If your elderly loved one is living with advanced age-related dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and will soon need to move into residential memory care, like the Kirby Household at Marjorie P. Lee, how can you help to ease the move into his or her new home?
As the primary caregiver, you’re going to be juggling a lot during your loved one’s move. It’s critically important that you put together a transition plan so that you can keep everything running smooth.
Today, let’s talk about what should be in that plan.
1. Methods for Addressing the Emotional Adjustments
Most memory care experts recommend easing your loved one into residential memory care without tipping your hand that the move will be permanent. That bothers many caregivers because they don’t want to feel like they’re lying to their loved ones.
But there’s an important reason why slowly sharing the plan, just the right amount of information they can handle at the time, is not only acceptable but therapeutic: 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 or to consider past his or her immediate emotions. For people with late-stage dementia, the present is really all that exists, so they can’t contemplate their future needs.
That inability to see beyond the present moment can cause strong fear reactions. If someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is told up front that he or she will be permanently moving to an unfamiliar place, it can trigger anticipation anxiety, depression, and outbursts, which will repeat each time he or she is re-told about the upcoming move.
Luciana Cramer, a Care Specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association’s California Central Chapter, recommended using “fiblets” to cushion the blow and slowly acclimate your loved one to the idea of a permanent move.
You might start off by describing the move as a temporary stay in a “hotel” while you are out of town; as he or she becomes more used to the new surroundings and new people, you can slowly start acknowledging that the stay is for the long-term.
You should consult with your relative’s doctor in advance of the move, too. He or she might want to prescribe a short course of an anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication, to help your parent through the adjustment period.
2. The Logistics
Moving your loved one into memory care can feel like trying to move an army: there are many pieces to keep track of and coordinate. And it’s hard to do them all in relative secret.
Your transition plan should include details, a list of resources needed and a timeline for tasks like sorting and packing and scheduling the movers.
Many memory care experts recommend that you set up a familiar-feeling living space in the memory care home in advance of your loved one’s arrival so that he or she will feel less disoriented and more comfortable in the new apartment or room.
Moving in your loved one’s favorite chair, lamp and end table, placing familiar decorations or treasured knick-knacks, pictures or artwork, making up the bed with his or her favorite sheets, pillows, and comforter, and placing a familiar scented potpourri in the room can all help your loved one adjust.
3. The Administrative Details
If you’re the financial power-of-attorney for your loved one, you’ll need to work out the finances: setting up your relative’s monthly care payments, sorting out medical bills and other obligations, and keeping his or her retirement investments up to date.
If you’re the primary caregiver but don’t have financial power-of-attorney, and your loved one didn’t designate one in advance, the memory care transition plan should include working out who will serve in that capacity and be filing the legal paperwork to make it official.
If, after the move, you’ll need to sell your parent or grandparent’s home to fund his or her care, there will be an all-new slew of details to coordinate: cleaning, renovating or sprucing up the home to increase its appeal, identifying a realtor and listing the home.
You’ll also need to consult a reputable tax lawyer and/or estate planner to stay well-informed on the implications a home sale might have on your loved one’s annual tax bill or his Medicare or Medicaid coverage.
Develop your transition plan and stay organized.
Our experts here at Marjorie P. Lee agree: It’s important for caregivers to be closely involved in their loved ones’ transition to a new memory care home. They’ll need to rely on you for support and as a calming presence, so you’ll need to feel calm, too.
Having a well-defined transition plan in place can help keep you organized and focused on your older relative’s most critical need: the need to feel safe, secure and cared for in the new surroundings.