If you’ve made the decision to move your loved one into a memory care community, you may be wondering, “How can I make this process easier for my loved one?”
Transitioning to memory care can be a positive change for both you and your loved one, and there are several ways you can help make the move as smooth as possible. Whether your loved one is moving from their lifelong home or from an assisted living community to a memory care community, here are some helpful tips.
1. Help Prepare Your Loved One
Moving residences can be challenging at any age, but it is especially difficult for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. However, there are some steps you can take to help ease your loved one’s transition into a memory care community, while helping them feel more comfortable throughout the process.
The most important step is to involve your loved one as much as possible — before, during, and after the move. Encourage them to share their thoughts, ask questions, or express concerns. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply listening to your loved one. Even if you don’t have answers for every question or concern, you can put them at ease by letting them know you’re here for them and that you’ll work through this process together.
Also, you can ask for help from your memory care community of choice or professional counselors or social workers who specialize in helping people with dementia. They are a valuable resource that can share strategies to make the transition easier, including techniques to help your loved one relax when they become anxious
2. Try a Respite Care Stay or Adult Day Care Visit
Scheduling a series of visits with the community you have selected may help relieve some of the anxiety your loved one might be feeling. There are a few ways to accomplish this. Many communities offer respite or adult day care services, which provide the same memory care services to non-residents. If available, these programs can provide your loved one with the chance to become familiar with their new surroundings, as well as meet staff and other residents.
Another option would be to ask the community if you can bring your loved one over during a mealtime or special activity. Discuss your concerns with staff members — they should be willing to work with you to help make the transition as easy as possible for you and your loved one. After all, they have years of experience with families just like yours.
3. Communicate Frequently with Staff
You’ve likely met staff members and asked them questions before you settled upon your community of choice for your loved one. It is important to keep the conversation going after your loved one moves in. During visits with your loved one, take a few moments to chat with staff to get to know them better.
Prior to moving in, most memory care communities will ask family members to provide detailed information on their loved one, which includes their likes, dislikes, and what makes them unique. Typical questions may include:
- What their profession was before retirement
- What kinds of music do they enjoy most
- What your loved one’s current routine is and when is typically their best time of the day
- What your loved one currently enjoys doing, as well as hobbies they enjoyed in the past
- What kinds of things help keep your loved one feeling calm and secure
When sharing, try to be as detailed as possible. The more information you provide, the quicker team members will be able to connect with your loved one.
After the move, continue to check in with the staff regularly and ask how your loved one is adjusting and if there’s any other ways you can help.
4. Fill Their New Space with Familiar Things
A simple, but powerful way to help your loved one transition smoothly to a memory care community is helping them feel at home in their new environment. As you’re moving things and preparing your loved one’s living space for them, incorporate familiar objects throughout each room.
Here are some ideas:
- Bring a favorite piece of furniture, like a chair or small table
- Decorate the room with photos of family/friends or bring along old photo albums
- Put small items or trinkets your loved one is used to looking at throughout the space
- Bring a favorite blanket, throw pillow, or stuffed animal
5. Visit and Communicate with Your Loved One as Often as You Can
Once your loved one is moved in, let them know that you will be back to visit them, and then come as often as you can. If regular in-person visits aren’t possible, or if you are a long-distance caregiver, make arrangements to call them on the phone or use video chat technology.
Especially in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, communicating verbally with your loved one can become more difficult, and nonverbal communication ― like sounds, sights, and touch ― may become the best way to “talk.” Just remember ― your presence, support, and love are what is most important to them.
6. Expect Bumps in the Road
Change is hard at any age, but it can be particularly difficult for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It isn’t unusual for seniors with dementia to experience a range of behavioral and mood-related symptoms during transitions such as moving into a memory care community. Increased irritability, anxiety, or agitation may occur.
Rest assured that the team at the community have been through this adjustment period before and will work with your loved one and your family to help ease the transition as best as they can.
Understanding your loved one’s limitations and anticipating bumps in the road will better position you to respond with grace and patience when challenges arise. Proceeding slowly will give your loved one plenty of time to adjust and maintaining a positive attitude will help reassure them during the transition.
Find More Caregiving Resources at The Bristal Blog
Our blog is full of useful tips, resources, and tools to help you in your journey as a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Check out these 11 questions Alzheimer’s caregivers should ask a doctor or how to overcome dementia fatigue.