Helping Your Loved One Transition to Memory Care with Compassion

Published on December 6, 2023

Updated on November 23, 2023

admission can be a challenging journey, especially when a family member is grappling with dementia. This transition demands not only logistical considerations but also a deep understanding of the emotional and psychological aspects involved. As an experienced , I've encountered numerous families navigating this path, and here's a to compassionately help your loved one with dementia transition to a unit.

Understanding the Transition

Acknowledge Emotions

Moving to memory care can cause different emotions for your loved one and for you. Your loved one may feel scared, angry, or sad about leaving their home and their familiar things. They may not understand why they have to move or where they are going. They may also feel lonely or abandoned by their family. You may feel guilty, worried, or relieved about moving your loved one to memory care. You may also feel sad about losing the connection you had with your loved one before dementia. These emotions are normal and understandable. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge them and show . means caring about how someone else feels and trying to help them. You can show compassion by listening to your loved one's feelings, validating them, and reassuring them that you love them and that you are doing what is best for them. You can also show compassion by taking care of your own feelings and getting support from others.

Resources: Moving a Parent to Memory Care

Initiate Family Support

Moving your loved one to memory care is a big decision that affects the whole family. It is important to get the support and agreement of your siblings and other family members before you make the move. This will help you avoid conflicts and misunderstandings later. You can initiate family support by having an honest and respectful conversation with your family about your loved one's condition, needs, and options. You can share information and resources that you have found about memory care, such as this article or this guide. You can also ask for your family's opinions and suggestions and try to reach a consensus that everyone can accept. Having family support will make the transition easier for you and your loved one. It will also show your loved one that they are not alone and that they have a lot of people who care about them.

Resources: How to Talk to Your Parent About Moving to Memory Care

Communication Strategies

When you talk to your loved one about moving to memory care, you want to be clear, kind, and respectful. You also want to avoid arguments and confusion. Here are some communication strategies that can help you:

  • Use simple and direct language. Avoid using words or phrases that your loved one may not understand, such as “memory care”, “dementia”, or “facility”. Instead, use words that are familiar and positive, such as “new home”, “help”, or “friends”.
  • Focus on the present and the future. Do not bring up the past or the reasons why your loved one has to move. This may make them feel guilty or defensive. Instead, talk about the benefits and opportunities that memory care can offer, such as safety, comfort, and fun activities.
  • Be positive and supportive. Do not criticize or blame your loved one for their condition or behavior. This may make them feel angry or ashamed. Instead, praise them for their strengths and achievements, and express your love and appreciation for them.
  • Listen and empathize. Do not interrupt or correct your loved one when they speak. This may make them feel frustrated or ignored. Instead, listen attentively and show that you care about their feelings and opinions. You can use phrases like “I understand”, “I'm sorry”, or “I'm here for you”.

Consistent Decision-making

Moving your loved one to memory care is a big and difficult decision. You may have doubts or second thoughts about it. You may also face resistance or opposition from your loved one or other family members. However, it is important to stand firm in your decision and maintain consistency throughout the process. This will help you:

  • Avoid confusion and stress for your loved one. If you change your mind or hesitate about the move, your loved one may get confused and anxious. They may not know what to expect or what to do. They may also lose trust in you and your judgment. By being consistent, you can help your loved one feel more secure and confident about the move.
  • Avoid conflicts and guilt for yourself. If you are inconsistent or indecisive about the move, you may face more arguments and pressure from your loved one or other family members. They may try to persuade you to change your mind or make you feel guilty for your decision. By being firm, you can avoid these situations and stick to your plan.
  • Avoid regrets and mistakes for the future. If you delay or cancel the move, you may miss the opportunity to provide the best care and support for your loved one. Their condition may worsen, and their needs may increase. You may also put your own health and well-being at risk. By being decisive, you can act in the best interest of your loved one and yourself.

Resources: Transitioning a Loved One to Memory, Dementia, or Alzheimer's Care

Addressing ‘I Want to Go Home’

It is common for individuals in memory care to express a desire to go home. This may happen because they are homesick, confused, or unhappy. They may not remember that they have moved or why they have moved. They may also associate home with a place or a time in their past, rather than their current situation. When your loved one says “I want to go home”, you can do the following:

  • Understand and acknowledge their feelings. Do not dismiss or deny their feelings. This may make them feel invalidated or misunderstood. Instead, try to understand why they want to go home and what home means to them. You can ask them questions like “What do you miss about home?” or “What do you like about home?”. You can also acknowledge their feelings and show empathy. You can say things like “I know you miss home” or “I wish I could take you home”.
  • Offer reassurance and comfort. Do not argue or reason with your loved one. This may make them feel more upset or angry. Instead, try to reassure them that they are safe and loved. You can say things like “You are in a good place” or “I love you very much”. You can also hug them, hold their hand, or give them a favorite item to comfort them.
  • Divert the conversation to positive aspects of the new environment. Do not dwell on the topic of home or the reasons why they cannot go home. This may make them feel more sad or hopeless. Instead, try to divert their attention to something positive or enjoyable in their new environment. You can say things like “Look at the beautiful garden” or “Let's go play some games”. You can also invite them to join an activity, meet a friend, or have a snack.

