Deciding to make the transition from the familiarity of home to a supportive Memory Care community is never easy. Your loved one is likely comfortable in their current home, even if the activities of daily living are no longer within their ability. These 10 tips will help get your loved one settled into their new home a little easier, so they can focus on making friends and taking part in all the enriching activities.
1. Become Your Loved One’s Guide
Before any packing or moving has even taken place, it can be extremely helpful to familiarize yourself with the community your loved one will be joining. Meet all the staff who will be working with your loved one, observe them working with other seniors, and ask plenty of questions. This will help you be confident in the staff and make it easier to introduce your loved one later on. Be sure to tell them about your loved one’s personality, likes and dislikes, and their routine.
2. Try Not to Discuss the Move Too Much
Asking your loved one what items they would like to bring along or telling them details about the move can be stressful for them. It may sound mean to keep things hidden, but for a loved one experiencing memory loss, trying to keep track of all the factors in a big change like a move can be overwhelming. When the big day arrives, have a family member take your loved one out to lunch or another fun activity, if possible, while the move is taking place.
3. Offer a Temporary Reason for the Move
When it is time to take your loved one to their new home, it can be helpful to offer a practical reason for the move, while emphasizing that it is only temporary. This is another tactic that might seem insensitive, but it can be very effective for someone experiencing memory issues. You might say, for instance, that the house is being painted, plumbing work is being done, or that your loved one is getting some temporary health care. Not only will this help with any confusion, it may help your loved one relax and engage more fully with their new surroundings.
4. Schedule the Move for Your Loved One’s Best Time of Day
People experiencing a memory loss disease usually have times of day they are at their calmest. These times are often in the early mornings, as sundowning tends to make evenings more difficult. Schedule their transition for the optimal time to help reduce their stress and confusion as much as possible.
5. Consider Leaving the TV Behind
As your loved one’s memory loss progresses, following what is happening on TV can become difficult and even be confusing or frightening. Instead, supplement TV watching with photo albums. Photos of family and friends can stimulate your loved one’s memories, helping them reminisce about pleasant times, and making it easier for them to connect with those around them.
6. Help Your Loved One Feel at Home
You can help your loved one feel more at ease by arranging key pieces of furniture and wall hangings so that they resemble the decor at your loved one’s previous residence. Waking up in a new place can be scary, but this will help your loved one feel a little more at ease. Try not to overdo it, though. Memory Care apartments and suites are small, and packing too many items into your loved one’s home could be a source of stress.
7. Stay By Their Side
Your loved one’s first day will likely be one of the hardest, and having you there will ease the transition. Offer words of encouragement, explain what is happening, if necessary, and join your loved one for all their introductory activities. Joining your loved one for meals can be especially helpful.
8. Stay Positive
Your loved one will likely experience some negative emotions surrounding their move, such as anger, anxiety, and sadness. Do your best to display only positive emotions when you are around them. People with dementia are often good at picking up on other people’s emotions. Help them approach this transition as positively as possible by being their shining light.
9. Stay in Contact with Staff
Once your loved one is settled in and you have returned to your own home, be sure to stay in close contact with staff. If, after the first day, your loved one is still having trouble getting settled, it may be better for you to give your loved one a few days to get used to their new surroundings before resuming your visits. Another benefit of close contact with care staff is that you may be able to advise them on additional likes and dislikes that can help your loved one with their transition.
10. Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself
The decision to move your loved one into Memory Care can be a source of extreme guilt for many people. Watching your loved one leave the home they have had for many years can also be a source of sadness for you. Remember to give yourself time to accept this change. A therapist or social worker can help you work through these feelings and focus on the benefits to both you and your loved one.
For more information on caring for a loved one who is experiencing memory loss, visit the Artis Senior Living blog.