As the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease become too much for family members, family caregivers, or outside caregivers to handle, 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 while changing their lifestyle, routines and moving into an uncertain environment.
To smooth the transition from home to home we have compiled a list of 18 tips that will help you when you have to move a loved one that has dementia.
- Choose a facility. Whether your loved one is going into an Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory care facility, doing research 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 residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Work with a geriatric care manager. Regardless if you are dealing with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimers, a geriatric care manager can help you decide which type of living environment would work in their best interest. There are multiple types of facility options available. After working with them the geriatric case manager can give you piece of mind knowing your loved one is going into the right type of community.
- Don’t announce the move-in ahead of time. You may feel that it is the right thing to do to give your loved one advance notice of moving, but don’t announce the move ahead of time. Anticipation anxiety may happen if you announce moving day too soon in advance. Alleviate the anxiety and don’t tell your loved one about the move until you are close to the move date, if not even the day of the move. Slowly adapt your loved one into the community by visiting during community events before they move in.
- Involve your loved one. As much as it is possible to involve your loved one in the process they should have a say. Even if they are unable to make decisions about where they are moving to they can help choose what they bring with them to their new space in the assisted living community. Allowing some decision making will give them a sense of control and comfort and help to ease the transition.
- Emotions may run high. Moving can be a scary experience for anyone, but most especially for dementia patients. 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 where they are going is in their best interest for care.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 connected your loved one feels to their new surroundings the easier it will be for them to adapt and feel secure. Fill up their spaces with pictures of loved ones and play familiar music so they can reminisce about the past and bring those reassuring memories back into the present. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients take comfort in things that they recognize.
- 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 senior to warm up to their surroundings and the new 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 that will ease the transition for your loved one from moving out of their home into their new community.
- Move-in during less busy times. Find out what times of day things are slower in the community and what the best time of the day is for your move in. Whether it is early mornings or late afternoons it is better to have less traffic, fewer people, less noise, and less commotion. This will benefit your senior from getting anxious or disturbed with all of the activity around them and provide a smooth transition.
- Communicate with the staff members right away. The sooner the staff gets to know your loved one the better. The more they know about your loved one the easier it will be for them to connect and start conversations as they move in. Communicate with their 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 to get to know your loved one better. Make sure to also provide a list of the person’s personal healthcare such as medical and mental health history, along with a list of details about any medications they might be taking.
- 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 as you describe what is going on around them. Explain the food schedules, where the activities are being held in the community, and what they can expect life to look like on a daily basis. Be descriptive about the positives that are happening around them so they get a secure feeling about what events are happening in their life.
- Visit frequently for the first few weeks. If at all possible, try to visit your loved one as much as you can for the first few weeks. They will most likely be going through an adjustment period. Seeing a familiar face can help reduce some of the anxiety and fears they are facing with their new surroundings. It also lets your loved one know that they haven’t been abandoned and they aren’t being isolated from their family once they have moved.
- Set up family time for visits. Once your loved one has a daily schedule, find out from the community what options are available for your whole family to visit. Whether it is in person or through FaceTime, try to come up with a weekly schedule that fits into your senior’s daily routine. 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 what you are doing is in your loved one’s best interest. Be patient. Your loved one will be able to read your emotions if they are running on high. Try to be calm even if the circumstances become overwhelming. 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.
For more information about dementia or Alzheimer's visit the Alzheimer's Association website.