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Tips For Moving Someone With Dementia To Memory Care Or Other Housing

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When home care is simply no longer an option, when your senior loved one needs much more help than they can get in their own home – then it may be a good idea to consider moving to a more appropriate housing option.

Of course, this can be a difficult decision. Most families struggle with deciding whether or not to move their elderly parent or loved one to a new space, especially if it’s somewhere they may not want to go. That can be a stress-inducing transition. This is known as Transfer Trauma and it affects the older adult with dementia and their family members.

The change can be overwhelming and stressful, but this doesn’t have to happen. Using the help of a social worker or Geriatric Care Manager can make it smoother and help to reduce any trauma.

A move into memory care community can be difficult for both the loved one with dementia and their family caregivers. This often leads to emotional turmoil as well as logistical difficulties, especially if it is a long-distance relocation.

When their sense of security is disrupted, dementia patients or Alzheimer’s disease can become disoriented and anxious.

When families move them from their familiar surroundings it makes the situation even worse because they are used to how things were before – now everything has changed and this leads to increased feelings of anxiety.

How Do You Relocate A Dementia Patient?

As I mentioned earlier, Transfer Trauma can be a complicated and difficult issue to deal with when moving someone with dementia.

A great way to go ahead with this transition is to plan ahead. The best thing to do is to initiate the move at the onset of the symptoms.

Here are 10 Tips To Help You Relocate Your Senior Loved One With Dementia

  1. Make The Move As Soon As Possible – during the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, your senior loved one will be able to participate in the decision making and hopefully, choose a place that they will enjoy.
  2. Consult With A Geriatric Care Manager – there are multiple types of facilities to choose from and each one has their pros and cons. A geriatric care manager can help you decide what type of new home environment would work best for your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  3. Know That It Will Get Emotional – moving out of a comfortable home, knowing that this may be your final move is scary, emotional and downright anxiety provoking. So, be prepared to manage bursts of anger, crying, shouting, etc. Do your best to avoid arguing and simply provide comfort and reassure them continuously that it will be okay.
  4. Visit The New Area Multiple Times Before Moving – being familiar with a new place will make moving to it much easier. Whether it’s an apartment in a retirement home or a memory care unit – it can ease someone’s fear if they are familiar with the place before actually moving there.
  5. Gauge Your Senior’s Moods Before The Move – many elderly adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s have a good time of the day and a bad time of the day. It’s quite common for many to have a bad time during dusk (it’s known as Sundowner’s Syndrome). So, I would recommend to know what a good time of day normally is for your loved one and do all you can to make the move during that time frame.
  6. Minimize Their Involvement On The Day Of The Move – have as much as possible done before the day of the move. This should make the actual move go much faster and it may be less disruptive and traumatic for everyone.
  7. Visit Often During The First Few Weeks – if at all possible, I would recommend to make sure to visit your loved one in their new community as often as possible during the first few weeks and especially during the first week. This will help to ease their anxiety and fears of their new surroundings. After all, who isn’t comforted by familiar faces and loved ones?
  8. Keep The Old Stuff In The New Place – keep as much of the furniture and accessories like paintings, etc. as possible. Familiar objects and furnishings can help to make the new environment feel more like home. If you can keep the same floor plan that would be wonderful, but it’s not always possible.
  9. Consult With Your Doctor About Sedatives – for some older adults, using a sedative during this very stressful time may be helpful. Speak to your doctor about this option.
  10. Consult With Staff – if your senior loved one with dementia is moving into an Assisted Living facility or a Memory Care unit – consult with the staff members beforehand for their tips on what to do to make the move as smooth as possible. Also provide the staff with a list of their care needs and specific habits to help them know as much about your loved one as possible.
  11. Be Extremely Patient – both families and the seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s will have to do all they can to be patient with each other as they transition to a new home environment. It can be stressful for everyone but, in the end, it should end up being the best decision for everyone.

How Do You Move A Parent With Dementia To Memory Care?

By the time someone with dementia is demonstrating the symptoms (such as memory loss) that qualify them to be in a memory care facility – their disease is often advanced enough that moving them to a long-term care unit may not be as traumatic, at least for the senior person.

Memory care is designed to provide a safe, structured environment with set routines to lower stress for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Employees provide meals and help residents with personal care tasks, just like the staff at an assisted living facility. But they are also specially trained to deal with the unique issues that often arise as a result of dementia or Alzheimer’s. They check in with residents more frequently and provide extra structure and support to help them navigate their day.

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Memory care communities are more secure (often a locked unit) so if your senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s tends to wander – this type of unit is a way to keep them safe.

The staff in a memory care unit is specifically trained to work with elderly with cognitive decline which does require special training. These dementia caregivers can normally provide the best care for your loved one.

Tips On Moving Someone To A Memory Care Unit

  1. May Be Easier To Not Involve Everyone – for many seniors that require a memory care unit, the stress of having to make decisions can be overwhelming. So, it may be easier to not involve them in the tasks of packing, scheduling, moving, etc.
  2. Consult With A Social Worker – I would recommend to consult with a social worker who works with patients with dementia to assess what your senior loved one may or may not be able to handle emotionally. This may give you a better picture of what responsibilities you will have in making this move. Social workers and geriatric care managers are two professionals that can help you through this.
  3. Make The New Room As Familiar As Possible – use as many familiar items such as furniture and accessories as possible from the old home to make the new environment feel as much like home as possible. Don’t forget their favorite chair, photo albums and their favorite music.
  4. Talk About The Move – my experience in memory care units is that seniors are not cognitively capable of managing the emotional turmoil that a move creates but of course, every person is different. If your senior loved one is capable of having a discussion about this issue, then by all means, do so. You may consider discussing this with your physician as well.
  5. Visit Your Loved One Often – coming in to visit your senior loved one for the first several weeks often (daily would be great) can help to ease them into their new home. Seeing familiar faces is always a comforting sight.

Does Moving Someone With Dementia Make It Worse?

As an Occupational Therapist, I saw many seniors move into a nursing home or a dementia care community with initial signs of dementia when they first arrived and oftentimes, the decline that we witnessed in them was rapid.

This was often a great surprise to their families who would visit daily and would witness this with dismay.

My point is, that it’s not uncommon for someone’s dementia to accelerate when their environment is changed – but it’s not inevitable. Every person will react differently to moving from their home.

This also depends on what stage of dementia they are in. If the person moving is in the later stages of dementia then there many not be much noticeable changes but that may not be the case if the person is in the earlier stages.

It’s a difficult thing to predict so I simply want you to know to not be surprised if this does happen to your senior loved one.

How Long Does It Take Someone With Dementia To Adjust To A New Home?

Each individual person will react differently, to some extent, to a move from their current home so it may take one person 1 week to adjust and another person 6 months.

This will of course depend on how they are affected by Transfer Trauma.

Transfer trauma is a term used to describe the stress that a person with dementia may experience when changing living environments. Transfer trauma is more commonly seen in the person with early stage dementia and when one is moving into a facility from their lifelong home. The length of time and severity of the transfer trauma is quite individual. For some, the stress associated with the move may be fairly significant, and for others mild or not at all. For some, the stress may last for a few days, and for others a few weeks.

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If you are considering moving your elderly parents (or are in the process of doing so) and are having a difficult time, consider searching for support groups for family caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association also has many wonderful support groups as well.

Attending these groups can help the whole family with this new adjustment.

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