How to Ease Your Loved One's Transition into Memory Care

How to Ease Your Loved One's Transition into Memory Care

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When the time comes for your senior loved one to be placed in residential memory care for advanced dementia or Alzheimer's, how can you ease his or her transition to a new senior living community?

How can you reduce your parent's anxiety and ensure that the move goes as smoothly as possible?

Louisville families ask us these questions all the time. Luckily, there are tried-and-true tactics that can help your loved one accomplish the move without feeling fear or disruption.

Let's talk about them today.


1. Make everything seem as familiar as possible.

One of the tenets of residential memory care is helping individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's acclimate to their surroundings and to establish unshakable routines.

Regular schedules can help patients with advanced memory loss feel comfortable and less stressed. In turn, that helps them to conserve cognitive function and reduces the likelihood that they'll exhibit behavioral outbursts.

Most residential memory care experts recommend that a family furnish and decorate its loved one's new room with items from home. A favorite chair or couch, a long-used end table or nightstand, beloved wall art and photographs of family members can all help your loved one to feel like he or she is still in surroundings. So, too, can bedspreads, quilts, blankets, or sheets from home. These not only provide familiar visual cues, but also tactile cues.

Smells and sounds can help, too. A chiming case clock, a pre-programmed MP3 player or tape mix, a potpourri or perfume that your loved one always enjoyed — these all provide deeply-programmed familiar stimuli that could keep Mom or Dad feeling safe, secure and comfortable.


2. Use "little fibs."

When a loved one is expressing resistance to a permanent move into residential care, most memory care and senior care experts recommend easing the transition by avoiding the whole truth.

Some families balk at that, because they don’t want to feel like they’re “lying” to their loved ones. But there’s an important reason why fibbing a bit is acceptable: it can be therapeutic.

A parent who knows a move is coming is more likely to experience what's known as "anticipation anxiety."

If your loved one has advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s, he or she is probably not able to completely understand the reasons for the move, contemplate the future or think with any sort of logic. He or she only feels what is "now."

So, when they remember that the move is coming, they become fearful. And, because they're experiencing memory loss, the revelation may seem brand-new to them again, again and again.

You might start off by describing the move as a temporary stay in a “hotel” while you're out of town. Using such “fiblets” can cushion the blow and slowly help your loved one become used to the permanent move.

Gradually, after the move is accomplished, your parent will become more and more used to his or her surroundings. The move becomes normalized, and he or she won't feel as much trepidation.


Done right, a move into residential memory care will feel like a positive experience, rather than a setback. And our Episcopal Church Home staff will be here to support you and your loved one every step of the way.


3. Medication may help. 

Let your mom or dad's primary care doctor or geriatrician know about the move before it happens. He or she might be able to prescribe a mild anti-anxiety medication or antidepressant to help your parent through the transition period.

Make sure, though, that the doctor knows about all the medications, vitamins and/or supplements that your parent is currently taking.

Often, when seniors are seen by several specialists who are separately managing their various chronic conditions, information about a medication one doctor has prescribed might not get back to the primary care doctor. That can put your loved one at serious risk of experiencing an adverse drug interaction.

If the primary care physician has all the information, he or she will be better positioned to determine whether an additional anti-anxiety medication or antidepressant would be beneficial for your parent.


Be steady.

Your parent will need to lean on you for support throughout the course of the move. The visitation early on in a resident’s stay is evaluated on an individual basis. For some new residents, frequent family visits reignite their desire to go home. It could help the transition if visits are for short periods at first, scheduling visits among the family members so that there aren’t multiple visits in one day. Limited visits from family can help the resident to bond with the staff.

On the other hand, some residents feel abandoned, and we encourage families to visit on those occasions. Each resident is viewed as an individual, and transitions look different for different people.

Done right, a move into residential memory care will feel like a positive experience, rather than a setback. And our Episcopal Church Home staff will be here to support you and your loved one every step of the way.


Need more advice about transitioning your parent into memory care?

Download our free Dementia Guidebook here. In it, you'll find information you'll need to understand your loved one's dementia or Alzheimer's diagnosis.

You'll also find tips for Alzheimer's and dementia caregiving, advice on how to plan effectively for your older loved one's care needs and, when the time is right, more information on how to accomplish your mom or dad's smooth transition into residential memory care.

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Bryan Reynolds
May 31, 2018
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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