Hollenbeck Palms

Dear Laura: My mom has dementia and needs night care and is wandering, how do I find help?

“Dear Laura” is a regular series with our in-house dementia care expert, Laura Wayman. Laura is a best-selling author and internationally recognized speaker on the topic of memory loss. She has trained our whole staff on how to best communicate and care for those experiencing dementia symptoms.

Dear Laura,

My mom has continued to decline and is presenting more dementia symptoms that have become challenging for me to manage safely and effectively on my own. She no longer sleeps much at night, is up and needing supervision more than half of the time, and I am not able to get a good night’s sleep. She is constantly exit-seeking, and if I take me eyes off of her, she is out of the front door at all hours of the day and night – even requiring a 911 call yesterday when I could not locate her and had to ask for first responder assistance to get her safely back home.

I am at the point of needing to find long-term care placement and would like your wisdom and advice on how to choose the best memory care for my mom. Of course, I would like to find a place where the staff is Dementia-Aware trained, as I realize this is one of the most important aspects of good dementia care.

Thank you again for your guidance. This helps me to know I am doing the “right thing” on this perplexing and mystifying dementia care journey.

With warm regards,

-Caregiver at yet another bewildering “fork in the road.”


Dear Caregiver at yet another bewildering “fork in the road,”

Thank you so much for reaching out to me on your dementia care journey. Yes indeed, I hear these same words from so many caregivers in all kinds of different dementia care situations! This dementia care journey can be confusing, baffling, enlightening, meaningful, disconcerting, stunning and amazing all at once. One moment you feel accomplished when your care approach is working and the next moment you are struggling to understand a change in behavior or symptoms that throw the whole journey off!

Here are my best tips on how to find the “right” care organization for you and your loved one:

  • Even though it is a first inclination to look for a community close by, I do not want this to be number one on your list. Although this makes it easier to visit her for you, the closest care community might not be the best choice depending on their overall care culture and training. They may specialize in higher functioning residents, or not have a loving care staff-to-resident ration, or have resistance to allowing for certain symptoms that they may not be able to manage without specialized training. For example, they may not be able to provide awake night care and try to medicate your mom with sleeping aids. This has proven to be disastrous for numerous organizations and families, I get calls often from families in this situation where the community is asking the resident to leave, and the family must find alternate care. Be sure and ask how the community provides this type of care.
  • Of course, the environment should be overflowing with light and sunshine, not too cluttered and be clean and free of odor. Make sure the grounds and facilities are taken care of.
  • Be sure to ask what kind and how often the staff is trained to manage exit-seeking behavior. This can be tricky and care staff should be able to join your mom’s feelings and redirect regularly to help with this. As you know as a Dementia-Aware individual, they will not be able to stop it, fix it or change it! Is there opportunity for your mom to safely “get outside?” Also, I would not even consider starting in assisted living due to this challenge with your mom – she needs to feel the security and safety of a secure memory care environment, such as the Hensel Memory Enhancement Center. And you need to feel this as well as her caregiver!
  • Go by your “gut feelings.” Do you feel empathy and warm caring feelings as you observe all staff relating to their residents? Is there a suitable selection of Dementia-Aware activities? Not just the usual bingo or trivia. Are there one-on-one interactions rather than the community trying to rely on group activities that do not always work for everyone?
  • And finally, ask about training. They should not be relying on the basics just to be following licensing requirements, rather looking for a deeper understanding of dementia and more individualized and customized trainings community wide. And be sure to ask for support for you. Is there a support group and activities that include families? How do they support you during the transition and beyond?

As a Dementia-Aware Certified Safe Space, Hollenbeck Palms stands ready to walk next to you on this dementia care journey.

Thinking of you and the and countless other people in a similar situation!


Laura Wayman, The Dementia Whisperer