Dementia and moving can be difficult.
Making a move to a new environment is not easy for anyone, in the best of times. Moving is considered a major stressor in life. When a person has dementia, it is even more difficult. Change may cause an increase in confusion and negative behaviors to emerge.
This is also a difficult time for the primary caregiver. There may be feelings of guilt, apprehension over the change in roles. Many caregivers have a difficult time adjusting from providing hands on care to the new role as advocate. It is important to be aware that a move and change affects everyone. Emotions can be high at a time like this for all involved.
How to prepare for the move will depend on the stage of dementia the family member is in at the time of the move. In the early stages of dementia, it is important to include the family member as much as possible.
It is so important to address the future care needs of a family member as early as possible in the disease process. Having conversations on the changes in the level of care needed and who will provide them can be helpful. Knowing the expectations of the family member with dementia and the limits and boundaries of the family caregiver can ease the feeling of guilt and inadequacy of the caregiver.
Knowing the wishes and expectations of the family member with dementia as far as future care needs give everyone the ability to make plans for the future. This gives the family member with dementia and the family care giver an opportunity to look at some facilities and make decisions while they are still able to give input into their care.
Of course, this is not an easy subject to address and many family members find that they are now faced to make a change in level of care and feel anxious and guilty.
There are many situations when the family member with dementia no longer remembers anything that is explained to them. Telling them about a move to a new place may upset them on moment, only to have them forget what you told them.
Moving is not easy, but there are things that can be done ahead of time to make the transition from home to a new environment less stressful.
If you are moving into a nursing home or assisted living, move some preliminary things into the room to make it familiar. Placing pictures of family members, familiar bedding covers pillows and if possible, a familiar piece of furniture. This is also a good time to provide the facility staff with as much information as possible. Giving the staff information on the likes and dislikes, hobbies, food interests and other preferences will help make the transition easier.
Schedule the move for the time of day when the family member with dementia is at their best. This could be in the morning or early afternoon.
Many family care givers feel anxious about how to explain what is happening. Caregivers feel worried that there may be negative behaviors or even agitation if they make the family member with dementia aware that this is a permanent move. This is a common feeling that most care givers experience. Know that you are not alone.
On the day of the move, make things a normal as possible. For some individuals in the later stage of dementia, you may just want to suggest you are going for a drive and to look at a new senior living place. The limited insight into things and poor short-term memory can make communication difficult. No matter what you say, your family member may not understand it.
Expect the family member with dementia to want to “go home”. This is a common reaction and one that you will hear often. The home they are referring to is often the home in their long-term memory.
The facility staff may attempt to get your family member involved in an activity to make them feel welcome. This may also give the family care giver a chance to leave.
When a family member reacts badly to the move, the facility may ask you to stay away for a few days to give your loved on a chance to adjust. Feel free to stop in and check on them anyway. You may need to do this for your own peace of mind. This does not mean you have to be seen by your family member, but sometimes a familiar face is welcome.
Persons with dementia need consistency. In time they will adjust to their new environment and begin to feel safe and secure. It is important for the family caregiver to remember that safety and care is important and can be provided in this new environment.