As the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease worsen, they may become too much for family members, family caregivers, or outside caregivers to handle alone. At this point, it may be time to consider moving your loved one into more appropriate housing. The choice of moving your loved one to memory care, dementia care, or Alzheimer’s care can be a tough decision to make.
Moving from one home to another can be very stressful, but for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, moving can be even more stressful due to changes in their lifestyle, routines, the absence of loved ones and the presence of unknown personnel.
We have compiled a list of 18 tips that will help smoothen this transition for you and your loved ones,
- Choose a facility. Whether your loved one is going into an Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory care facility, due diligence is a necessity. Understanding the facility, the amenities, and the features of the facility will help you choose the best options. Make sure that the facility caters and is equipped to handle the specific needs of residents such as your loved one.
- Work with a geriatric care manager. A geriatric care manager can help you identify which type of living environment would be suitable. There are multiple types of facility options available and making an informed decision increases the likelihood of a good fit.
- Discuss your strategy for collaborative decision-making. Working with your care manager, doctor or other family members, discuss your strategy for decision making. To the extent that participation in the decision to move to a new location does not overwhelm or cause undue stress for a dementia patient, try to involve them in the decision process as much as possible.
- Involve your loved one. Involve your loved one in the process as much as possible. Giving them agency in the process will increase the likelihood of successful transfer and prevent relocation stress syndrome.
- Recognize that this is a stressful situation. Moving can be a scary experience for anyone, but is particularly stressful if your loved one has dementia. Expect there to be confusion, anxiety, and times of anger. All of these feelings are normal and need to be validated. Let your loved ones express their feelings and reassure them that the move is in the best interest of their well-being. Make sure that your loved one feels safe, secure, and has a sense of belonging in their new environment.
- Go at a comfortable pace. Unless your loved one needs to move quickly for their well-being, it is important to find a pace that both you and your loved one are comfortable with. This will help keep anxiety levels down, which in turn makes the transition easier for everyone involved.
- Understand the challenge of transitioning. Transfer trauma can happen during the moving transition for an older adult. Transfer trauma is a cluster of symptoms that can occur when an older adult moves from one environment to another. Symptoms can include confusion, anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, and poor appetite. The symptoms may occur before, after and during the move. The best way to handle the transition is to understand what is happening and why. Allowing your loved one to make decisions and to be part of the process can help prevent or at least lessen the trauma.
- Add familiar items. Make the person's new room or space as familiar and comforting to them as possible. It’s a good idea to fill their room with familiar items such as a photo album, a favorite chair, or even a television that they watch a particular show on every day. Bring any possessions that have meaning to them. The more familiar your loved one feels in their new environment, the easier it will be for them to settle in. Fill up their living space with pictures of loved ones, familiar objects and play familiar music so they can experience those reassuring memories back in the present.
- Visit the memory care community before move-in. Try to set up some time before move-in for your loved one to visit the senior living community. Join an activity and allow your loved one to warm up to their surroundings and to engage with the residents they will be calling their neighbors.
- Work with the facility to ease the transition. Moving can lead to uneasy feelings for everyone involved. Work with the staff to come up with ideas which will ease the transition for your loved one into their new community.
- Move-in during less busy times. Identify the time of day when things are slower in the community to schedule the move. It is better to have less traffic, fewer people, less noise, and less commotion. This will reduce stress for both you and your loved one.
- Communicate with the staff members right away. The sooner the staff gets to know your loved one the better. This will allow them to connect and start conversations as they move in. Communicate with the caregiver about your loved ones’ normal schedule. Let them know their likes and dislikes. Disclose any habits or traits they may have that will help the caregiver develop any protocols specific to the needs of your loved one. Provide medical and mental health history, along with a list of medications.
- Take it slow the first few days. Try not to bombard them with new faces, a new place, and new food all at once. For the first couple meals maybe accompany them to the dining room. Help them get adjusted to their new surroundings and food schedule. Slowly start meeting other neighbors and help them get acquainted with their new home.
- Always describe what is happening around them. Try to help your loved ones feel secure in their new home by participating in the experience and describing it to them, if necessary. Explain the overall daily schedule, food times, community rooms, and planned activities. Be descriptive about the positives that are happening around them so they can feel secure and optimistic about their days ahead.
- Visit frequently for the first few weeks. If possible, visit your loved one regularly for the first few weeks. Seeing a familiar face can reduce some anxiety and worry they may experience in their new environment. It also lets your loved one know that they haven’t been abandoned and they aren’t being isolated from their family.
- Set up family time for visits. Once your loved one has a daily schedule, identify and schedule options for your whole family to visit. Whether it is in person or using modern virtual tools such as ZOOM, Skype, Facetime, etc., try to come up with a weekly schedule that fits into your senior’s daily routine. If necessary, spend some time ensuring that your loved ones are able to work those technologies on their own. Having a weekly schedule for visits will give your senior something to look forward to each week.
- Add comfort food to the menu. For the first week try to arrange your loved one’s daily favorite comfort foods. Talk to the chef and staff to see if they can accommodate your requests. If at all possible try and stay for a few meals to make sure your loved one is eating well.
Give yourself grace. Caregivers often deal with guilt during this period. Remember that your decision will result in increased specialized care for your loved one. Try to be calm even if the circumstances become overwhelming as your loved one will likely pick up on your emotional state. It will take at least four to six weeks for your loved one to get settled into their new community and new routines. Just be certain you have done the best thing for your loved one and their quality of life.