Moving a loved one from a familiar place where they feel at home into a new senior living community or assisted living apartment is always a difficult transition, but the process becomes more complicated when moving a loved one into memory care. For someone with dementia, disruptions to routine and changes in environment can be particularly stressful, causing them to lash out, resist the move, or grow upset if they’re unable to fully comprehend what is happening.
If you’re starting the process of moving a loved one into a memory care facility, the following steps will help make the transition as smooth as possible.
5 Steps to Ease the Transition to Memory Care
1. Plan ahead.
The earlier you start talking to your loved one about long-term plans for their care, the better. It might feel like you’re getting ahead of yourself or borrowing trouble to bring up memory care soon after a dementia diagnosis, but working with your loved one to make plans while they can still reason and make thoughtful decisions will allow them to maintain a sense of agency in their own care. You’ll both feel more at ease with the transition if you can be confident you are making the choices your loved one would want.
Planning ahead also gives you the chance to visit potential facilities with your loved one before such visits become too overwhelming for them to undertake. These visits can allow your loved one an opportunity to provide their input on where they feel most comfortable and at home.
2. Prepare accordingly.
When the time comes to make the move, you’ll have to use your best judgement when deciding how much to prepare your loved one for the transition. It could be that talking through the upcoming move a week or two ahead of time will help soothe their fears, or it may be the case that forewarning would only cause unnecessary anxiety.
If you do choose to discuss the move with your loved one, be patient and understanding throughout your conversations. It can be helpful to prepare a clear statement about the move that you can repeat each time it comes up. Those with dementia often find it easier to digest information when it is presented in simple, repeated statements. Such a statement might be, “Dad, we love you very much. It is important that you live where you can be taken good care of. We will be with you every step of the way.”
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3. Prep the staff.
Dementia progresses differently in every case, so your loved one will have symptoms and needs that are unique to their case. Briefing the memory care staff on your loved one’s background, preferences, and personality will give them a head start on forming a connection with your loved one that will ease the transition. Providing the staff with details of your loved one’s medical history and a list of any medications also allows them to provide highly personalized care from day one.
Again depending on what you think is best for your loved one’s situation, you may decide it would be helpful to bring them along with you to meet the staff and take a tour before the move. Becoming familiar with their new surroundings might help minimize the stress involved in moving to a new environment. However, it may also exacerbate any stress or anxiety they’re feeling about the move. Use your best judgment.
4. Minimize disruptions.
No matter how much you’ve disclosed to your loved one about the upcoming transition, on the day of the move it’s best to try and follow their usual routine as closely as possible. People with dementia often have times of day when they are typically at their best; if you can, schedule the move during this time frame in order to minimize stress.
Maintain a positive attitude throughout the process, and avoid engaging in any arguments about why the move is necessary if they put up resistance. Your attitude can go a long way to making your loved one feel reassured, confident, and safe during this stressful transition.
5. Stay involved.
Leaving your loved one in their new home will be emotionally challenging for the both of you, but it’s important to remind yourself (and them) that they are in good hands. When it’s time for you to leave them to settle in to their new home, ask the staff to help out by engaging your loved one in a meaningful activity that will help ease the strain of an emotional departure.
Frequent visits from family members will help provide stability and comfort in the first couple months your loved one spends in memory care, while they weather the stressful period of transition and settling in. It might take several months for your loved one to truly feel at ease in their new home. Visit often, and encourage friends and family to do the same.