Elder care for Alzheimer's: Choosing a provider

Elder care (adult care) offers many helpful opportunities both for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers or care partners. The term care partner describes the relationship between a person with dementia or another cognitive condition and a spouse, partner or other relative.

Elder care can provide you with a temporary break to relax, to get errands done or to complete housework. Also, elder care may be an option for your loved one if you work full time during the day.

In the U.S., you can locate elder care services available in your area by using Eldercare Locator website. This website provides contact information for your state or local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). The AAA can connect you with someone who will help guide you to specific elder care service providers.

Determine your needs

When considering elder care providers, evaluate the services your loved one may need, including:

  • Social activities
  • Supervision and behavior management, such as for incontinence or wandering
  • Counseling
  • Activities, such as art, music, recreation or support groups
  • Exercise
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy
  • Medical care
  • Medication management
  • Meals and nutrition
  • Personal care, such as help with toileting, bathing and eating
  • Special needs, such as needing wheelchair access

If you're choosing from more than one provider, some other factors to consider include:

  • Location. How convenient is it for you?
  • Hours. What are drop-off and pickup times? Does your loved one need to attend a minimum number of hours or days a week? Does the provider need notice if your loved one will not be attending one day?
  • Costs. Often, costs are out-of-pocket, but some long-term care insurance plans may cover this type of care. Some providers offer options, such as allowing you to pay a certain amount depending on your income. Ask your provider about all fees involved in elder care. Costs may vary depending on the services available and the provider's location.
  • Services and programs. What services and programs are offered? Does the provider offer more hands-on care as dementia progresses and your loved one requires more assistance?
  • Group activities. Are people with Alzheimer's in a separate group from other people or are they included in group activities?
  • Your loved one's needs. How does the provider determine your loved one's needs?
  • Staff. Is the staff trained in working with people with Alzheimer's disease? What health care professionals are on staff? How does the provider screen staff? What are the provider's staffing ratios?
  • Safety. How does this provider ensure the safety of every person? How are behaviors such as wandering or confusion handled?
  • Emergencies. How does this provider deal with emergency situations?
  • Transportation. Does the provider have transportation available for people who may need it?
  • Meals. Are meals provided for your loved one? Ask if the center can accommodate special dietary or feeding needs.

Ensuring quality care

Entrusting your loved one to someone else's care can be difficult. When you're choosing a center, here are some suggestions to consider to ensure that your loved one will get quality care:

  • Ask for references. Ask other caregivers about their experiences. Ask your physician for recommendations of providers that other patients have endorsed. Ask for references and talk to a few people who have experience with the provider.
  • Do some research. Ask the AAA representative or staff members at a local senior center whether they have any specific information on the facility you're considering.
  • Visit and ask questions. On a first visit to a potential facility, walk through and ask several questions, including questions about available services, the center's certification and licenses, and staff training. The National Adult Day Services Association has a site-visit checklist you can print and take with you.
  • Try it out. When you think you have decided on a center, try it out. Be aware that it may take some time for your loved one to feel comfortable in the new surroundings.