Choosing the Right Living Facility For Your Loved One with Dementia

Many of us make it a goal to directly support our parents, grandparents, and other elderly loved ones for as long as possible. However, for some families, the time will come when they decide that they need to move their loved one with dementia to a living facility (also known as a nursing home or assisted living facility).

Making this decision can be a difficult and emotional process. It can be overwhelming to think about the changes that will take place for both you and your loved one, but it is important to remember that each care decision is unique to your family’s situation, and is made in the best interest of your loved one’s health and safety.

These facilities provide specialized care and support for individuals with dementia, allowing them to live comfortably and with dignity. The trained staff are equipped to handle daily needs, providing peace of mind for both you and your loved one. It is also important to remember that this transition can be an opportunity for you to continue having a meaningful relationship with your loved one in a new environment.

This article will outline some tips to guide you through what you should consider when selecting an assisted living facility for your loved one. This will include reviewing your budget, visiting establishments, and weighing the advantages and drawbacks to each before making a final selection.

What to consider when choosing the ideal care home

Finding suitable accommodation for individuals who can no longer live alone is a big decision. Use these suggestions to help find the best possible arrangement for your loved one.

1. Plan ahead and gauge involvement

If your loved one is newly diagnosed or is still in the early stages of dementia, have a discussion about their wishes regarding assisted living and other end-of-life management (such as an advance directive/”living will” and other legal planning). If possible, begin having these discussions and making arrangements as soon as possible after your loved one’s diagnosis. Being involved in these decisions on their own terms can give your loved one great peace of mind after their diagnosis.

However, if your loved one is in the mid-to-late stages of dementia, these conversations can be needlessly stressful. If you’re having trouble making the decision yourself or are feeling overwhelmed, enlist in the help of other family members or close friends.

2. Look for communities specializing in memory care

Memory care facilities are directly equipped to handle Alzheimer’s and dementia. These are ideal for your loved one as staff will be specially trained to deal with their condition.

3. Figure out your budget

Cost is a significant factor to consider while selecting an assisted living home. You don’t want to find the “perfect home” only to realize that it isn’t financially feasible. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

  • Figure out a budget range with a maximum price that you are able to pay per month.
  • Create a shortlist of the best care facilities you’ve found in your research and list their prices. Contact them directly for prices if not listed on their website or shared publicly. Ask if they offer financial assistance, if needed.
  • Consider additional expenses that may come up, such as transportation costs, medical expenses, and any additional care services your loved one may need.
  • Check if your loved one’s insurance will cover any costs, and whether they have any long-term care insurance plans.

It is important to remember that while cost is an important factor, it should not be the only factor considered when selecting a care home for your elderly parent. The safety, comfort, and overall quality of care provided should also be taken into account when making your decision.

2. Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are both viable options depending on your loved one’s needs, but they differ in the level of care provided. Both provide a safe and comfortable living environment, but nursing homes usually offer more intensive medical care and supervision, while assisted living facilities are a more independent living option with support services.

Nursing homes provide 24-hour medical supervision and care, with licensed nurses and medical professionals on staff. They are typically recommended for seniors who require frequent medical attention and assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. They also offer other healthcare-related services.

Assisted living facilities offer a more independent living option with support services, such as assistance with daily activities and medication management. They also provide social activities and opportunities for residents to engage with one another. Assisted living facilities are suitable for seniors who need some assistance but do not require constant medical supervision.

Assisted living facilities may be an option if your loved one is still in the early-to-mid stages of dementia, but keep in mind that as their condition and required level of care advances, it will be harder on them to make a move to a more advanced facility.

Remember that there are memory care facilities designed specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that these are most likely to align with your loved one’s needs.

3. Read reviews

Reviews can help you and your family identify the most suitable care facilities in your area. If researching online, pay special attention to more recent reviews, as they can most accurately speak to the state and quality of care in the facility.

Speaking to families of other residents is another ideal option as you can ask detailed questions and get a very recent outlook on the state of the facility.

