or the existence of their own children or a spouse.

* Poor hygiene.

* Difficulty remembering where they are.

* Faulty judgment and inappropriate behaviour, e.g., using inappropriate language and making inappropriate sexual advances to other people.

Realizing or hearing the diagnosis that an elderly parent or spouse has dementia is devastating for families. As the condition progresses, caring for the person who has dementia becomes more difficult. The difficulty of caring for the patient, as well as juggling jobs and families of their own, lead many families to look for an aged care facility that could provide the best care possible for their loved one.

If the person you love has dementia and you’re looking for an aged care facility right now, here are ten vital questions to ask when looking for the right aged care provider.


  1. Does this facility offer memory care options?

Not all aged care facilities are created alike. Some offer memory care options, while others do not. Independent living facilities, for example, are geared toward seniors who are still able to enjoy an active lifestyle with people in their age group. Assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (also known as nursing homes), on the other hand, may offer memory care options to people with dementia. Before you choose an aged care facility, ask the facility director if the institution offers specialised care or not.


  1. What services and amenities are included?

Round-the-clock supervision, nursing care, physical assistance with regular activities, and three meals each day are the core services of aged care facilities. Some facilities go beyond the basics and offer physical, speech, and occupational therapy. Additional services and  amenities you should check include:


– Semi-private or private rooms

– Dining rooms

– Activity rooms

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– Garden

– Ensuite bathrooms

– Security systems

– Housekeeping and laundry services

– Daily activities (exercise, gardening, music, painting, etc.)

– Transportation to medical appointments

– Religious services

– Sitting areas where the resident could socialise

– Secured grounds


  1. What is the cost?

Caring for a person with dementia is expensive. According to an analysis conducted in 2016, the cost of health and residential care of people living with dementia can reach up AU $88,000 annually. So before you commit to one facility, ensure that their facilities and services are up to or above par. Check the facility’s basic daily fee, plus its means-tested care fee and accommodation cost. Some facilities also charge fees for additional services.


  1. Is the facility secure, clean, and comfortable?

When you visit an aged care facility, check if the rooms, the hallways, and the grounds are secure. Dementia patients are prone to wandering and challenging/disruptive behaviours, that is why many aged care facilities have separate dementia wings or units to ensure that wandering and difficult behaviour are managed and that the residents with memory loss problems are safe at all times. Additionally, check if the facility has smoke detectors, sprinklers, and emergency lighting installed. Ensure that the facility’s emergency exits are clearly marked in case of fire or other emergencies.

Cleanliness and comfort are other factors that you should consider when looking for a nursing home. Look around when you visit, and check if the facility is clean and orderly. Is the odor of the facility off-putting and the furniture in dire need of repair? Check if the linen and upholstery are in good condition or dirty and worn.

Some people with dementia might also have mobility issues, and would need to use a wheelchair to get around. Check if the rooms, the common areas, the hallways, and the doorways are wheelchair-friendly. If it’s not clean, comfortable, and secure, then it’s best to look for another aged care facility.


  1. What types of meals are provided, and will the facility accommodate those who have special dietary needs?

Meals are typically provided by the facility as part of the service. Before you commit, check if the facility’s meals are nutritious and tasty. To ensure that the meals are nutritious, the facility should have a registered dietitian and food supervisor. Typically, facilities offer three meals a day plus two snacks. Others, meanwhile, offer an additional snack after dinner.

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If your loved one who has dementia also has diabetes, kidney stones, or any other condition, ask the facility director if a dietary care plan assessment and special meals will be provided. Many dementia patients are also unable to eat or drink by themselves, so check whether the staff is willing to assist residents who are unable to do so.


  1. What activity programs are available to residents?

Although dementia patients have lost a bulk of their memories, that doesn’t mean that they cannot respond to any mental stimulation. An ideal aged care facility should provide activity programs which even dementia residents can join. Some examples of activities include:


* Reading and solving puzzles

* Exercise and meditation

* Playing a musical instrument or listening to music

* Movie screenings

* Painting and crafts


  1. Does the facility have a doctor and registered nurses that would monitor the residents’ health and respond during emergencies?

Geriatric patients often need specialised care because of their age. In many cases, they already have renal problems, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other diseases by the time they enter aged care facilities. Caring for them becomes more complicated if they have dementia, that is why it is important that the facility has a doctor to monitor their health. The presence of physicians and registered nurses in the facility would also make it easier to make clinical decisions in case of medical emergencies.


  1. What kind of training has the nursing staff received? How do they take care of the residents? What is the staff-to-resident ratio per shift?

You will be entrusting your loved one to the facility’s staff, so it’s important that you thoroughly check their credentials and make sure that they are properly trained before leaving your spouse or your elderly parent in their care. Observe how they deal with the residents when you visit. Do they treat the residents with compassion and respect, or do they raise their voices or are rude when they communicate? Do you see signs of abuse or neglect? If so, do not leave your parent or spouse in the facility’s care.


Also, make sure that a registered nurse is on duty 8 hours a day, and the facility is manned by licensed nursing staff 24 hours a day.