Making a care decision for your loved one living with dementia can be a complex process. For many people, moving a loved one into their home to care for them is an attractive option – it keeps their loved one close and may be more feasible financially. Misconceptions about life in a memory care community may also deter families from pursuing that option.
When making your caregiving decision, also consider the following tips:
- Never promise a loved one that they will not move to a senior living community. You can't anticipate the breadth of your loved one's needs and what situation will benefit both the individual and the caregivers. Instead, promise your loved one that they will always be cared for and always be safe. Whatever living decision you make, those two facts will always be true.
- Contemplate the difference between living and thriving. If your loved one with dementia is living at home with you, how would their day go? Are they interacting with others? Are their days set up to support their changing cognitive and physical needs? Any person living with dementia benefits from being in an environment that minimizes their limitations and maximizes their possibilities. Social engagement also helps slow the progression of dementia, so consider that before moving your loved one into your home.
- Evaluate your home for safety. Those living with dementia are more prone to accidents and injuries, especially in places not set up with their safety in mind. The Alzheimer's Association has a thorough safety checklist for you to use before moving a loved one into your home.
If you've decided on a memory care community for your loved one, there are additional steps you can take to make the transition as low stress on your loved one as possible. Have conversations about moving, but don't continue to bring up the transition if they don't go well. Talk to the community's care team about moving your loved one in during a meal or activity. It will give your loved one a distraction and excitement for their new home.
Discuss visits with your loved one's care team and decide if visits in the first week or two would be helpful or upsetting. This transition period can be difficult, and a family member's visit may set back their progress in feeling at home. Your care team is here to make the transition more manageable, and they will check in with you often to ensure your loved one is doing well.
When it comes time to visit, keep your expectations low. Avoid asking your loved one questions about the specifics of their days or care. These questions are difficult for those living with dementia to answer, and they may become frustrated. Ask your care team for updates on diet, activities, etc.
Instead, opt for open-ended questions. Bring up statements like "the courtyard looks warm today" or "I like the music here" to help encourage conversation and storytelling. Consider bringing a favorite treat for your loved one to enjoy. Also, don’t feel like the visit needs to stretch on for a long time. Quality is more important to your loved ones than quantity, so don't feel like you have to stay for a set time if you are only getting frustrated and focusing too much on the disease.
Most importantly, understand that feelings of guilt are common after moving your loved one into a memory care community. Remember, you are taking care of them and have made a decision that prioritizes the health and wellness of both your family and your loved one. Look for a dementia support group to help you work through your feelings during this transition period.
Brightview Senior Living builds, owns, and operates award-winning vibrant senior living communities in eight states along the East Coast: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. We offer senior Independent Living, Assisted Living, Enhanced Care, and Wellspring Village®, a specialized neighborhood for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Schedule a personal visit to experience our communities firsthand.