Senior Care Communities: Just because they look nice, doesn’t mean they are

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“I moved my dad into the nicest place ever,” she exclaimed. “They have this beautiful lobby and all of these brand new chairs!”

I have heard family caregivers talk about this idea a lot. They think, “Ah, this place looks so fancy, it must be nice.” This could be true, and the dementia care community that you’re looking at could be great…but often, looks are deceiving. 

Just because a community looks nice for families doesn’t mean that it is dementia-friendly. Many communities that I’ve been to have been recently developed by architects outside of the industry. Despite the fact that architects have a great sense of design and style, they often lack any clues about what people with dementia really need.

When a place looks really nice and pristine, but lacks any real character, you can be sure that it is not actually dementia-friendly. 

I recently toured a community with a beautiful exterior and interior. They had nice furniture, a large bird menagerie, and a nice garden. But…that was it. 

They didn’t have a place for baby dolls, they didn’t have music playing, and they lacked any sort of organized activities. Why? Because it was designed for families to enjoy, not for residents with dementia.

The families are the decision-makers. They decide when and where to move a loved one, and so often they panic when they see things that are actually dementia-friendly. “Well, my mom wouldn’t want to play with a baby doll!” they’ll say, upon seeing a resident pleasantly interacting with what she believes is a real baby.

Some communities have unfortunately caught onto this, and will take away or hide anything that makes the place dementia-positive in the hopes of attracting more residents’ family members.

Do not fall prey to this.

Your loved one with dementia is the one who needs the care—not you.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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