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Good care includes ensuring safety and meeting basic needs; it also means finding care providers that treat the whole person and providing an environment that allows the person to feel independent and safe.

Getting started: assessing care needs

The first step in choosing the right care provider is determining the care needs of the person with dementia at this point in time. Whenever possible, involve the person with dementia in care decisions.
 

How much care a person needs depends on many factors, including how independently he or she can walk, eat, use the restroom and bathe. During the early stages, the person with dementia may still live independently, but in the middle stages, 24-hour supervision will be needed. In the late stages, round-the-clock care becomes more intensive.

Ask yourself:

  • Safety: Is the person with dementia safe? What type of supervision is necessary? Does the person require supervision for some activities such as cooking or using certain appliances? Does the person need 24-hour supervision or care?
  • Health: Does the health of the person with dementia require specialized care? Does he or she require help with medications?
  • Care: Does the person with dementia need more care than he or she is receiving right now? Does the person need help toileting, bathing, dressing or grooming? Is caring for the person becoming difficult for you? Can you physically manage providing the care needed?
  • Social engagement: Is the person with dementia engaged in meaningful activities during the day? Would spending time with other people with dementia be beneficial?

Learn more: In-Home CareAdult Day CentersRespite Care and Residential Care

Contacting providers

Once you have a clear idea of the type of care needed, ask others for referrals. Here are some good places to start:

Once you have a list of possible providers, call them. Describe your situation, and explain what you would like from a care service. Ask questions over the telephone regarding qualifications, types of services offered, cost and hours of availability. The more information you receive over the phone, the easier it will be to identify which service is a good fit. You will also be able to limit the number of services you interview in person.

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When contacting a care provider or care setting, be prepared by having the following information available about the person living with Alzheimer's:

  • Name
  • Physician's name and number
  • Diagnoses, other health and behavioral care needs
  • Insurance coverage including Medicare, Medicaid and long-term care insurance

Screening providers

After you have gotten referrals and narrowed your options, screening care providers is the next important step. You want to find a care provider whom you trust and who interacts well the person with dementia. When you interview potential providers, have a list of questions to ask. Here are some basics to get you started:
  • Services needed: Does the care provider offer the specific services the person with dementia needs?
  • Care plans: How are care plans created and reviewed? The family and the person with dementia, if able, should be involved.
  • Training and experience: Is the staff trained in dementia care or have experience in working with someone with dementia? Are those credentials verified?
  • Background check: Does the agency, service provider or care facility conduct background checks on all staff?
  • Backups: What is the procedure if the care provider is sick, on vacation or quits?
  • References: Ask the care provider for at least three references. Contact the families and ask about their experience, the care the person received and any concerns they had.
  • On-site visits: For adult day/respite care providers or residential care, arrange a meeting with staff and take time to look around. Are individuals involved in activities? What is your overall feeling about the environment? For in-home help, ask if the care provider can come to your home to meet you and the person with Alzheimer's. Does the care provider interact and communicate well with the person with Alzheimer's?

Learn more: Choosing an Adult Day CenterChoosing an In-Home Care Provider and Choosing a Residential Care Facility