In a perfect world, our elderly loved ones would be able to stay in their cherished homes forever. In the world in which we live, however, this is not always safe or realistic — particularly when you factor in the cognitive changes that accompany Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Still, feelings of guilt are natural when it comes to deciding to move a parent into a memory care community such as Episcopal Church Home. Here are five tips aimed at helping you cope with these emotions and move forward in the most mutually beneficial way.
1. Find the best community for your loved one’s needs.
Senior homes vary from community to community. A critical step in making peace with your decision is doing your research and finding the best possible fit. Talking to your loved one can help you get a better sense of his/her wants or needs.
In addition to researching communities, features and policies, be sure to schedule a site visit. Keep in mind that websites are above all else marketing tools. Visiting prospective communities can help you get a better sense of each one’s unique “vibe” or “feel.” Bringing along your loved one, meanwhile, can help them feel more positive about the transition.
In addition to finding the right community, finding the appropriate care level is also important. Contends social worker Kate Jackson, “Effort should be made to ensure that individuals are not transferred needlessly, or too swiftly….It’s key that clients with dementia are placed in settings where people understand dementia care and appreciate the challenges and can help clients navigate in a new environment.”
2. Speak to staff about your loved one.
You know your loved one better than anyone. One way to feel better: Share this knowledge with as many staff members as possible.
“If your loved one will be moving to a care facility, make frequent visits at different times of day before the move. Speak with the staff about your loved one's background and any special needs. Provide details on your loved one's medical and mental health history, including a detailed medication list,” recommends the Mayo Clinic.
Adds the Tri-County Caregiver Resource Center, “One of the most important things a family member can do is to share their loved one’s story. By sharing their hobbies, likes and dislikes, passions and pastimes, this helps the staff create an environment in which your loved one will thrive. It also helps them match them with residents who have a similar background. When residents have someone to share stories with, this makes the transition much easier.”
One of the most important things a family member can do is to share their loved one’s story.
3. Accept that the transition won’t be easy.
While the move to memory care may be the best thing for your aging loved one due to the round-the-clock care available there, the transition from home to senior care can be a difficult one. Recognizing this fact can help you focus on the big picture during initially trying times.
It’s also important to know that it will get easier. Many seniors who initially resist the transition to a new memory care community end up loving their new lives after they've had time to acclimate.
4. Create a familiar space.
The comforts of home can go a long way toward helping your parent’s new living space feel comfortable and welcoming.
“Before the move, make your loved one's new room or space look and feel as familiar as possible. Decorate the area with a treasured quilt, a shelf with special items, a favorite chair or other meaningful possessions. Familiar belongings can trigger feelings of connectedness and ownership, as well as boost your loved one's sense of security,” continues the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, bringing along plenty of labeled photos can help staff members engage your loved one in conversations about fond memories and favorite people.
5. Enlist professional backup.
If your aging loved one isn’t completely on board with the move to memory care, both you and he or she may benefit from an unbiased outside option.
Explains Our Parents, “dementia often causes impairment in decision-making ability, so family members may have to spearhead a decision in the best interest of a loved one. Often a doctor or other healthcare professional can be an ally in this situation, explaining to your parent in a calm but authoritative manner why a transition to memory care is ultimately a positive move.”
Keep in mind despite your best efforts, bad days will be part of the adjustment period. This doesn’t change the validity of your decision.
Advises Care Conversations, “During the transition, your loved one may make negative comments. You may dread these because they seem to be a judgment about the decision. When your loved one expresses dissatisfaction with something, write the comment down. Keep these comments in the proper perspective: they are an opportunity for you to help make the situation better for your loved one.”
At Episcopal Church Home, we’re here to help you with this transition. Download our free Dementia Guide, and click here if you’d like more information about our memory care community or would like to schedule a tour. We’d be honored to be your partner in caregiving.