Relocation can be a huge stress factor for any of us in life. As hard as we try to be organized, the disruption that comes from moving to a new home can lead to increased anxiety in the most ideal situations. Our brains like familiar surroundings, routines, and order, all of which help us feel safe and secure.
When we relocate our loved ones with dementia to a new memory care facility it can be unsettling and may lead to emotional stress. The good news is there are practical steps you can take to limit emotional stress and transfer trauma for them. It is doable!
When to Announce the Move to Your Loved One
Under ideal circumstances, we want to get people with dementia involved in their relocation process from the start, but because of the nature of dementia, that level of participation is not always feasible.
To avoid creating anxiety early-on in the location process, do not announce the move to your loved one too far in advance. By not telling her (or him) that they will move in the next month or weeks ahead you promote a calmer state of mind—you avoid negative emotions that could advance to extreme behaviors.
In the worst-case scenario, if you feel your loved one’s emotions will agitate and that they will put up resistance, consider making announcement of the move to your loved one just a few days before the physical move, or even the day of the move.
Reduce the Surprise Factor
Telling your loved one that they will be relocating to a new memory care facility before you have strategies in place to reduce the surprise factor can lead to emotional stress and create transfer trauma that may continue after the move has taken place. Tactics to reduce the surprise factor help to familiarize them with their new home before the move day arrives.
Visits to the new facility help people with dementia gain a sense of familiarity and comfort in the environment and community. Talk to the staff and plan visits around scheduled, enjoyed activities. Provide the staff with personal information about your loved one before the visits so that they can connect with them on a more personal level. This builds relationships and trust between the staff and your family member, which provides familiarity and can diminish fear and anxiety on move day.
Consider seeking respite services at the facility for an overnight stay. Make this stay personal and fun for your loved one. Talk with staff to plan favorite meals or activities throughout the stay. Do not bring up the impending move to your loved one at this point. Instead consider saying that you have some business to tend to in the area (you do…it involves preparing them for the move) and that you feel they would enjoy a one day and night stay at the home. This is a great way for him or her to get to know staff, residents, and the facility environment before moving. This could be a major step in preventing transfer trauma.
Begin addressing the move with your loved one once you feel they can process the information and cope, ideally after several visits to the memory care facility. You know them well, so you are the best judge of this timing. You may still decide that it is necessary to wait until a few days before, or the day of, to address the move.
Address the move using short-term language. If you present the upcoming relocation to your loved one as a short-term or temporary move, you may be able to encourage them to go for one week. Once the move happens, you can then stretch the stay out to two weeks or more, and eventually, they may drop the idea that the move is temporary as they settle into their new home.
When addressing the move with your loved one, use reassuring words and address the facility as “your new residence, community, or friends.” You will want to include the word “temporary” if you are presenting the move as short-term.
Listen to your loved one. Empathize and validate their concerns but avoid trying to convince them that the move is going to be perfect for them. By listening, you may hear key words that clue you into fears and anxiety that you can help with—or share with staff specialists who can assist.
Reach out to Social Workers and seek Transfer Programs
Reach out to social workers, managers, and seek out transfer programs. These roles and programs are designed to work as advocates for people with dementia to prevent transfer trauma. Specialized staff devote themselves to whatever they can do to help residents navigate and adjust to their new environment while including the patient to the highest degree possible. They also encourage the best care and communication amongst the community.
We are Here to Help
There is much more to moving your loved one with dementia to a new memory care home than preparing the person before the actual relocation.
As we continue our series on Relocating a Person with Dementia, we will talk about the final step: how to make the transition easier after relocating a person with dementia
If you are relocating to the Round Rock, Texas area, and you are trying to make the move as stress-free as possible for your loved one, we understand that it can be challenging.
If you are a caregiver and would like to talk about the best options for relocating your loved one, give us a call at 512-399-5089. We can help you through every step of the way.