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How To Tell Your Parent They Are Going To Memory Care

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A memory care community is like an assisted living community, but designed for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. They’ll maintain as much independence as their condition allows while receiving care as needed around the clock.

You’ve decided on memory care for your senior parent, but how do you break the news to them?

Here are some tips to help you tell your parent they’re going to a memory care facility:

  • Talk in a secure place
  • Have the conversation in person
  • Be supportive
  • Mention it early
  • Don’t do it alone
  • Be prepared to hear no

In today’s article, we’ll help you decide when memory care is the right choice for an aging parent and assist you in telling your parent the news.

We’ll also discuss how often to visit older adults who are in memory care, so make sure you keep reading! 

When To Move A Parent To Memory Care

Before you have a conversation about memory care with your older parents, you must determine if this form of care is an appropriate solution and the best decision for them. 

If you see the following signs, memory care is likely the best option for your senior parent. 

You Worry About Your Elderly Parent’s Safety

Dementia and Alzheimer’s can cause behavioral changes. Seniors with the accompanying cognitive decline might make decisions outside of their character. They might become physically violent and sometimes sexually aggressive. 

If they live in assisted living, perhaps they are arguing with or upsetting other residents.

Less egregiously but still just as dangerously, a senior can turn forgetful and put you and your family at risk. For example, perhaps they turn on the stove at night repeatedly when you and your family try to sleep.

Your senior could also get in their car (if you still permit them to drive), venture off, and forget where they were going, getting lost. 

These kinds of scenarios are all dangerous to different parties, be that the senior themselves and/or you and your family. In this kind of situation, you should strongly consider memory care.

Your Senior Parent Isn’t Taking Good Care Of Themselves Anymore

In just about every way imaginable, your elderly parent isn’t taking proper care of themselves these days. 

Maybe their home has fallen into a state of disrepair. It’s dirty and dusty everywhere you look. The kitchen is overrun with dishes, yet you never see your senior parent cook.

They might have lost weight, and you wonder if they’re eating and, if so, what?

Your parent looks unkempt and messy. Their breath smells, their hair is greasy, their clothes are rumpled, and they have a noticeable body odor. You wonder when was the last time they showered.

Perhaps their physical health has been affected because they’ve fallen behind on their medications, skipping doses because they forget. 

If it’s clear your aging family member can no longer take care of themselves, and they need assistance, moving them into full-time memory care could be a good idea. 

You Feel Overwhelmed In Your Caretaking Responsibilities 

So far, you’ve been your parent’s primary caregiver. It had gone well for a while, but lately it has become a more difficult task and you feel more overwhelmed than you ever have.

Maybe it has reached the stage of memory loss where your parent’s behavior has changed or their moods are more unpredictable, and you feel outside of your element.

It’s okay to need help taking care of family members and full-time care could be what you’re looking for. 

Your Senior Parent Wanders Off Any Chance They Get

It’s not only that your elderly parent will get in a car and drive off. If you’ve since revoked their driving privileges, it can be dismaying to discover that your parent will walk off when given the opportunity.

You feel like you can’t take your eyes off them for a second, or poof, they’ll disappear. If you care for young children too, that can put a real strain on you. 

How Do I Talk To My Parents About Memory Care?

Now that you’re sure your senior parent needs memory care and you’ve made the difficult decision to move them into a higher level of care, let’s go over the tips from the intro about broaching the conversation. 

Talk In A Secure Place

To put your senior parent’s mind at ease, it helps to have the conversation about memory care in a place where they already feel safe and secure. 

That’s likely your own home or theirs, but any other place that’s comforting to them makes for a viable spot to chat too. 

Have The Conversation In Person

Today, we have more options than ever for communicating, from video chat to phone calls, text message, instant message, and even catching up in the metaverse. 

For a serious conversation such as this one, though, nothing beats face-to-face communication. It might be easier to have the discussion over the phone as you can mute your parent or hang up if things get tough.

