What does it really mean when a senior living community offers “special Alzheimer’s care?” Unfortunately, much like assisted living, there is no uniform definition for this type of care.
Each state has its own licensing rules and regulations for assisted living, a portion of which covers what level of Alzheimer’s care and services are provided, so the variation from state to state is quite broad.
Most people probably think of a locked or secured unit when they hear the words Alzheimer’s care. Although safety and the prevention of wandering is a vital piece of quality Alzheimer’s care — either at home or in a residential setting — there are other means of creating a secure environment without using complicated alarm systems and automatically locking doors (and these aren’t always completely effective; it is not unlikely for individuals to bypass the system).
Special Alzheimer’s care is also considerably more expensive, and if a locked door and alarm system is the extent of its extra services, it’s not worth the extra cost.
Instead, look for things like advanced training requirements for staff, higher staff to resident ratios, activities designed to support and enhance the lives of those with memory loss, and dementia-friendly design, both in terms of the physical space and programming elements.
Another good test: ask the provider what specialized Alzheimer’s care means at their community. If the response is “a secured unit,” keep looking.