Managing Moving Day for Dementia Patients: 6 Tips
Moving to a new home is always a busy and complicated event. It can also be an emotional time for caregivers and a confusing change for people with memory problems. Here are some practical tips for minimizing distress when you have to move a loved one with dementia to a care facility. (For a printable moving checklist to help you stay organized during the move, click here.)
1. Bring along favorite objects and photos
Set up your loved one’s room before arrival, if possible, with familiar items from their home. Copies of cherished photos, throw pillows and blankets, and small trinkets that can fit on a dresser or nightstand will make the new setting seem less alien and more welcoming. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you label the things you bring (including the names of people in photos) and that you leave pricey or irreplaceable items at home to avoid breakage and loss.
2. Arrange for familiar faces on move-in day
Your loved one will do better with familiar people around on move-in day, too. You, another family member, or a close friend should be on hand throughout the process. If there’s time before the move, take your loved one to the new place to meet staff members or see if they will come to you before moving day to get to know your relative. Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom, co-author of The Gift of Caring, recommends timing the move for a day when the staff members your loved one has met are on duty.
If your loved one has an in-home caregiver now, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends inviting him or her along on moving day to lend another familiar and comforting presence. You may have to request permission, as facilities may require that outside caregivers not provide care on-site.
3. Use the comforting power of food
Eckstrom also recommends arranging for favorite and familiar foods for your loved one’s first few meals in the new community. To do this, you will have to talk to the chef and kitchen staff to find out whether they can accommodate your request. You or other friends and family should join your loved one for at least one meal on the first day, and if you can stay for more, so much the better.
4. Get to know the staff members by name
On move-in day, introduce yourself and your loved one to any staffers you haven’t already met, to help create a sense of familiarity and routine. Make connections with the people who will care for your loved one in the new facility, and find out the best way to contact each of them. Getting to know individual staffers also makes communication about your loved one’s care easier over the long run.
5. Make a graceful exit
Taking your leave from a loved one with dementia can be tricky on the best of days; it’s almost certainly going to be more challenging on moving day. If you already have a departure routine that works for your loved one, you may decide to follow that familiar routine. On the other hand, you may want to leave discreetly once your loved one is settled in if you think that will minimize separation anxiety. In either care, let the staff know when you plan to leave so they can provide support after you go.
6. Get support for yourself
Finally, recognize that moving day can wring you out, too, especially if you’ve been your loved one’s primary caregiver until now. Do something relaxing after your moving-day work is done, like dinner with your spouse, a phone call with a friend, a yoga class, or some other soothing activity. Take some time to acknowledge the work you’ve done to give your loved one the care he or she needs, and then take a minute to plan your next visit.