How to Advocate for a Loved One in Memory Care
Ensuring that your loved one receives comprehensive support in a memory care community can be challenging. While you know your family member best, you may not understand how to navigate the community’s policies, manage health needs or reach staff with key concerns – especially if you’re doing it from afar.
Ultimately, becoming a tenacious advocate simply means you have your loved one’s best interests at heart and are willing to fight to achieve the ideal care solution.
To help you grow in your role as an advocate, here are some best practices from our experts at Park Place to guarantee your loved one’s needs are being met in memory care.
Best Practices for Advocating for a Loved One in Memory Care
1. Raise Your Voice
Advocating for a loved one with dementia is especially important because often they can’t communicate what they need. For this reason, get into the habit of raising your voice on their behalf. If you notice something isn’t right, speak up to share your observations, ask questions and work with staff to improve it. This goes for your loved one’s medical and financial needs, as well as their daily community experience.
2. Ask Questions
Whenever you meet with medical or community professionals, make certain the care plan is the correct one. Though you’re not an expert, you can ask lots of questions to understand whether the proposed care plan (medications, therapies, social activities, etc.) fits with the person you know and love.
Keep an appointment notebook to write down questions or concerns, list any research you’ve done and record staff members’ answers. Always ask for clarification and don’t give up until you’re sure you’ve found the right path forward.
3. Build Relationships With Staff
Another key aspect of your loved one’s care is having a good working relationship with staff. Ideally, visit the retirement community to establish initial contact and then stay in close contact through phone, email and more.
Always try to respect staff members’ time by stating clearly what your loved one needs or asking questions about a specific issue. Even if you’re frustrated, try to stay thoughtful about the way you communicate, as this will increase the chances of staff addressing your concerns.
4. Gather Documentation in One Place
Advocacy also means having all your loved one’s documentation in order, so that you have all key information required to make timely decisions and file necessary paperwork. Keep a portable file that you can bring to any appointments or meetings with community staff.
This documentation should also include personal information about your loved one for community staff, including preferences, current abilities, daily routine, life history, etc. These types of insights can be helpful for staff and lead to more individualized care in the long run.
5. Get Regular Updates
Even if you don’t live nearby, you can keep close track of your loved one. In addition to in-person visits, you can request regular updates from the community staff, attend doctor’s visits virtually and keep up regular communication with your loved one via Facetime or phone.
In addition, the best memory care communities will provide caremerge services, so that you feel connected with your loved one and have formal outlets for engaging with staff, giving feedback and more.
6. Use Your Keen Sense of Observation
Individuals with dementia can’t often tell you what they need or how they feel. Remember that even a small shift in your loved one’s abilities, mood or health can be a sign of something more.
Note these changes by observing often and documenting your insights so that you can keep track of how your loved one is doing over time. This is especially true during transition periods, where your loved one may be facing new challenges but doesn’t know how to express them.
7. Leverage Expert Resources
To become a strong advocate, you should also make use of caregiver resources, such as the AARP, NCOA, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Family Caregiver Alliance, Caregiver Action Network, etc.
These types of resources can help you navigate care for your loved one, get tips from other advocates and more. Don’t be shy about reaching out to these organizations to see what type of support, programs and forums they offer.
8. Stay Active in Your Loved One’s Life
Finally, the most important aspect of being a good advocate is to stay involved in your loved one’s life. In addition to regular visits to check on their well-being, stay connected through phone calls and updates from staff. In this way, you can be sure to have an on-the-ground understanding of your loved one’s health and happiness.
Trust Your Instincts About Your Loved One’s Care
At the end of the day, trust your instincts when it comes to your loved one’s care. Whenever possible, get more information, ask questions and speak up when you believe your loved one isn’t getting the level of care they deserve.
At Park Place, we work closely with families to ensure the most individualized care possible for our memory care residents. Check out our Memory Care Guide and learn more about how we meet our residents’ physical, social, intellectual and spiritual dimensions every day by contacting us online.