Rachael Wonderlin

@rachael-wonderlin | contributor

22 Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility

I am often asked, “What questions do I need to ask before moving my loved one into an assisted living community?” Here is a pretty comprehensive list, but bear in mind, you are going to want to find most of these out through observation ! Don’t show up and fire a million questions at the marketing director. I’m sure you can probably think of more questions as you go through this list. What activities are offered? Are there activities for people living with dementia, specifically? What about downtime? How much downtime is there for residents? What precautions do you have in place for people living with dementia in terms of safety? Locked doors? Alarms? Is this community designed specifically for people living with dementia? What time is breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Are the other residents here about where my loved one is with regards to their cognitive ability? What time do residents wake up? What time do they go to sleep? Are there snacks offered throughout the day? How is the food? What is the staff-to-resident ratio? What about on third shift? Are there RNs and LPNs on staff, or just CNAs/caregivers? About how long do residents live here? Until they pass away? What hospice companies do you normally use? Do you provide towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo? What do we need to provide? What furniture is in each resident’s room? Are your staff members trained in dementia care? (If you ask this, they will say yes, even if it isn’t truly true. Observe for yourself to find out.) If I need to reach a staff member via phone, who would I call? What if it’s the middle of the night? How many times per week do residents receive assistance in the shower? Are there many families who visit regularly? What outings are offered for residents? What entertainment is offered for residents? Does someone come in to sing or play an instrument?

5 Steps to Embracing the Reality of Someone With Dementia

I had someone tell me recently that they’d used my Embracing Their Reality techniques when talking to their mother with dementia. “I told her that we were going to see her parents, and she looked confused. She was talking about her parents the week before, so I just started the conversation about seeing them! Embracing her reality didn’t work,” he said. Here’s the problem: he didn’t embrace her reality. All he did was assume that, because she’d talked about her parents the week before, she’d be in the same reality the next week. Use these five “L” steps to embrace someone’s reality effectively: 1. Listen Don’t assume that you know where your loved one’s reality is that day. You have to listen before you make a big statement that you think reflects their reality. Listen to their context clues: for example, if she’s talking about her parents as if they are still alive, that’s what she believes that day. We can’t hang onto where she was the week or even day before. It just may not be accurate anymore. 2. Legitimize Legitimize whatever they say to you. If they tell you that their neighbors stole their garden gnome, agree that their gnome seems to be missing, and you’re going to “get to the bottom of it” by talking to the neighbors. You don’t have to 100 percent jump to conclusions with them, but you do need to listen and legitimize whatever they say. 3. Lean Lean into what they’re saying so that you can embrace their reality effectively. For example, if today she’s speaking about going to her mom’s house, she probably thinks her mom is alive. Lean into that with a small statement or question, something like, “What were you thinking about doing at your mom’s house today?” This gives her the feeling that you’re listening and agreeing, but it also gives you a bit of leeway: if she was just speaking generally about how she used to go over there, you don’t look totally crazy by talking about someone she knows has died. If she’s talking about her parents and asking you a question like, “Where are they right now?” You can say, “Where do you think they are?” 4. Leap You’ll know from step 3, Lean, exactly where her reality is. Now, Leap into that reality with her, wherever it is! Talk about what she’s talking about. Don’t try to bring her back to our world. If she’s talking about going to work, talk about that work with her. Ask what projects she’s working on there currently, how her boss has been, and if her coworkers are fun to be around. 5. Learn Learn from your successes and mistakes when embracing the reality of someone living with dementia. Recognize that while their reality may evolve and change, you’re going to be just fine when you take a moment to figure out where their reality is that day.

5 Steps to Embracing the Reality of Someone With Dementia

I had someone tell me recently that they’d used my Embracing Their Reality techniques when talking to their mother with dementia. “I told her that we were going to see her parents, and she looked confused. She was talking about her parents the week before, so I just started the conversation about seeing them! Embracing her reality didn’t work,” he said. Here’s the problem: he didn’t embrace her reality. All he did was assume that, because she’d talked about her parents the week before, she’d be in the same reality the next week. Use these five “L” steps to embrace someone’s reality effectively: 1. Listen Don’t assume that you know where your loved one’s reality is that day. You have to listen before you make a big statement that you think reflects their reality. Listen to their context clues: for example, if she’s talking about her parents as if they are still alive, that’s what she believes that day. We can’t hang onto where she was the week or even day before. It just may not be accurate anymore. 2. Legitimize Legitimize whatever they say to you. If they tell you that their neighbors stole their garden gnome, agree that their gnome seems to be missing, and you’re going to “get to the bottom of it” by talking to the neighbors. You don’t have to 100 percent jump to conclusions with them, but you do need to listen and legitimize whatever they say. 3. Lean Lean into what they’re saying so that you can embrace their reality effectively. For example, if today she’s speaking about going to her mom’s house, she probably thinks her mom is alive. Lean into that with a small statement or question, something like, “What were you thinking about doing at your mom’s house today?” This gives her the feeling that you’re listening and agreeing, but it also gives you a bit of leeway: if she was just speaking generally about how she used to go over there, you don’t look totally crazy by talking about someone she knows has died. If she’s talking about her parents and asking you a question like, “Where are they right now?” You can say, “Where do you think they are?” 4. Leap You’ll know from step 3, Lean, exactly where her reality is. Now, Leap into that reality with her, wherever it is! Talk about what she’s talking about. Don’t try to bring her back to our world. If she’s talking about going to work, talk about that work with her. Ask what projects she’s working on there currently, how her boss has been, and if her coworkers are fun to be around. 5. Learn Learn from your successes and mistakes when embracing the reality of someone living with dementia. Recognize that while their reality may evolve and change, you’re going to be just fine when you take a moment to figure out where their reality is that day.