A topic I have touched on many times is caregiver burnout. Burnout is real and can influence the health of a person caring for someone with a chronic condition. I see this every day at Memory Matters.

Our caregivers are my heroes, and I will do anything to help them get the support necessary for self-care.

Frequently, I recommend caregivers consider a “respite” stay for their loved one. This time will allow the caregiver to re-charge, go on a trip, or just enjoy time at home without the responsibility of caring for someone.

This decision is typically an emotional one riddled with guilt. But remember, to be a good caregiver one must practice self-care.

Once a decision has been made, it is time to do the necessary research to find a place.

My intention with this article is to educate caregivers on how to interview facilities for respite care.

Proper placement

  • Visit several facilities. For the initial visit, make an appointment and then do one or two unannounced visits and plan to have a meal at the facility.

On the initial visit, ask to see the latest survey-inspection report or, in some states, the Special Care Unit Disclosure forms. These reports must be provided.

  • Does your loved one need skilled nursing, memory care, or assisted living? What is the difference? You will need to provide information to the facility to help them place your loved one in the most appropriate setting.

Some facilities provide assisted living and memory care under the same roof. But if your loved one clearly needs a memory care unit, then do not try to place him in assisted living.


  • What is the ratio of resident to staff both a.m. and p.m.?
  • On average, how long have workers been on staff?
  • Does the staff have training in dementia care? If so, who provided the training? How does the staff handle challenging behavior? What would be the criteria for dismissal?
  • Who dispenses medication? Is the person a nurse or LPN? Are they med techs? How much training does the med tech get, and to whom do they report? Who is ultimately responsible if there is an error in medication? This is very important.


  • Are the activities posted on a calendar for you to see, and do activities happen on the weekends? Ask to see an activity schedule; note if the activity is taking place when you visit.
  • Are activities designed to meet specific needs, interests and abilities?

Remember that when you place your loved one in a community, that staff works for you.

You deserve answers to your questions and respect from each person in the facility. You are the advocate for your loved one.

More information is available at www.alz.org. Search “Choosing a residential care facility.”

You can also call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688 and talk with one of our dementia care specialists or visit our website at www.memory-matters.org.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org