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Housing Options for People with Alzheimer’s

Maria,

I am the sole care provider for my father with Alzheimer’s for the past five years. He has been living in a locked skilled nursing facility for the past three years. My father has nothing financially other than his Social Security, which pays for the nursing home.

He is past the stage of fighting everything and everyone now and I am wondering if there is any way to place him in a smaller, more home-like setting at this point. It breaks my heart to see him treated like one of the cattle in this large facility where workers are too overburdened to take the time for caring and gentleness.

I work full-time and am unable to care for him with the level of care he now needs – 24/7. He did live with me for the first year, but his paranoia, aggression, and wandering made it impossible to continue. I so want for him to have some quality of life at the end of this arduous journey.

I am so worn out I don’t think I can start this search again. This is the second nursing home my dad has been in and is certainly much better than the first. I want to bring him home every time I visit him, but I know I can’t do that. I’m sure private pay facilities would offer more individual care, but I am not able to provide that for him.

Are there any other housing options for people with Alzheimer’s that I haven’t uncovered?

Jenna, San Fernando Valley, CA

Jenna,

The short answer is YES. I think there is a better living situation for your dad than what he’s in now. But, finding it is likely to take time and some digging around.

First, let’s be clear about his options which means addressing his financial picture.  Since nursing homes can cost upwards of $10,000 per month, my guess is that your dad has some entitlement other than Social Security footing the bill for the current facility. Medicaid pays for nursing homes, so let’s assume for a moment that your dad has Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California). With Medicaid he can move to another facility which is good news. He’s not stuck where he is now…the trick is to find the right facility for him.

What you want to look for is a nursing home with a unit that specializes in memory impairment. Of all the housing options for people with Alzheimer’s, a nursing home with a memory unit is a good choice even if you could afford something else.  Why? Because typically, the staff is trained in how to care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias which, in my opinion, is directly linked to higher quality of care. Also, there is a chance that staffing ratios are smaller (i.e. number of staff to number of residents) on a specialized unit which helps to reduce staff burnout.

So how does an understandably worn out daughter begin a new search for housing for her dad with Alzheimer’s? With help.  Which is what I strongly recommend.  One resource that I think would be worth a call is A Place for Mom.  Tell them where your dad lives, what his financial picture is, and what type of nursing home you’re looking for.  I can’t guarantee they can help, but I think they can and there is no cost to you. And no, they are not paying me to say that.

Best,

Maria

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Scott Dershowitz, LMSW, CMC March 24, 2015, 8:09 PM

    I think Maria gives excellent advice here. As a geriatric care manager in NYC, I always hear from children of clients that they (naturally) want to have their loved one, who has some form of dementia, in the least restrictive environment possible. But as Maria notes, while it’s a commendable goal, and one that’s formed out of love and caring, it isn’t necessarily the best possible placement. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to nursing home care, despite the fact that so often, it really is the best possible option for people with advanced dementia. I have seen some rare instances where a nursing home level of care is set up inside someone’s apartment. It can work, though it might wind up being more expensive than the nursing home, and likely much less will be covered by medicaid.

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