Figure out what works and doesn’t work for your loved one. Prioritize their needs and desires. One reviewer’s glowing review or deal breaker may not be a huge advantage or issue for your parent. However, if you encounter anything concerning, such as allegations of neglect or abuse, move on to a different facility.

Remember that reviews by themselves cannot paint a full picture. It’s best to also plan a visit and take a look yourself.

4. Check out the facility

Here are some tips on what to look for when touring the ideal living facility for your loved one.

  • Weigh in on the proximity. How far is the living facility from your home? Will it be easy to visit your loved one often, or come quickly in case of an emergency?
  • Check on the staff-to-patient ratio. Make sure it’s adequate, as a higher ratio can ensure that your loved one will receive more personalized attention and care.
  • Examine the environment. Make sure the facility is clean, safe, and well-maintained.
  • Look for specialized memory care programs. Some facilities may offer extra programs that are specially tailored to the needs of those with dementia, such as therapeutic programs and life-skills training.
  • Consider what’s most important to you and your loved one. Discuss dietary, religious, and other personal accommodations if relevant. If the facility offers extra services and amenities, prioritize things that you know your loved one will enjoy the most.
  • Review their care plans. Make sure the facility has comprehensive measures in place that are tailored to its residents.
  • Talk to the staff. Ask about their approach to caring for patients and if they have any specialized training with dementia. Ensure that they have a positive attitude and enjoy working at their jobs — these are signs that the facility is running adequately and smoothly.
  • Speak to other residents and their family members while you’re visiting. It can help to establish a contact list of a few and check in with each other.

5. Size

The size of facilities can vary greatly, from small group homes housing less than 10 people per facility, to extra-large facilities housing over a hundred. According to NCAL, the average number of licensed beds in an assisted living facility is 33. The size of facilities can vary greatly, so figure out what works best for your loved one’s unique needs.

In a group home, there are fewer residents and as few as one staff member for every five or six residents, allowing staff members to provide personalized care and get to know each resident. Larger facilities, however, are more likely to provide a greater variety of amenities and services for residents.

Prioritize what matters most to your loved one to find the facility that will strike the perfect balance.

8. Transitions to Higher Levels of Care

Here are a few tips on how to ease the transition process for your loved one.

  • Avoid telling them that they “need more help”. It can feel incredibly degrading to hear, and depending on their level of dementia, they may not even recognize that they need assistance — meaning saying things like this may even anger them.
  • Some areas may offer transition programs to seniors making the move to assisted living. If not available, you can look into counseling services for your loved one if you feel they could benefit from it.
  • Prepare a list of some of their favorite items that they can bring with them to their new home. If you’re unsure of how much you’re able to move with them, give the facility a call and ask. Some facilities are pre-furnished, but may allow you to move in a favorite chair or personal bedding. Some come unfurnished, which can allow you and your loved one to recreate a space similar to their old one at home.
  • Determine whether your loved one wants to be involved in the planning and moving process. Some may want to select which items they bring with — for others, this can cause needless remorse. Only you can gauge whether it’s something your loved one will want to be involved in — if you truly aren’t sure, consult family members or others who know them well.
  • Line up moving time with their “best” time of day. Many dementia patients have a time of day where they’re most receptive, alert, and comfortable. Make things easier for them by scheduling the big move around that time.
  • Practice empathy and remember to be patient. Moving can be hard at any age, even more so when dealing with a condition like dementia. Your goal is to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible and that your loved one is well taken care of.


Selecting your loved one’s future living facility can be a daunting process, but remember that all of the work you’re putting in is ensuring a safe, healthy, and fulfilling place for them.

Communication and collaboration between family members, healthcare providers, and care home staff can help to ensure a smooth transition. It’s also important to remember that it’s never too early to start planning, even if you don’t plan to make the transition for some time.

Overall, with the right support and consideration of their unique needs, a senior with dementia can continue to live a fulfilling life in a care home setting.

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