Making the decision to move your senior loved one into memory care is a big step in helping ensure the health, safety and well-being of the individual. John Moniz, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, says that while the decision is never easy, there are ways to help make the transition smoother while also making the new community feel a little more like “home.”
“In a perfect situation, your loved one would be moving into memory care in the earlier stages of the disease so he or she can become familiar with the community more easily,” John explains. “However, this is not always possible, which can make the decision and the move a lot more emotionally fraught for you as the caregiver. It’s possible you’re in a situation currently where your loved one doesn’t think anything is wrong with them, or they can’t remember events from day to day. If this is the case, planning ahead to make memory care feel more homey is essential for your loved one’s health and happiness.”
John warns of the phenomenon called “transfer trauma,” which is used to describe the stress that can occur when someone with dementia changes their living environments. While transfer trauma is usually temporary and eases once your loved one feels secure at the community, it can be hard for family members to experience. Still, it’s a natural part of the moving process, and there are plenty of things you can do to help ease the feelings for our loved one and yourself.
“It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this situation,” John says. “The memory care community and staff will be your biggest supporters throughout this process. They have extensive experience in helping family members and residents navigate this milestone, and will have many tips and tools to help the new community feel comfortable and “like home” for your loved one.”
Once you’ve made the decision to move your loved one into memory care and have selected the community, sit down with your other family members (and, if needed, memory-care staff) and come up with a transition plan with a realistic timeline. If your loved one is in the very early stages of dementia and has just been diagnosed, he or she may be able to join in on part of this process. However, if your loved one has progressed to the point where they require regular care and are having significant memory issues, it’s best to not discuss the upcoming move with them at this point because it could cause unnecessary anxiety, confusion, worry and other unwanted behaviors.
Have your loved one visit for events, meals or other activities.
Before you actually make the move, experts suggest having your loved one visit the community a few times on a short-term basis. Some examples of what you can do include going to the community for a meal, visiting during a specific time, attending adult day care or even having your loved one do a short-term stay over the weekend as a “test run.” This gives staff and residents the chance to meet your loved one, and depending on where your loved one is in the memory loss journey, the community may start to become more familiar to them.
Choose familiar items with meaning.
To help your loved one settle into their new personal space, take a look around their current bedroom and select certain pieces that can help recreate that feeling. Things like their nightstand and lamp, favorite chair, bed and artwork are all good options that can provide a sense of familiarity. Take notes to help you understand how to set up everything in the new space so that it really does feel like “home.” For example, what side of the bed is the nightstand on? Does your loved one keep slippers under the bed? What small touches can you provide that will remind them of the comfort of home?
Create a floor plan.
Ask the community for measurements of your loved one’s new space so you can determine how must-have personal items will fit, and what items you may need to purchase additionally. This is also a good time for you to double-check the measurements on your loved one’s items to see if you may have any issues when it’s time to move it out of your house – for example, will the bed frame need to be completely disassembled in order to get it down the stairs?
Purchase new items in favorite colors and patterns.
Decorative bedding, blankets and throw pillows can instantly make a space feel more comfortable and homey. Choosing items that are bright, cheery and a favorite color of your loved one will add personal style to the new living space. If you’re selecting items of furniture to replace what they currently have (for example, the large-scale sofa may be too big for the spot), look for smaller items that have a similar feel.
Decorate with photos.
Having familiar faces around your loved one will help them feel more comfortable and calm. Besides choosing favorite pieces of artwork, print out photos of family members and friends and use them to add familiarity to the space. One good idea is to create a scrapbook or photo book filled with familiar memories and family history – looking through old photos is a great pastime for individuals with dementia and provides them with opportunities to reminisce.
Consider the five senses.
Did you know that music and scent are both great tools for helping someone with dementia feel more at home? Consider getting some sort of docking station or music player that can be used right away when your loved one moves in. Nothing says “I’m home” quite like hearing a favorite song playing throughout the rooms. Scent is also a powerful trigger, so think about your loved one’s favorite or signature scents (like their soap or perfume) and make sure they are available. You may also think about purchasing fresh flowers to add a beautiful smell and a bright pop of color for when your loved one steps into their new room for the first time.
While there is no perfect way to make memory care feel like “home,” there are many ways to help set your loved one up for success by making their new place feel “homey.” Following these tips will help smooth the transition and provide a sense of comfort and cheer for your loved one and yourself.
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Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham provides memory care assisted living that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community offers a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized and ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – enriching the lives of our residents every day.
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At Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, our services are designed to recognize and adapt to the unique challenges and individuality of each resident, while ensuring comfort and safety. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide a high level of personalized attention for residents in various stages of memory loss.
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