So here you are at the end of your caregiving rope. You’ve done it by the book and you’re proud of the job you’ve done on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. You read the books, gone to caregiver conferences, engaged the family, brought in outside help, used the day care center and joined a support group.
All that and you’re still faced with the fact that it’s time to transition Mom into a dedicated memory care community. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, your health, their safety, family finances — it’s time. What can you do to facilitate a smooth transition from home to “specialized care?”
Luciana Cramer, a specialist with the Alzheimer’s Association-Central California Chapter, wrote an article, “Seven Tips for a Successful Move to Dementia Care,” and I’d like to share some of the highlights. I’ll remind you that by taking this step, you have not failed your loved one; you are doing what is necessary to improve their quality of life and yours. It may be hard, but don’t feel guilty. Feel guilty when you deprive them of the level of care they truly need. So let’s look at some of the tips that Ms. Cramer shared.
■Do Not Announce the Move in Advance. This will avoid anticipation anxiety. If at all possible (and it should be) have your loved one visit the community you’ve selected to participate in activities and socialize before she becomes a resident. Being in familiar surroundings will go a long way to help them adjust.■Use Therapeutic Fibbing: “Mom, we have to have the house fumigated,” or “We have a leaking pipe in the walls and the house will be under construction so you’ll be staying here until things are back to normal.” Make sure the staff knows what your “fiblet” is.■Use Medication Wisely: If you anticipate that he’ll be anxious at the time of the move, talk to his doctor in advance. She can prescribe some anti-anxiety meds that will help. Consider starting them on those meds about a week before the move.■Bring Familiar Items to Their New Home: I can’t stress how important this is. Their favorite chair, family photos, special paintings all go a long way to make her new room feel like home.■Don’t Visit the First Week. I know this one’s tough but it will help them develop relationships with staff and residents and help her learn that she is safe.■Take Care of Yourself: Take advantage of this opportunity to do some things for you. Rejoin your book club or the Y. Visit friends you haven’t seen in a while and don’t forget you are still your loved one’s voice.■Remember, This Will Pass: As concerned, anxious, and even guilty you may be in the early stages of this process, you have to believe that he will adjust. They will make friends, they will feel safe, and they will bond with a loving, caring, close-knit staff.
One of the things that I suggest you do after you’ve chosen a community is have a serious conversation about your loved one with the director of nursing, the activities director, and even the administrator. They should do a cultural assessment of your loved one that will tell them critical information about them.
What do they like to be called? Do they like to be touched? What is something that will always put them in a “happy place?” or an “unhappy place?” Do they have a favorite food? If you know that he loves to be called “Paisan,” enjoys a good hug, hates the Yankees, and loves coffee ice cream, you are way ahead of the game in being able to help them adjust. Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, Join the Journey.