Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Easing the Transition

Transitioning from home to a residential care setting, such as an assisted living facility or nursing home, can be challenging for both caregivers and care recipients.

Here's how to make the move easier:

Do due diligence. Caregivers need to have a high degree of comfort in their selection. The quality of these settings varies greatly. Your decision should be based on three important factors: Is there a dementia care unit staffed by professionals with specific dementia training? Is the facility close enough to your home and/or work to allow for visitation at a level that is best for your family? Does the facility meet the specific medical, social, therapeutic and emotional needs of your loved one?

Understand the emotions at play. An individual with dementia may not be able to fully appreciate the nature of the event or the long-term implications of placement. He may react to your emotional state during the move. Also, the new surroundings can be overwhelming and confusing, but this will subside in a few days or a week. Give him time to acclimate and to get used to the staff.

Provide input. Share your extensive knowledge of your loved one with the staff, including the unit nurse, social worker and nutritionist prior to admission. Employees need time to learn about your loved one's medical condition, temperament, behavior patterns, likes and dislikes, etc.

Talk about it. The level of disclosure to your loved one about the upcoming move is a decision you must make based on your knowledge of his ability to understand this information. If you think it will help to talk about it each day for a couple of weeks prior to the move, be sure that he has a chance to express his concerns and fears. Be patient and understanding. Offer reassurance of your ongoing commitment and plans for regular visitation.

Prepare the room. Plan to have the room set up before your loved one moves in. Put in familiar objects, but nothing of value that could be misplaced or damaged. Label his clothing and personal items as well.

Be by his side. Accompany your loved to the facility for the actual move, and repeatedly explain that he will be okay and that you are there to help. You may want to stay for the day and have dinner together at the residence. When it is time to go, explain that you have to leave for a while, but will return as soon as you can. Assure him that he will be fine.

Ask for extra attention. Introduce your loved one to the employee who will be available during the first shift that he is there alone. Ask the staff to tell each subsequent shift that he is new to the facility and needs some special consideration, kindness and reassurance.

Check in regularly. Monitor the care of your loved one on a regular basis, and advocate on his behalf with the staff and administration.

Think about yourself. Tap your network of family and friends for emotional comfort. And seek support from others who have been through this situation. The facility may host a support group on site or look for a support group in your area.

For more information, please go to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America website.

Q: My 78-year-old father is experiencing the early stages of dementia. What can I do to minimize his frustration?

A: First, be sure that your father has been thoroughly assessed by a physician and that he is properly diagnosed. In some cases, dementia symptoms are caused by a treatable medical condition. If your father has been diagnosed with a progressive (irreversible) dementia, continue to pay close attention to his behavior and his complaints—and report any changes to his doctor. The doctor may propose treatments that will have the effect of reducing feelings of frustration.

As a family caregiver, you will have many opportunities to manage his experience to help reduce frustration. It helps to stick to a daily schedule. Program...


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