How Can I Help My Loved One With Memory Loss Adjust to Memory Care?

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“Changes in environment can be challenging for people with dementia, which can make moving to memory care even more difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the transition so both the one experiencing it and the family members who are helping it happen feel comfortable”, says Carrie Wilson, Director of Reflections Memory Care at the Ivy at Ellington

Include Your Loved One

When it comes to caring for an aging parent, most experts agree that you want to help them take an active role in their care. If your parent has dementia, however, it’s not as simple.

“It totally depends on the individual and where they’re at with dementia and accepting the reality of the situation,” Wilson says. “If the family can incorporate them and have it be a positive process that moves forward, that’s wonderful. It helps them feel like something wasn’t done to them.”

If your loved one is open to the idea, Wilson suggests visiting the community during an event or for a meal. “That can be a huge eye-opener,” she says. “Sometimes, people in that age group really don’t understand how great today’s assisted living and memory care can be. It shows them something they couldn’t even picture.”

…Or Don’t

However, there are a lot of circumstances when involving a loved one with dementia in the process isn’t possible. Often, by the time a family is looking for memory care, the person with dementia is already experiencing moderate to severe cognitive decline, which makes decision-making and any process with multiple steps even more challenging.

“Sometimes you can’t involve your loved one in the process because then the process would never move forward,” Wilson says. Maybe your mom is no longer able to identify that she has a problem and is hurt when you suggest it’s time for memory care. Perhaps your dad is adamant about not leaving the house. “It makes everyone miserable and uncomfortable.”

That’s why it’s critical for caregivers and loved ones to discuss and make decisions about the future before the dementia has progressed too far.

Share with the Staff

The memory care staff plays a critical role in your loved one’s adjustment to their new home and community. You can help them by offering information about any of your parent’s interests, special preferences, or habits. This not only helps create a more comfortable environment for your loved one, but it also helps the staff care for your parent holistically.

“When Marty, our Resident Care Director, does the assessment, she gets all the medical care data,” Wilson says. “She also does a great job at getting likes and dislikes and who that person was before — what their job was, what they’re proud of. Getting those early on is awesome because then we know not just the medical needs, but we also know what their social needs might be.”

Don’t sugarcoat things, though.

“People love to share what Mom loved, but sometimes knowing the not so great things is equally as important,” Wilson adds. “If there are things in their past that were tragic, if there are challenges in the family, if there’s depression — we want to know the whole person.”

“To have a candid conversation that includes those things can really help us,” she continues. “Then we can care for the person 100 percent because we know the person.”

Set Up the Apartment Before Move-In Day

Wilson recommends families get their loved one’s apartment set up ahead of time. Bring personal items to decorate their space and anything else that makes them feel comfortable and at home.

“Then on move-in day, all you’re worried about is moving your loved one and you can focus solely on supporting them,” Wilson says.

Don’t Stay Too Long

In many communities, staff will stop by on move-in day to welcome the resident to the family.

“I try to invite them to something,” Wilson says. “I’ll say something like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do Bingo in an hour. Will you come with me so I can introduce you to all my friends?’”

Then it’s time for the family to go — and Wilson says that can sometimes be the hardest part.

“If the resident is involved in an activity with their peers, it makes it easier.”

Memory care staff are well-versed in the anxiety people with dementia can experience moving to a new place, and they have already established procedures and activities that make the transition easier. Use them as a resource throughout the move-in process and the transition weeks that follow.

“Good, dedicated staff are essential to a successful memory care program,” Wilson says. “When you are touring communities, look for a caring, energetic, down-to-earth, knowledgeable, communicative, and honest staff. They need to know their job, do their job, care for your loved one as well or better than you would, engage your loved one in meaningful activities, handle the challenging behaviors with a professional, calm demeanor, and communicate with you every step of the way.”


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The Arbors / Ivy has been awarded 2023 Reader Raves Award as Best Assisted Living Community