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Moving A Loved One To Memory Care: How To Address And Ease This Transition 

Wendy Briggs, Director of Cognitive Services

We often hear a question from adult children and their families as they struggle with moving a beloved senior into memory care: "What do we tell grandma/grandpa/mom/dad about why we can’t take them back home?” 

It’s a delicate topic that many families face as their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts/uncles, and family friends age. It is estimated that 70% of people over 65 will require some long-term care for the rest of their lifetime. On average, those seniors will need care for three years. Many of those will require long-term services and support due to a cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

For many seniors and their families, this is a growing concern. Seniors fear losing their independence, and their families face the challenge of ensuring their loved ones receive the best care. These discussions can be difficult and stressful. In our experience with working with individuals and their families, we’ve found that transfer trauma or adjustment trauma is REAL. However, there is hope that this will ease the distress for all. Wendy Briggs, Traditions Management’s new Director of Cognitive Services, has some best practices for addressing and easing this potentially traumatic transition.   `

Start Having These Conversations Early and Often 

We give this advice to nearly every senior living topic because it’s important and true! These are critical conversations to have, and you want to have them as early as possible so that everyone can be involved in the decision-making process and to ensure you are not making these critical family decisions under the pressure and duress of an emergency. Family discussions around safe and engaging living options as care and safety needs change early and often help reduce stress when a need to change arises. If you understand your loved one’s wishes, it makes a transition from, say, assisted living into memory care more manageable and less traumatic. Discuss and understand your loved ones living preferences. Do they prefer an urban or rural setting, for example? Do they want to stay close to the community they are currently living in, or do they like to be closer to family, friends, and loved ones? What community offerings, activities, and amenities are important to them and will make their transition easier?

Keep Your Loved One Involved in the Decision-Making Process 

No one wants to lose their sense of independence. While it is essential to have these conversations early and often, it is equally important to keep your loved one involved every step of the way. Including them in the process gives them autonomy over their decisions, making the transition much smoother for everyone. Ask lots of questions. Tour communities together. Carefully read brochures and explore websites together. Take lots of notes and refer back to them. These are not decisions to be made in a vacuum. 

Get Involved and Get to Know Your Senior Living Community

Encourage volunteering with loved ones within supportive communities to familiarize them with the community's “happenings”. This builds trusting relationships before needing placement. Your loved one will feel more comfortable and experience less stress if they are familiar and involved with their chosen community. Families should get involved as well. Get to know the caregivers. Familiarize yourself with the community's activity calendar. Seek out ways to volunteer and be involved with the community. After all, you want to continue to build traditions with your loved one. 

Make Sure Their Living Arrangements are Comfortable and Familiar 

An essential key to easing seniors into a new care scenario, such as memory care, is keeping their surroundings comfortable and familiar. Collaborate with the community to make the apartment or room as familiar as possible. Having a familiar space can ease stress and reduce trauma on your loved one as they transition and ease into memory care. 

Visit and Support Your Loved One After the Transition 

Create a family or friend calendar of on-site support as needed in the early weeks after they move into memory care. Our communities are made to support multigenerational traditions. Visiting your loved one regularly, staying up-to-date with their care plan, and offering them love and support go a long way in creating a safe, reassuring space for them to thrive. 

Communication, participation, and support are huge factors in your loved ones' continued success in long-term care. Having open, honest conversations as early as possible, including everyone in making important decisions, and supporting a familiar environment for them to thrive will help address and ease your loved one’s transition into memory care. 

An elderly woman and caregiver sitting on a couch together looking at a photo book and a caregiver holding a coffee mug