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Checklist: Choosing an
Alzheimer's/Dementia Facility

By: CaregiverZone

Alzheimer's/dementia facilities house seniors with memory impairments that keep them from communicating normally and taking care of themselves. Besides a room and meals in a common dining area, they provide constant supervision, help with activities of daily living and personalized care designed to offer residents as much mental and memory stimulation as possible.

Some Alzheimer's/dementia facilities are free-standing institutions. However, no special licensing criteria are required for a facility to call itself an Alzheimer's/dementia unit, so don't assume from the name alone that it will provide adequate care for your loved one. The only way to determine if the facility meets your needs is to visit and know what to look for.

Many people with Alzheimer's/dementia require the more general services offered in nursing homes and assisted living facilities as well as care geared specifically to disoriented individuals. In many cases, such long-term care facilities include separate on-site Alzheimer's/dementia units.

This checklist should therefore be used in tandem with our Assisted Living Facility Checklist or Nursing Home Checklist, depending upon the medical condition of your senior and the unit you are examining. Take the appropriate checklist along with this one when you tour a facility. Bear in mind that the staff's attitudes and philosophies about caring for residents with Alzheimer's/dementia should be reflected throughout the facility, from architectural design to meal preparation and planned activities.

Alzheimer's/dementia checklist

Name of facility:
Alzheimer's/dementia contact information:
General rating on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent): 1-2-3-4-5

  • Is the facility on a quiet or busy street? Urban or residential? Quiet residential neighborhoods are preferable to reduce the risk of wanderers being overwhelmed, hit by vehicles or victimized.

  • What is the noise level? Is the facility insulated to reduce noise? A low noise level is best for residents with Alzheimer's/dementia, whose senses are easily overloaded.

  • Is the Alzheimer's/dementia unit physically separate from the rest of the facility? Lucid individuals and those with Alzheimer's/dementia have different needs, and too much interaction between them can disturb both sets of residents.

  • Is the unit small and home-like, or large and institutional? Smaller, home-like units are preferable. Residents with Alzheimer's/dementia become easily confused in institutional settings where everything looks the same.

  • Is the unit all on one level? This is preferable for Alzheimer's/dementia residents, who are at greater risk of falling or becoming disoriented.

  • Are there circular areas designated for wanderers, or are the hallways long with dead ends? Alzheimer's/dementia residents often seem compelled to wander, and dead ends can make them agitated and frustrated.

  • Have adequate measures been taken to ensure that wanderers can't escape the unit or the grounds undetected?

  • Is light used as a cue to help residents know the time of day? Bright lights should be used during daylight and low lights at night.

  • Are visual cues used to help residents orient themselves? Cues include:

    • Color. Patterns can confuse people with Alzheimer's/dementia, so color schemes should be bold and simple. For example, all bathroom doors should be the same color and the hallway a single contrasting color.

    • Locator signs. Written words like "kitchen" or "toilet" may be used, but graphics are vital for residents who no longer read. The signs should be at eye level and in strong contrasting colors with a flat finish. Other signs can help orient residents by including information or graphics indicating the daily schedule, season or city.

    • "Memory boxes." These open containers display old photos and mementos to help residents identify their rooms. Alzheimer's and dementia often impair short-term memory but leave long-term memory intact. Residents may not recognize themselves in the mirror but would recognize photos of themselves in their youth.

    • Large clocks and calendars. These help orient residents in time and can include information on the daily schedule and the season, for example.

Staff and services
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio? In an Alzheimer's/dementia unit, the ratio should be about one-to-four.

  • Is an Alzheimer's/dementia specialist on staff or available on a consulting basis?

  • What special services are provided for residents with Alzheimer's/dementia?

  • If the resident showed ______ behavior, how would the staff react? (Examples: tearful, combative, accusatory, asking repetitive questions - whatever behavior your loved one tends to exhibit.)

  • Are smaller, separate rooms designated for activities, as opposed to larger, communal spaces? Residents become disoriented in big rooms with multiple activities.

  • What activities are arranged for residents with memory impairment?

  • Are residents encouraged to remain continent? Are they reminded to use the bathroom? Is a schedule in place?

  • Does staff assist residents to the bathroom if needed?

  • What percentage of residents wears diapers?

Final notes


What I liked most about this Alzheimer's/dementia facility:

What I liked least: