Locating the best assisted living facility for one person is difficult, but finding assisted living for a couple has unique challenges. Very often a family looks for assisted living for a couple because one spouse needs care, and the well spouse can no longer provide care for any number of reasons.
In San Diego County there are over a hundred assisted living communities. In addition, there are hundreds of small assisted living care homes. Locating and figuring out which ones have the specific type of care, programs and setting for your elderly parents or loved ones can be overwhelming. And when two seniors are moving for different reasons, that just right assisted living community can be hard to come by.
The scenario I see most often, and one my family is facing right now with my mom and dad, is when one spouse has memory loss and the other doesn’t. When this happens, the options become more limited.
Here in San Diego County, as in other parts of California, the vast majority of assisted living licensed communities have two separate levels of care, one for assisted living and one for “memory care”. These two levels are always divided into different physical parts of the building as well, so those living with cognitive impairment are in a safe environment. For families facing the challenge of two parents needing two distinct types of care, the thought of separating them into two different apartments is impractical, expensive and often unthinkable for couples who have been married 50, 60 or more years.
So, how does a family know which assisted living communities can meet the needs of both parents in the same apartment and in the same part of the building when one spouse has memory loss? I wish the answer was clear, but unfortunately the answer is “it depends”. Here are some questions to consider when looking for assisted living for a couple in this situation.
How advanced is the spouse’s memory loss?
Does that spouse have a physician’s diagnosis of dementia?
If not, is there a chance a physician’s diagnosis would be “mild cognitive impairment” instead?
Is the spouse with memory loss ambulatory?
If the spouse with memory loss is ambulatory, might they leave the building and get lost?
If the spouse with memory loss is ambulatory, do they regularly get up at night?
Is the spouse with memory loss socially appropriate?
Is the well spouse able to provide a safe environment for the spouse with memory loss?
Will the well spouse want to or be able to remain with the spouse with memory loss at all times?
Does the community have an alarm or other alert system to notify caregivers if a senior with memory loss leaves the community?
Assuming the couple is able to stay together, does the assisted living community have apartments large enough for two?
All assisted living communities in San Diego County, as well as as any community in the state of California, require a physician’s signed report and a personal assessment by the community’s nurse before admission. And it’s at this point the answers to most of these questions will be addressed.
For the past nearly 10 years, I’ve been helping families navigate the process of finding the right assisted living and/or memory care community in San Diego County. Please feel free to call, email or text me directly with any questions about finding assisted living for a couple (or for one senior). I’m happy to give your family guidance on which assisted living facilities will be best to visit based upon your personal criteria. My service is always free to families.