Relocating a Person with Dementia: Tips for Physically Transferring to a Different Memory Care Facility

May 12, 2020 | Living in a Community

This article is part of a 4-part series on relocating a memory care resident to another state or location. Find the rest of the series below.

Choosing a memory care facility from another state
How to prepare a person with dementia for relocation
Questions and answers about Medicaid and assisted living in Texas

Transferring your loved one to a different memory care facility may stir up some stress regardless of your best laid out plans, but there are ways to minimize disruption on the actual moving day.

Create a Move Day Timeline

Do not involve your loved one with dementia in the physical packing and moving stages of their transfer as this may lead to anxiety and agitation. For this reason, a quick move that does not involve days away from home is optimal.

Where will your loved one stay while the packing and moving are taking place? Consider recruiting a close friend or family member to complete the physical move while you keep your loved one occupied. You can, however, reverse these roles. You can pack and complete the physical move yourself, and the caregiver (that your loved one knows well) can occupy your loved one for the day.

The key piece to this is to nurture a sense of calm in your loved one as the move is unfolding. Create what feels like an outing and return your loved one to their new space at the end of the outing.

Plan the steps of the move day precisely—starting with the time you will pick up your loved one from the facility, step-by-step, through the time they will be introduced to their new living space.

Arrange the Move at an Optimal Time

Plan to move at an optimal time of day. Generally, early morning hours are busy in most care facilities, so you might want to avoid moving at that time.

If your loved one is at their best mid-morning and they struggle as sundown approaches, plan to start to the move mid-morning or mid-afternoon to avoid stressful disruption.

To dodge confusion, stick to your loved one’s normal routines throughout the day, especially with the timing of meals, medications, and bed-times.

Make arrival arrangements with the facility to ensure your loved one has time to spend in the facility before they are introduced to their new living space. This gives you time to make their space personal, but most importantly, it gives your loved one time to have a meal, meet staff, and partake in activities. This helps to build a sense of belonging and purpose in their new home.

Important “Little Things” to Do on Moving Day

Little things in life are invaluable to most of us. Little things are easily digested and practically go unnoticed—yet, they build up a sense of wellness that leaves us with the feeling of I want to be here.

One little thing that can help your loved one feel at home is music. Music soothes anxiety. As you introduce your loved one to their new living space, consider playing a CD of their favorite music.

If music is not a good option, consider tuning in the television to a favorite show. It may not be as soothing as music, but it is a welcome distraction that can help a person feel as if they are “right at home.”

Food is another little thing that can bring a soothing sense of ease to moving day. Work with staff or the kitchen team to see if they can include your loved one’s favorite food in the next meal or two at the new facility. If allowed, supply your loved one with a stash of their favorite diet-appropriate snacks. This will help them to feel a sense of comfort in their new living area.

Make things look and feel familiar in the new living space. Less is more for those suffering from memory loss. Clutter can add to the confusion in a person with dementia, but, when the person sees their personal belongings in their new space, it can bolster a sense of calm. Try to copy prior layouts in the room and use some favorite items to decorate. Include a beloved quilt or bed covering, or a preferred rocking chair, as well as treasured photographs and trinkets displayed on a shelf or ledge.

Mental Focus on Moving Day

Be prepared for complaints. Even as you have carefully laid out your loved one’s living arrangements, they may still utter dissatisfaction. Do not argue with your loved one, instead, be prepared to highlight the good points of their new residence and then direct their attention to something else more familiar. Try talking about their favorite belongings or memories. Music or television comes into play here as it can help direct attention away from discontent.

Your loved one’s doctor may prescribe medications for the actual move day but do so with much caution. The use of some popular sedatives can add to the confusion and cause increased anxiety. Your role on moving day is to provide reassurance, comfort, and enjoyable distractions, all of which are healthy holistic options that do not lead to drug-induced confusion.

Your loved one will need time to adjust to their new location, so do spend time with them their first day, but remember to allow them to adjust at their own pace. Some older adults do better once they are left alone with care staff in the new environment.

You have worked hard to choose a memory care facility, and you created a plan that eliminates much of the stress of the actual transfer. Know that any stress that does occur in your loved one is typically short-term in nature and will diminish once your loved one acclimates to their new surroundings.  Check with the care facility before your physical move-in date to help with the transition and give you personalized guidance for your loved one’s move.

Help and Advice

There is much more to moving your loved one to a new memory care home than the physical transfer itself.

As we continue our series on Relocating a Person with Dementia, we will talk about how to prepare your loved one before relocation, and 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 in the process of planning for a safe and reduced stress move for your loved one, we understand 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.