Resources: ‘I want to go home' – What to say to someone with dementia in care

Caregiver Well-being

Recognizing Caregiver Challenges

Being a caregiver for someone with dementia can be hard and stressful. You may have to do many things for your loved one, such as helping them with daily tasks, taking them to the doctor, or managing their finances. You may also have to deal with their mood changes, memory loss, or behavior problems. These challenges can affect your own health and happiness. That is why you need to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. Here are some ways to improve your well-being as a caregiver:

  • Recognize your challenges. Do not feel guilty or ashamed for feeling tired, angry, or sad. These are normal emotions for caregivers. You are not alone in your struggles. You can talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, a family member, or a counselor, about how you feel and what you need.
  • Ask for and accept help. You do not have to do everything by yourself. You can make a list of things that others can do for you, such as running errands, cooking meals, or spending time with your loved one. Then you can ask your family, friends, neighbors, or community groups to help you with these tasks. You can also look for services, which are programs that can take care of your loved one for a brief time while you take a break.
  • Take care of your health. You need to stay healthy and strong to care for your loved one. You can do this by eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. You can also see your doctor for regular check-ups and screenings and take your medications as prescribed. You can also avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or using drugs.
  • Make time for yourself. You need to have some fun and relaxation in your life. You can do this by doing things that you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, gardening, or playing games. You can also join a hobby group, a club, or a class that interests you. You can also spend time with your friends and family and share your feelings and experiences with them.
  • Join a support group. You can benefit from meeting other caregivers who understand what you are going through. You can share your stories, tips, and resources with them. You can also learn from their experiences and get emotional support. You can find a support group in your area or online through organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association, or the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Resources: Family caregivers of people with dementia

Ensuring Safety in Acute Settings

Sometimes, your loved one with dementia may need to go to the hospital for an emergency or surgery. This can be a scary and risky situation for them. They may get more confused, agitated, or delirious in the hospital. They may also get , falls, or other complications. You can help keep your loved one safe in the hospital by doing the following:

  • Prepare for the hospital visit. You can bring a bag with your loved one's personal items, such as glasses, hearing aids, dentures, clothes, and photos. You can also bring their medications, medical records, and advance directives. You can also write down their name, date of birth, allergies, and medical conditions on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket or on their wrist. You can also tell the hospital staff about your loved one's dementia, their usual behavior, and their preferences.
  • Stay with your loved one as much as possible. You can be their advocate and their companion in the hospital. You can help them communicate with the doctors and nurses, and make sure they get the right care and treatment. You can also comfort them, calm them down, and remind them of where they are and why they are there. You can also help them with their daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and moving around.
  • Prevent and other problems. is a sudden and severe confusion that can happen to people with dementia in the hospital. It can make them more disoriented, restless, or sleepy. It can also make them see or hear things that are not there. Delirium can be caused by many things, such as , pain, medications, or lack of sleep. You can help prevent delirium by doing the following:
    • Check for signs of infection, such as fever, cough, or urinary problems, and tell the staff if you notice any.
    • Make sure your loved one gets enough pain relief and tell the staff if they seem uncomfortable or in pain.
    • Ask the staff to avoid or minimize the use of medications that can cause delirium, such as sedatives, antihistamines, or antipsychotics.
    • Help your loved one get enough sleep and avoid disturbing them at night. You can also ask the staff to turn off the lights and the noise in the room at night.
    • Keep your loved one hydrated and nourished and help them drink and eat regularly. You can also ask the staff to check their blood sugar and electrolyte levels.
    • Help your loved one stay active and alert and encourage them to move around and exercise as much as they can. You can also ask the staff to provide or occupational therapy if needed.
    • Stimulate your loved one's mind and senses, and provide them with familiar and meaningful activities, such as reading, listening to music, or looking at photos. You can also talk to them, ask them questions, or tell them stories.

Resources: How can we keep patients with dementia safe in our acute hospitals?

Conclusion

Transitioning a loved one with dementia to a memory care unit is a nuanced process that requires empathy, clear communication, and strong family support. By understanding the emotional aspects, consistently communicating decisions, and addressing caregiver challenges, you can navigate this journey with compassion.

Resources

Moving a Parent to Memory Care

8 Tips to Help Make a Smooth Transition to Memory Care

How to Talk to Your Parent About Moving to Memory Care

Transitioning a Loved One to Memory, Dementia, or Alzheimer's Care

‘I want to go home' – What to say to someone with dementia in care

Family caregivers of people with dementia

How can we keep patients with dementia safe in our acute hospitals?

The Importance of Caregiver Journaling

Reporting Changes of Condition to Hospice

Eldercare Locator: a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources

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