However, you lose a lot of the nuance when you can’t see your loved one’s face. As hard as it can be, strive to have the conversation in person. 

Be Supportive

You’re on your senior parent’s side, and you can make that abundantly clear when you have a discussion with them about residential care. 

Use a gentle tone of voice and positive language. Keep your body language soft to prevent your senior parent from getting unnecessarily defensive. 

Mention It Early 

If your parent is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, now is a great time to discuss memory care.

They will likely not need dementia care for quite awhile yet, but talking to them about their future needs now can help make for a smooth transition later..

Don’t Do It Alone

One important thing to know is that you don’t have to go into this tough conversation by yourself. 

Enlist the whole family, including siblings and other relatives. Don’t forget close friends or your parent or other caregivers. 

That said, in my personal experience, you don’t want to overwhelm your elderly parent by having a crowd of people surround them. This isn’t an interrogation or an intervention, after all.

Choose one or two these trusted people from the list above and bring them with you.

They can support your points and help you argue your parent’s counterpoints so hopefully, the conversation progresses more smoothly. 

Be Prepared To Hear “No”

More than likely, when you mention the idea of going to memory care to your senior parent, they’re going to refuse. However, if you’ve decided they need memory care, it’s not optional at that point. 

Try to think of matters from your parent’s perspective for a moment.

They have to leave the home they’ve lived in for possibly decades to move to a strange new environment. Of course, most people wouldn’t want to go through a major transition like that.

To put their mind at ease, you should explain memory care in as much depth and detail as you can. Tell your parent where they’d live, showing them photos and videos.

Assure them that they’ll maintain most of their independence in this new community and only receive help with what they need. They’d also have their own spacious apartment or room.

Maybe it won’t be as big as their home, but they won’t be confined to a tiny, claustrophobic room either.

Insist that you’ll visit, and not just you, but other family and friends. 

Try not to make it seem like memory care is a solution for the rest of your senior parent’s life, but just for right now.

Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball and cannot say what the future holds, but presenting memory care as a temporary solution might put your parent’s mind at ease. 

The book, The Caregiver’s Guide to Memory Care and Dementia Communities, by Rachel Wonderlin, can be a great resource for an adult child who is struggling with moving a parent into memory care.

How Often Should I Visit My Mom In Memory Care?

Perhaps your mother has recently transitioned into memory care. You want to live up to your promise to come for regular visits, but you’re not sure what frequency is appropriate.

There’s no one right answer here. Some adult children visit only once or twice a month. Others might opt to visit once or twice a week.

Initially, you might visit a lot while they are adjusting to their new room. It’s especially important to visit frequently in the first week or two, but be emotionally prepared to hear them beg to go home.

The adjustment period can be eased a little if you surround them with familiar items, such as family photos, knicknacks, or other beloved objects.

After your mom has settled in, you may gradually taper the visits off. As long as you don’t stop visiting altogether, that’s fine. 

The time of day when you visit your mother does matter, however. If you can, try to visit earlier in the day. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can experience what’s known as sundowning, which you don’t want to deal with if you don’t have to. 

We discussed sundowning or sundowner’s syndrome in another recent post, so here’s a short recap. 

Sundowning is the increased confusion that a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s experiences later in the day. 

If you visit later in the day, you might find your mother is more combative and raises a bigger fuss if you try to leave. She may feel calmer by comparison if you visited during the morning or early afternoons. 

How Long Do Most People Live In Memory Care?

Now that your elderly parent is in memory care, how long will they stay? In a situation like this, people typically remain in memory care facilities for the rest of their lives.

Although it doesn’t always happen this way, most people stay for at least for several months or years, with an average range of two to three years common. 


Telling your parent they’re going to memory care is far from an easy conversation, but it’s a necessary one, especially if you worry your parent will endanger themselves or others or if they’re no longer taking sufficient care of themselves. 

We hope the information in this guide helps you with this tough discussion! 

family speaking to elderly parents

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