Tips to Evaluate Mom’s Memory Care on a Long Distant Visit

Tips to Evaluate Mom’s Memory Care on a Long Distant Visit
Amy cleaned her plate!

Amy cleaned her plate!

Can you ever trust a retirement or assisted living community to take care of your mom better than yourself or a family member? Long distance relationships are never easy. Add dementia and hearing loss to the story and long distance communication with a senior parent is impossible.  

The only way you really know if your mom or dad is okay is to have eyes on them for yourself. My husband just went 1000 miles by plane, two hours by car and a 20-minute ferry ride to visit his mom, Amy. One year ago, she was hospitalized after her husband had a heart attack. After the trauma of her husband (who was her caregiver for five years) being hospitalized, she eloped and the police had to bring her home. Amy is now in her third licensed assisted living community.

How do you evaluate the care of your senior parent? What should you be looking for or asking about on a one-day long-distant visit?

First, how does mom look? Is her hair washed? Are her clothes clean? Do the other residents look well cared for? The answer to all of these for my mother-in-law was good and yes!

Can she feed herself and how much can she consume? Always stay for at least one meal. My mother-in-law ate three plates of food over four hours by herself and asked for dessert. A year ago, she never wanted to eat, so this was a huge improvement.

Does she know your name? Can she hear? How does she communicate with the caregivers? My mother-in-law introduced my husband (her son) by his full name to a caregiver and said, “This is my number one son.” It was difficult for my husband to communicate with his mom in the dining room, it had too many distractions and was too loud. One-on-one, she could communicate and hear better. Plus, the caregivers actually bent down to talk to her – very nice! 

What is mobility like? Is it better or worse? Invite them for a walk to determine the current status quo. The memory care layout can be shaped like a square inside. So they can walk all the way around the square without going outside. Amy and my husband walked it 25 times. She always used her walker and this was a huge improvement.

Observe the activities or it’s even better to become engaged with your dementia parent. Unfortunately not one activity happened at the memory care community on Saturday. One activity was scheduled and it never took place.

Watch the caregivers’ treatment and management of the other residents. This better be good or you need to move your parent ASAP. Amy’s caregivers were super. They treated all the residents well and managed an entire room full of dementia residents simultaneously.

Here was the report card for Amy and the memory care community.

  • Cleanliness of all residents: B+
  • Taste of food: B+
  • Communication with mom: C  (The severity of her hearing loss is dictating this score.)
  • Caregivers interacting with residents: B+
  • Activities offered: D+  (They did offer to paint her nails or it would have been an F.)
  • Building layout and community spaces: A  

Some of you may want a care conference to meet the key staff like the administrator and the nurse. You can learn exactly what types of care they are providing and details about medication management. We had one of those a few weeks ago, so my husband wanted to spend all his limited time with his mom. 

You have to see mom or dad for yourself. Please have one local relative with eyes on your senior. We are so lucky that my sister-in-law does a super job with this. Her regular visits have improved Amy’s mind, attitude and appetite.

Good luck with your long distant visit and hopefully these tips will help you.

If you have a long distant parent, please share your experience in the comment section.

Diane Masson is a senior living expert who has authored two 5-star rated books. Her new book is an all-encompassing answer guide for seniors called, “Your Senior Housing Options,” designed to help seniors navigate choices quickly. The second book was written for senior living professionals called, “Senior Housing Marketing – How To Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.”   Learn more tips at: