In this article, we will try to guide you with some tips that may help you prepare to move your parent who has been diagnosed with dementia into an assisted living facility or a memory care community. This article will include assisted living preparation tips, strategies to address concerns that your parent may have about assisted living, and recommendations for a smooth transition.
Taking care of the elderly loved ones is a fulfilling experience, but it can become frustrating, especially if the elderly adult has a medical condition like dementia. Seniors can express erratic behavior that is hard to cope with, and they may sometimes resist treatment altogether. This may become frustrating and challenging for the caregiver and result in caregiver being burnt out or fatigued. It is essential to learn how to seek the proper professional senior care to help your elderly loved one who has dementia to better adjust to their health status, and learn how to communicate their needs. It would be beneficial to consider expert senior care from senior caregivers who understand the behaviors of elderly adults with dementia, and can provide the expert memory care as the seniors transition through the dementia phases.
As elderly adults with dementia may struggle with effectively communicating, their behavioral responses may convey the mechanism through which they communicate. Expert senior caregivers are trained to understand the different behavioral responses. Elderly adults with dementia may show signs of resistance when they feel they have lost control. Other responses include anxiety, agitation, and even aggression. By understanding the root cause of each behavior, you will be able to master their triggers and effectively manage your patient's care and environment.
Why Do Our Loved Ones with Dementia Require Extra Help When Moving to Assisted Living?
In the latter stages of our human lives, we may experience a condition characterized by the following symptoms: challenges with communicating and utilizing proper language, poor judgement and decision-making skills, difficulty performing normal daily routines, poor memory, etc.
It is our responsibility as our parent’s caregivers to observe and watch out for the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia. As challenging as it may be, it is our responsibility to understand and care for our elderly adults in a capacity that is caring, but not demeaning and undermining.
Dementia is a condition that affects a senior's mental capabilities, thus affecting their ability to carry out normal daily tasks, such as activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living. The normal tasks that are commonly affected may be due to decreased judgment, eloquence, memory, and orientation. An elderly with dementia tends to forget short-term things, may think irrationally, and even have difficulty learning new things as well as re-learning the old ones. It's worth noting that dementia is not a disease, but more so a cognitive change. As such, someone with dementia will have an extremely hard time moving from their familiar home where they’ve lived for many years, into a new assisted living home that is completely unfamiliar to them.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
- Memory loss, such as remembering recent and past events
- Difficulty with recognizing
- Difficulty with problem-solving and planning
- Difficulty with writing or speaking
- Poor judgment
- Misplacing and forgetting things
- Inability to concentrate
- Decreased mental functioning
- Behavioral issues such as mood swings, anger, aggression, or depression
- Personality change
- Withdrawal and apathy
- Inability to perform routine activities
- Difficulty in managing medicine routine
What Should You Do After Your Loved One is Diagnosed with Dementia?
There is nothing more important for you to do then to ensure that your elderly loved one with dementia receives the proper dementia care. Our parents stood by us when we were infants and as we became independent. They addressed our concerns, health issues, and never neglected or abused us. However, it's not that simple to provide such care as today's lifestyle is rather complex. With our competing priorities, we may not realize that we are not providing our elderly parents with the basic necessities and the necessary proper dementia care. We may also lose our temper, become frustrated, and yell and unintentionally abuse our parents. This is why it is so critical for us to consider local memory care facilities so that we may ensure our elderly adults receive the best dementia care by experts who truly understand how to provide the best care.
What Are Some Important Considerations for Dementia Care When It Comes to Moving to Assisted Living?
Firstly, before deciding on the proper dementia and memory care, visit the elder’s medical professional to identify the dementia condition that a given elderly individual is suffering from. No two senior citizens suffer the same dementia signs and symptoms, whether these may include vision impairment, social relations, cognitive decline progressions, or limited abilities to perform activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living.
Secondly, it's always a good idea to seek legal guidance about caring for persons with dementia. Legal permission allows for legal financial management of the elder's finances. It is also important to consider advanced directives, power of attorneys, and state-specific documentations for decisions to be made and by whom if the elder is unable to make decisions for themselves. If legal order is not sought out early, when the elder adult is still mentally and physically fit, it would be tough to properly care for them according to their preferences and wishes.
Thirdly, create a schedule for your replenishment and personal endeavors. Elderly care can be hectic, time-consuming, and take a toll on the caregiver’s health, happiness, and quality of life. Without a proper schedule for one’s self and the elderly individual, you may end up being completely wiped out from caring for your elderly loved one with dementia.
Also, do not shy away from seeking expert dementia and memory care services. You don't have to suffer depression or burnout, as is the case with most caregivers. Seek assistance as soon as possible when you feel overwhelmed. Such pressure experienced by an untrained caregiver is usually real and could subject the elderly adult to elder abuse and neglect. It's for such reason that the need for professional help from a local assisted living facility, particularly memory care facility, becomes handy.
If you choose to send an elderly with dementia to an assisted living facility with a memory care unit, or a dedicated memory care facility that provides dementia and Alzheimer’s care, then it may beneficial to ask the facility about the following questions and factors.:
- Your Elderly Adult’s Needs. Are services offered by the memory care facility in harmony with the needs of the elderly? Different assisted living facilities offer different specialized services. It's therefore important that you choose a facility that will cater to the specific current and future needs of your elderly adult.
- Qualifications of the Staff. Are the staff personnel qualified? These are the people you will entrust with the dementia care of your elderly loved one. Ascertain their qualifications for assurance of professional and personalized caring for your elderly loved one.
- Safety and Cleanliness. Safety and sanity are other key factors to consider. Elderly adults with progressed dementia tend to wander, so does the assisted living or memory care facility have wander guards? Ensure that your elderly adult would be safe inside the facility, and if they would tend to enjoy the great outdoors. Cleanliness may indicate the quality of service that an elderly senior with dementia will receive. Are the residents’ rooms and the facility’s amenities clean?
- Cost of Dementia Care Services. This is an important aspect to look for before sending your elderly to a dementia care facility, such as the memory care unit of an assisted living facility. Ensure that you can afford to pay for the care services before settling on this choice. It should be within your budget without you having to jeopardize other normal expenditures.
- Dementia Care Facility’s Certification. The dementia care facility must be licensed by the state in order to operate. This is an indication of diligence and professionalism of services offered. Some states require only assisted living licensing, while others may require a separate license to provide dementia care.
- The Location of the Dementia Memory Care Facility. It's not easy to convince an elderly with dementia to reside in an assisted living or memory care facility. Many elderly adults usually have the fear of losing contact with their loved ones and their community back home and may initially refuse assisted living. It's therefore important to choose a dementia care facility that is located within close proximity of friends and family.
Moving into an assisted living facility that provides memory care can be very difficult for all elderly adults, especially for your dementia parent, but convincing that this is the best decision can be way more difficult than the actual move. This process can be tough for the elderly loved ones and their family, not just because of dementia, but also the emotional preparation. It is normal for elderly adults to reject the idea of moving into assisted living.
When Dementia Parent Declines to Move into an Assisted Living Facility
Your elderly dementia parent may refuse to move into an assisted living facility due to a variety of factors. Elderly people may be hard to convince about change, especially when they have lived a similar lifestyle for decades.
In order for you to embark on the journey, it is important that you recognize when the right time may be for the move, so that you may begin the preparations and convince your elderly parent accordingly. However, by fully understanding their concerns, you will be able to select the best dementia senior care services for their specific needs, preferences, and situation. Most dementia sufferers will have the following concerns when it comes to moving to assisted living or memory care homes:
- The parent is used to the activities at home and does not want to leave their comfort zone.
- Fear of losing independence.
- Worries of shifting to an environment full of strangers.
- Fear that the children will leave them, and they have to live alone in the last stage of their lives.
Reasons to Help an Elderly Loved One with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Who May Refuse Assisted Living
Denial is a common feeling that we all tend to feel whenever we are told something we believe is not true. We tend to deny and stick to our own facts, even if they may be false news. Interestingly, we are not recommended to force our aging parents to accept our truth, but rather explain to them why they may need assistance, so that they may come to the realizations and understanding by themselves.
Here are a few strategies you may consider to address common reasons for why a dementia parent may refuse to transition into an assisted living facility.:
Feelings of Abandonment
Your elderly loved one may feel as though you are probably throwing them away because you do not want to care for them anymore. This is a feeling that comes whenever anyone is taken away from their loved ones and placed into a new senior living home. However, if you explain to your senior citizen about why they need and will benefit from their new residence at the assisted living facility, then they may understand. Also, as an assisted living facility is a live-in facility, make sure you visit them frequently and help them feel that you did not abandon them at all.
Fear of Losing Their Freedom and Independence
Your elderly adult may be concerned about losing their independence and the freedom they enjoyed in their homes. This is actually a myth, as assisted living facilities do not compromise on independence and freedom. Rather, the senior caregivers provide the necessary support and guidance to encourage elderly loved ones to continue to live as independently as possible.
It is also important to provide your elderly adult with assisted living facility options to pick from, so they feel that they understand that they are an integral part of the assisted living facility search process. It is important to consider their wants and needs, as they are the ones who would be relocating after all. By doing so, the seniors will not feel that their independence and freedom are taken away from them.
Ways of Helping Dementia Parents Transition into Assisted Living Facility Lifestyle
Have a detailed conversation with your dementia parent. Explain that you really care about them and you will never abandon him/her. You will continue loving them as you always did.
Here are a few of many ways to help dementia parents smoothly transition and move into an assisted living facility or a memory care home:
Seek Help from Senior Citizen’s Friends and Acquaintances
Seek assistance from relatives and friends who are close to your parents and may understand about their health conditions. Sometimes, we may be more likely to listen and understand if we hear the same news from multiple sources.
Talk About Assisted Living Facility Options Before the Dementia Progresses
Talk to your elderly adult about assisted living facility options when you notice that they are developing dementia, rather than waiting until the dementia progresses. Have a conversation with your parents to allow them to contribute their attitudes and feelings about the matter. Let them decide how they would like to go about the issue. By letting them decide how they prefer to deal with their dementia concerns, they will feel a sense of freedom of choice and a sense of control. If your parents agree to consider seeking assistance from an assisted living facility, then go on tours. Also, continue to make frequent visits after your elderly adult has transitioned. Your frequent visits would allow them to understand they are still an integral part of their family and community, and will help with their memory and cognitive conditions.
Do Not Surprise Your Dementia Parents
The most important thing is not to force your parents by making a fast and rushed move. You should not surprise your dementia loved one with an immediate decision about assisted living. Rather, you must carefully discuss the decision, and allow them to think and decide. In the meantime, consider in-home care services and companion care services to help your elderly adult age in place, until a more clear decision has been decided about the assisted living facility option. Before making a decision, you should understand the daily needs of your dementia parent, and the potential future needs. Ensure your elderly adult understand the dementia care services that would be available and provided to them, and how these services would help enhance their quality of life.
Remember to Be Honest
Being honest with your dementia parents can be very effective so that you may select the best senior care option for them. You must not hide information from them, rather, you are suggested to involve them in every step of this decision. You can talk about how much you care about their health and how assisted living facilities can provide dementia care services for their cognitive health conditions.
Explain Your Worries
Talk about how worried you are regarding their dementia and health issues. You can tell them that you are unable to focus on your work and daily life because you keep on thinking about your parent, and the constant care you provide to them. Discuss any shortcomings there may be in the care you provide, and how assisted living facilities and dementia care facilities can help ensure your elderly loved one receives the proper senior care they deserve. When they will know that you worry about their health, they will definitely give it a second thought.
Give Them A Reason for Moving to Assisted Living or Memory Care
You can talk about the social activities offered in assisted living facilities and memory care communities to overcome the feelings of loneliness and social isolation that they may experience at home. Explain how they would enjoy living with other seniors of their generational cohort.
Convince Them About an Example of Someone They Know That Has Moved into an Assisted Living Facility
This is the best way to convince your dementia loved one to move into a dementia care facility. Talk about someone they know who was suffering from the same or similar situation and how their move into an assisted living facility has truly benefitted them. Consider asking that individual and that individual’s family to share their stories about how the assisted living facility has truly made a difference and improved their quality of life and living conditions.
Take Them on a Tour of the Assisted Living Facility
This is a great way to convince your dementia loved one to move into an assisted living facility and memory care. On your visit, you can ask the senior caregiver professionals at the dementia care facility to talk about the effectiveness and care of the place that would be provided to your elderly loved one. You can also talk with the senior residents and help them convince your elderly loved one about moving in.
Talking to Your Dementia Parents During Visits of The Dementia Care Facilities
- Explain that they are not alone and always have someone to ask for whatever they need.
- Talk to the other dementia residents and ask them the questions that your parents may want to know before moving.
- Discuss the special dementia care provided at the assisted living facility.
- Ask your parents about their doubts and try to clarify it by giving clear answers.
- Explain carefully that life in assisted living is better for dementia because of specialized care.
Tips to Best Deal with Dementia Behavior in Elderly That Will Help with the Move
In order for us to understand how to best deal and care for those suffering from dementia, we should first understand what it is and how it operates.
Dementia is a cognitive disorder in which people find it difficult to remember things, communicate properly with others, think clearly, and take care of themselves. The most common symptom related to dementia is memory loss, but personality changes and mood swings may also occur. It would be beneficial to consider the following factors when discussing about their move into an assisted living facility:
Firstly, you should start by getting their attention and help them focus. They can be very easily distracted; thus, you are to ensure that you are in quiet surroundings with minimal distractions.
Secondly, as you speak, always address the parent as you do normally, and also categorize yourself by the name and relation with the loved one. For example, you could say “Mom, this is Alexis, your daughter…”
Additionally, the use of non-verbal cues, such as touch and maintaining eye contact, helps the person to focus his or her attention on you.
Thirdly, in your interactions, you should be as positive as ever possible. You should maintain a positive mindset, be very patient and respectful, even if they indicate erratic behavior. People can sense what you feel towards them depending on how you act, and they always tend to reciprocate those emotions. Thus, when we are affectionate towards those suffering from dementia, they will reciprocate those feelings towards us.
Fourthly, as you speak to them, you should be very direct, clear and use simple words so that they can better understand you.
Always use a soft, reassuring tone, and be ready to repeat the question if he or she has not understood you clearly.
You should also use distinct names of people and places to make it easier for dementia sufferers to understand and remember, as dementia does affect their memory.
Also, when asking them questions, ask simple and direct questions, and only one question at a time.
Lastly, at times, it’s not always easy. They can become very upset and erratic. When they do, try to change the topic or the environment, and maintain a sense of humor, as these tips can provide a good distraction to help balance their emotions and manage their dementia behavioral disturbance.
When they are feeling confused and unsure about themselves, respond with affection and reassurance. Most times, these techniques will help remind them of their good old days. It is important to remember that we cannot change a person. You can neither control nor change his or her behavior, and when you try to, you will be met with a lot of resistance. Thus, we should be more accommodating, loving and caring towards people with dementia when discussing any possible move to an assisted living facility that provides dementia care.
What to Look for In a Dementia Care Facility Before the Move?
Here are a few important points to look for during your assisted living facility or dementia care home tour for your dementia parent:
- 24-7 on-site medical care
- Personal assistance and special care are always available on request
- Dementia care treatment is provided by expert senior caregivers
- Staff are trained and effectively able to control challenging dementia behavior disturbances
- There is a plethora of staff for each resident, so that each resident receives individualized care
- Registered nurses are available all the time
- Availability of specific services for dementia care, such as behavioral, personal daily needs, and health care
- Planned activities to improve a dementia residents’ health, memory, and cognitive status
- Need and interest-based activities
- Transportation to assist dementia residents
- Celebration of religious and personal birthdays, anniversaries, events, holidays, and festivities
Personal Senior Care Services
- Care is provided with respect and dignity
- Care time is flexible for residents based on their needs
- Senior residents are relaxed, comfortable, and engaged in activities
- Daily grooming and personal hygiene maintenance
- Low chance of falls for facility’s elderly residents
- Regular and snack meals with a variety of healthy and tasteful options
- Pleasant dining environment that can promote socialization
- The facility supports the family to join for meal-time
- Adequate nutrition and diet plans for residents
Assisted Living Facility’s Environment
- Clean and free of bad odors
- Open indoor and outdoor spaces to move around freely
- Promotion of independence and freedom of residents
- Safe and secure residential areas (e.g., railings on stairs, handle bars and grab bars, extra handles to prevent falls, wandering guards)
- Ease to navigate around the assisted living facility’s premises
- Permission of taking in personal possessions (e.g., pictures, furniture, plants, toys, bedding, pets, other reasonable personal belongings)
As a person grows old, forgetfulness or temporary confusion is a quite normal behavioral change. Our aging parents or grandparents may experience dementia, so we should know how to observe for and manage dementia behavior.
We should be mindful of their struggles and maintain positive interactions with them when we are considering moving them into an assisted living facility. We should affectionally touch them, display pleasant manner, use clear and simple conversation, and engage them in decision-making processes that affect them. Furthermore, reminding them when they may be forgetting, and paying complete attention to their conversation and behavioral responses, indicate that we care for them. By tending to their needs, we can help them understand that they are not alone, are not abandoned, and are not neglected – even when after their move to assisted living.
Dementia parents can be very challenging at times. They might not listen and may refuse to move into assisted living facilities. We recommend you to discover the reasons for why you feel now may be the best time for the move, understand your aging parent’s concerns, and then decide what is best for your dementia parents. They can be very sensitive during the period and want more attention than usual. In the end, together you can decide the best senior care options that can improve the health of your parent, and how to manage their dementia condition before it progresses. Talk about how much better their quality of life may be in assisted living, the opportunity to socialize with other seniors and caregiver, the health outcomes that are essential as dementia does progress, and the assisted living facility’s amenities that would contribute to a better quality of life.
About the Author:
"Helping a Parent with Dementia Move into Assisted Living or Memory Care" is authored by Anisha Rao, MPP, Healthcare Consultant, Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Healthcare Professional. Anisha holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration and Public Policy, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Minor in Management of Aging Services. Anisha has extensive experience in Healthcare Services and Aging issues, including dementia care, assisted living, senior health, and nursing home care. Anisha is passionate about ensuring seniors receive the best care possible and empowering seniors to become more involved in their care planning decisions.