Alzheimer's / Dementia

2/1/2021 | By Rachel Marsh

Moving is tough on anyone; kids, college students, adults, families. But for seniors who have lived in their homes for decades, it’s particularly difficult. And for seniors living with memory issues making the transition to memory care? That may be the toughest move of all.

Though as a caregiver or loved one (or both!), you know that memory care is the best option – featuring 24-hour assistance and personalized care – your loved one might not be so eager. And in fact, any type of change, especially a move, can be agonizing for them.

So we’ve got some tips on how to make this transition to memory care as smooth and painless as possible on you both.

Visit the Community Beforehand

Many communities allow potential residents to visit for a tour, a meal, events, and even overnight stays. Sometimes they even allow for multiple visits! This can help your loved one get acquainted with the staff and the community; it will also allow you to shop around for the best facility.

Even if your loved one doesn’t remember the visit or visits, it will still help create connections with the staff and the building’s environment.

Don’t Include Your Loved One in the Planning, Packing, and Moving Process

Again – the process of moving, from start to finish, is stressful! And for your loved one living with memory loss, simply the act of relocating to a new environment is difficult enough. So don’t burden them with anything more than necessary – it could easily lead to more stress and agitation.

Take care of the planning, the cleaning, the packing, the moving, and the unpacking without their assistance. And if this is too much on you and the rest of your family, there are many companies designed to help with the process (or take care of it entirely).

Play to Your Loved One’s Strengths

You – and perhaps your family members and fellow caregivers – know your loved one best. When making the transition to memory care, use this knowledge to your advantage.

What time of day do they best function? In the morning? After eating lunch? After a nap? If possible, plan the move during that time so that they can arrive and get settled while at their best.

Additionally, incorporate your loved one’s favorite things throughout the day. Music is a powerful tool: play your loved one’s favorite CD, or one that most easily soothes them, throughout the transition. You can even give it to the staff to turn on when needed.

Use comfort food, too, when appropriate. See if the community chefs can serve some of your loved one’s favorite foods during the first few days; and enlist fellow family members to join your loved one for at least the initial meals as well.

Set Up Their Room as Similarly to Home as Possible

Wherever possible, make your loved one’s new room in memory care look as similarly to their previous bedroom. Use the same bedspread and pillowcases; bring as much furniture from home, and arrange it as closely as possible; put up a few familiar pictures and pieces of décor. Small nostalgic reminders and similarities like these will make the transition to memory care that much easier.

Just a note, however: be careful not to overpack! In most memory care communities, rooms are small – plus, they already have many items already provided. Additionally, too much clutter can further overwhelm and agitate someone living with memory issues.

Utilize the Staff

Staff at memory care communities witness and assist with the transition to memory care all the time – so use their help! Even though this is your first time, they’re trained and experienced to handle exactly what you and your loved one are going through.

Don’t hesitate to ask for their support and advice, in the days leading up to the move, the day of, and the days following. In fact, some communities even have specific transition programs – so see if that’s something your loved one’s facility provides.

Know That It Will Get Better

Moving day – and even the days following – can be very difficult. Your loved one may refuse to get out of the car; they may be openly agitated and uncomfortable upon arrival. This, in turn, may make your anxiety skyrocket as well.

But, just know that, in nearly every situation, memory care residents do get acclimated to their new surroundings. It may take time and it may be difficult at first, but they do settle into the transition to memory care.

In the meantime, don’t forget to commend yourself for making the best decision for your loved one and everyone else involved. And, of course, don’t forget to practice self care!

Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh