THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016 BUT WAS UPDATED ON 6/21/21
Your aging parent may dismiss occasional forgetfulness as a senior moment. However, this may be the beginning of something more serious, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in ten people aged 65 and older (10%) has Alzheimer’s dementia. If this kind of cognitive impairment is affecting your loved one’s daily functioning, it is time to move them from assisted living to a memory care facility.
Unfortunately, this is a decision filled with emotional stress for your parent and your family. It is also challenging because most elders want to remain independent as long as possible. Alzheimer’s will also impair your parent’s decision-making ability. So, you may have to spearhead the decision and keep your loved one as involved in the process as you can.
Not sure if you should even be having this conversation? Check out HAVING THE ALZHEIMER’S CONVERSATION.
Here are six tips that will help you make the move smooth for your parent.
Talk about the Upcoming Transition
Talking about the upcoming transition is probably the most difficult part of the process. Though you have to make the decision based on your best judgment, you can break the news to your loved one in two ways.
If the circumstances allow you to make a gradual transition, you can break this news in a progressive manner. In such a case, make short visits to introduce your parent to other residents in the memory care facility.
For example, taking your parent to dine with other residents will be a nice idea. After a few more visits, you can ask them if they would like to stay with their new friends for a few days. If everything goes well, your parent will become accustomed to the new environment in a few weeks. Once they are comfortable with the new routine, you can break the news that they can stay here forever.
However, time is a luxury most people in this situation can’t afford. Circumstances may require you to move your loved one straight into the memory care center. In such a case, you might have to tell your parent a ‘loving lie’ such as, “Dad, you may have to stay here for a while because your old place is being renovated,” or “Mom, you are on a trip for a few weeks.” However, it is better to come up with a simple story as you might have to repeat it more than once due to your memory loss. Whichever option you choose, make sure to keep your conversation positive.
Tell the Staff about Your Parent’s Personality
Making the transition is easier if the memory care staff knows about your parent’s personality, likes and dislikes, or peculiar habits. Most memory care facilities practice a team approach to patient care. Knowing your loved one’s personal preferences will ensure the effortless continuation of their old routine in a new place. In short, the more about them you share, the better.
Meeting the key personnel will help you understand how the facility works. It will also allow you to ask questions and let them know of any concerns. Most importantly, knowing how to prepare and what to expect will give you more confidence to deal with this stressful situation.
Consult Your Parent’s Doctor
One of the first things you need to do is to speak with your parent’s doctor about the present situation. Ask the doctor if your decision can result in changes in your parent’s medication. The doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to make the transition easier.
Medical experts will also give you a detailed assessment of your loved one’s health and provide you with a future care plan. So, make sure to consult the respective medical representatives in both, the present facility and the memory care center.
Focus on the Familiar
Alzheimer’s can seriously deteriorate the cognitive ability of a person. Hence, even a simple change in their routine can make those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia feel agitated or depressed. That’s why you need to set up your loved one’s new room in a way that closely resembles their present living space.
Fortunately, most memory care facilities permit residents to decorate their rooms with personal items. So, instead of buying new things, decorate the room with old personal possessions including furniture, mementos, family photos, and favorite books. Make sure to set up the room in the same way as much as possible. You can also talk to the staff about letting your parent continue with some of their hobbies or routine activities if their medical condition permits.
Keep Your Initial Visits Short and Occasional
This may sound surprising (and even cruel), but you need to keep your initial visits short and occasional. Your continuous presence may make it difficult for your loved one to adjust to the new place. However, this doesn’t mean that you should cease all communication. On the contrary, you must keep in touch, particularly with the staff.
You must remember that you are still in charge of your parent’s care and your inputs are more than valuable. You can consult the staff or your parent’s doctor to chalk out a visiting schedule at least for the first few weeks. As your parent becomes more accustomed to the new environment, you can visit more often and for longer periods and encourage your friends and family to follow suit.
Don’t Feel Ashamed
Moving your parent from an assisted living facility to a memory care center can be a double-edged sword. Not only your loved one but sometimes even your close friends and family members will criticize your decision. This harsh criticism may force you to wonder whether or not you have made the right decision. However, don’t let a few raised eyebrows spiral you into an abyss of embarrassment and guilt.
Most people, including your loved one, have no idea what it’s like to take care of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. You don’t need to reason with every accusation or argument that comes your way. It may take some time, but you need to learn to face facts objectively. The most important thing that your loved one needs is for you to keep fit both, mentally and physically. So, instead of feeling guilty, pay attention to your health.
Moving your parent from an assisted living facility to memory care is a big step. Though this process is emotionally more stressful than ever for everyone, you can make it as smooth as possible with patience and love. Hopefully, these six tips will ease your parent’s transition to memory care. How did you help your loved one make this transition? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Evan Thompson, CEO, and founder of Senior. One has a long-standing interest in finding solutions for seniors. He helps connect senior citizens and their family members with elder care service providers and find the resources they need in one place. He offers information on nursing homes, hospice, financial planning, adult care, lifestyle, and home health care in Albuquerque. He provides information on housing, medical professionals, financial planning services, and lifestyle options.