ONE Question to Ask When Searching for Memory Care for your Loved One

How do I know which facilities to consider for my loved one?

“How do I know what facilities to consider if I need to move my loved one?”

THAT is a topic of discussion in some of our recent care partners’ support group meetings.  As I’ve toured more facilities, spoken with senior professionals, and collaborated with other dementia experts in our area to provide consultation and teaching,  ONE question stands out to me as THE FIRST question I would ask when searching for a long term memory care facility.  The answer to this ONE question tells us how much the leadership team of the facility is committed to excellence.  The answer gives us an idea of how much of the thousands of dollars invested each month by residents or their families goes toward actual  “individualized” or “relationship based” or “person-centered” care.  The answer probably tells us a lot about staff continuity, engagement, and satisfaction.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d ask a WHOLE LIST of questions to any admissions representative, but the ONE question I would want evidence of FIRST is this:  How much training does every member of your staff participate in EACH YEAR specifically related to dementia care?    

If the admissions representative and everyone else we talk with at the facility cannot definitively (and honestly) report that their entire staff (including nursing, nursing assistants, administration, dietary, housekeeping, activity personnel, therapists, maintenance, and every other discipline likely to interact with our loved ones) receives regular training every year to keep them updated on their knowledge and skills with dementia care, then we can rightfully question how committed the organization is to providing skilled, evidence-based, relationship based/person-centered dementia care.

Thankfully,  in Northern Colorado, training opportunities are readily available and some are offered at no charge.  To make training even easier, and attempt to raise the bar for dementia care standards in our area, Dementia-Friendly Communities of Northern Colorado® and the Alzheimer’s Association have teamed up to provide quarterly education that all staff in senior living facilities and senior care agencies can attend for free.  The organizations just need to be willing to invest in paid educational and professional development time so they can provide the type of care you expect in exchange for the money you pay each month.  We offer 2 hour sessions at 2 different times each quarter to accommodate the shifts.  As interest grows, we will likely increase the educational offerings.   In collaboration with the Larimer County Ombudsman Program, leadership personnel at every long term care facility were already given notice of the classes for this year so they can schedule the staff for education and jump in any quarter they wish. If the sessions don’t work out, we have also offered to come on site for staff training sessions.   Eventually, we hope to see more senior care facilities and agencies designated as “Leaders in Dementia Care” and “Dementia-Friendly” when they can show evidence that their staff participates in 8 hours per year of ongoing, relevant dementia education.  Participation in dementia education is no guarantee of excellent care, but it sure increases the chances that our loved ones will be cared for by people who understand that lifelong purpose, dignity, hope, and connection on a soul level are not only possible but absolutely the goal when providing care for anyone living with dementia.

I’m pleased to share that several facilities and agencies ARE eagerly participating in these educational opportunities.  Their leadership teams understand that staff turnover decreases and continuity of care increases when staff are competent and equipped with skills that help them feel confident and empowered to make a huge difference in providing contentment and joy for those in their care.   

Before you consider a move to a long term care facility for your loved one, also know that resources abound in Northern Colorado for in-home care/assistance and adult day programs.  Staff in several home care agencies and Elderhaus in Fort Collins and Stepping Stones and Innovage in Loveland have or are participating in training needed so their staff can interact in ways that engage and assist your loved ones to experience life to the fullest even in the face of dementia.  We are fortunate to have so many dedicated senior professionals among us.   Contact us (  if you’d like a list of other questions to ask when searching for long term care facilities in our area.

Katie Fahrenbruch, Regional Director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Colorado, teaching a Leaders in Dementia Care class this spring.

Cyndy Luzinski