What to look for when selecting an assisted living facility

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- According to the Alzheimer's Association, every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's, and more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. But what do you do when you are no longer able to care for your loved one?

The association’s projected numbers of people 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. are high, but Florida's numbers are alarming -- second only to California and anticipated to jump from 480,000 current cases to more than 700,000 by 2025.

This means more people will go through the difficult process of picking an assisted living facility or nursing home for their loved one suffering from dementia.

“My wife and I never had children, and now what I have is a 71-year-old 2-year-old, who cannot help herself.” John Schmidt’s wife suffers from dementia. “I have to do basically everything for her, bath, shower, cleaning, toilet, whatever. She cannot help herself.”

He faces the difficult decision of putting his wife of more than forty years in managed care. But knowing where to place your loved one can be overwhelming.

“Generally, in the early stages, we would be looking at assisted living, based on their behaviours.” Joanne Westbrook, director of education at Pines of Sarasota says assisted living facilities vary according to their license. “If you don’t have nurses in your building 24-7 or a secured unit, you need a secured unit if your loved one is a wanderer…very important.”

Whether you choose an A.L.F. or nursing home, the environment when you first walk in, including the way staff interacts with you and patients, is key. “I also would say that it needs to be clean; it needs to smell good.”

Take a tour and check things out, says Stacy McCanless, executive director of Inspired Living at Sarasota. “You want to look for resident programming, activities, resident engagement, and are the residents well taken care of. Are they smiling?”

Here's one you may not have thought of. “Have the food, because the most important things for our residents are activities and the quality of the food.”

Staff education, doctor affiliations, and dementia experts are also top priorities, says Westbrook. “What we're looking for is specialized units that have programming specifically for dementia.”

Ask others who have been through caring for a loved one what their experience was of certain facilities. And check out the amenities and activities offered for compatibility for your loved one.