Moving to a new home can be hard for anyone. It’s a disruption in the person’s daily life, which can cause stress. In particular, when your senior loved one is moving into a memory care community, you’ll naturally feel.
As you’re helping your loved one transition to memory care, remember that this change can improve your loved one’s quality of life, reduce caregiver burnout, restore a sense of balance to your family relationship, and offer them more opportunities for socialization and engagement.
To help your loved one, it’s key to understand what the transition process looks like and what each of you can expect before, during, and after the move.
Be Prepared for Some Challenges
A predictable routine helps those with an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis have the best day that they can each day. It makes life feel less uncertain and less stressful while providing comfort. Over the weeks before, during, and after the move into a memory care community, your loved one (and you!) may encounter new, unexpected challenges. Here’s how to best address them.
Consider Your Loved One’s Perspective
Consider your loved one’s point of view during this time, and try to see things from their perspective. When someone’s physical environment changes, it can be stressful, leading to corresponding behavior changes. For example, think of how it feels when you’re emotionally depleted or physically overstimulated. Your loved one may be feeling these things when their environment changes, so be sensitive to these feelings.
Remember That Disruptions May Worsen Symptoms
When you’re helping your loved one prepare for a transition to senior living, keep in mind that disruptions in their living environment or daily routine can temporarily worsen dementia symptoms. Your loved one may seem to be doing worse for a few days, but offering as much consistency as you can should help. For example, strive to keep meal times the same or have a set activity at the same time each day that you do together.
Although you can’t control the timing for all of the changes that are happening, try to change them a few at a time instead of all at once. By maintaining some continuity and carrying on with as much of their routine as you can, you’re providing support and comfort, which is what they need when there’s a disruption to their environment.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Remember that in order to be your best for your loved one, you need to take care of yourself, too. If you’re feeling anxious, guilty, or a bit burned out, seek help from a dementia caregiver support group, a therapist, and trusted friends and family.
Make sure you’re still making time for yourself and your health. Carve out time for meditation, yoga, or other exercise. Don’t skip doctor’s appointments or meals, and remember to carve out a little time each day to do something you enjoy. Even just a half hour of reading or watching a TV show that makes you laugh is beneficial.
Don’t tell your loved one about the move weeks or months ahead because this may only increase stress and lead to negative feelings or reactions. Stress is a common dementia symptom throughout all stages of the disease. The fear of being abandoned or left alone, as well as changes in routine, can stir up these feelings in your loved one.
Talk to Your Loved One’s Doctor
If you’re worried about your loved one’s anxiety or theirs is worsening is worsening, you may find it helpful to talk with their doctor. They may prescribe medication to minimize anxiety, especially during the move. The medical appointment may also be a good time to discuss other medications they’re taking and whether the doctor thinks any adjustments need to be made.
Use Clear Language
When telling your loved one about the move, use simple, clear language and reassure your loved one’s common concerns. Phrases such as “We will be back to visit you tomorrow,” “All of the people here are kind,” and “This is going to be a safe place” can provide reassurance. Even something as simple as telling them you love them and will see them soon can provide the comfort they need.
Avoiding permanent language can be helpful when talking with your loved one because this type of language can be scary to people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For instance, you may tell your loved one that they’re simply trying out the memory care community, and if it doesn’t work out, you and your loved one can talk about it again.
Focus on the Positives
Don’t forget to focus on the positives of the memory care community with your loved one. For example, senior living communities are designed around socialization opportunities. Your loved one will have the choice to socialize with other residents and the community’s team members every day. There are also plenty of enriching activities that your loved one can participate in, all tailored to the needs of those in memory care.
Know What to Expect
Get clear information about the community’s routines ahead of time, and then try to incorporate these into your daily routine beforehand so the transition is less dramatic. Then, tell your loved one what they can expect. For example, explain to your loved one that they’ll meet with a nice counselor when you arrive at the memory care community and then you’ll go to your loved one’s apartment.
The best memory care communities will continue to follow your loved one’s existing routines. For example, if your loved one likes to sleep in late or wake up early, the community should honor that preference.
Make sure you know which staff member to call in the community if you have any concerns and how frequently you will get updates. Also, inquire about visits with your loved one and regular family events you can participate in.
Make Your Loved One’s Apartment as Familiar as Possible
Bring familiar comforts from your loved one’s current residence, such as family photos, to help evoke positive feelings and memories. Consider also bringing a comfort object, such as a doll or stuffed animal. These items can reduce behavioral issues in people with dementia.
Arrange your loved one’s apartment in a familiar and comforting way. Details such as blankets, pillows, and other items can help provide comfort. For safety and to prevent tripping hazards, avoid cluttering spaces and ensure that necessary care items are visible.
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Compassionate Dementia Support
Supportive strategies are especially important during this transition. To best support your loved one, follow these tips.
Embrace Your Loved One’s Reality
Step into your loved one’s world by embracing their reality. Remember that in your loved one’s reality, they’re telling the truth even when what they’re saying may be impossible.
For example, they may say a family member came to visit them, but the family member lives in another state. Instead of correcting them and focusing on being right, focus on kindness. Agreeing with what your loved one says won’t cause harm. Rather, it will make them feel calmer and happier.
Additionally, embracing your loved one’s reality won’t make Alzheimer’s disease or dementia worse. No amount of explanation can change the progression of the disease, so it’s important to focus on what you can do to improve their day-to-day, which is to be supportive, kind, and loving.
Avoid Sweeping Statements
Focus on now rather than forever. This will reduce the discomfort your loved one may feel if you tell them they’re transitioning to a memory care community. For example, telling your loved one that they’re moving to a memory care community “for now,” so the community can help them with specific symptoms, may be better received than sweeping statements about them being in a memory care community “forever.”
Avoid Judgement and Criticism
Avoid judging your loved one or telling them they can’t care for themselves. Be supportive and provide compassion and love no matter what. If your loved one is angry, mean, or disconnected, try to remember that this is the disease talking. This is not their fault.
Learn About Your Loved One’s Diagnosis
Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s diagnosis so you can understand things from their perspective and more effectively care for them. Gaining insights into your loved one’s diagnosis will help you understand how to best support them.
Consistency is incredibly important for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Make sure there’s consistency in routines, in how you talk with your loved one, in your tone of voice, and even in your body language. Be as patient and sensitive as you can.
Take Advantage of Extra Support for Your Loved One
Cedarhurst Senior Living communities offer an exclusive Pair to Prepare™ program that provides new residents with additional support during the first weeks to help create a successful transition. This program enables a spouse, friend, or family member to stay with their loved one for up to five days at Cedarhurst at no additional cost.
Before the move-in day, we meet with you and your loved one to go over the details of the move. On move-in day, we’ll help your loved one move in, and then you’ll meet our resident ambassador and have a welcome dinner with our executive director. For the rest of your stay with your loved one, we have a suite of fun, engaging activities, welcome meals, tours, and meetings with caretakers and medical professionals, as necessary.
With programs such as Pair to Prepare™, your loved one will ease into their new life with support and companionship from day one.
Get Real-Life Answers About the Cost of Memory Care
Memory care pricing can be confusing and unique for each person depending on the level of care, local cost of living, and other factors. Find out what to expect when it comes to the cost of memory care with our Insider’s Guide to Understanding Memory Care Pricing.