Moving a Loved One with Dementia into a Memory Care Community

Recommendations from Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care to ease the transition on moving day 

senor woman with daughter in memory care

For most older adults experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, there will come a time when they are no longer safe to live independently.  This means that families and loved ones must decide between continuing with home care or relocating to an assisted living community.

If your family has decided to that the best path for you is to relocate your loved one to a memory care community, it is natural to be worried about how best to handle the transition. The key is to focus on helping your loved one feel safe and secure in their new environment.

Use guidelines below to ease the transition for your loved one and to make moving day go as smoothly as possible.

1. Understand the emotions

The decision to move your loved one can understandably be accompanied by guilt and apprehension. However, it is important to remember that for the person with dementia, the most important part of ‘home’ is not the walls or the physical address – it is the feeling of having support immediately around them.

Your loved one with dementia relies on the people around them to feel safe, secure and comfortable. This means that if you aren’t feeling confident in the decision, they won’t either.

To help smooth communication with your loved one on moving day, focus on bolstering the following needs:

  • Need to feel safe
  • A sense of belonging
  • Community

2. Avoid Overwhelming Statements

With a big move underway, it can be tempting to try to explain your reasoning or feelings about the decision to your loved one. However, it is important to remember that dementia impacts a person’s reasoning and processing skills – if you try to convince your loved one that they have to move because they are unsafe or unable to manage their own affairs, you will only be met with resistance.

Here are some phrases that might confuse or agitate your loved one and are best avoided:

  • “We all feel that your house is no longer safe for you and we are helping to move you to assisted living. ” – This may make them wonder, what happened to my home? Why isn’t it safe?
  • “I am so upset that you won’t live in your home anymore.” – Have confidence – you have made this decision based on what you believe is best for your loved one. By sharing that you are sad or unsure, your loved one will take on a sense of insecurity,
  • “This is your new home.” – This could cause fear, confusion and feelings of being unsafe for your loved one.

3. Describe what is happening

So what should you say to your loved one in order to help them feel secure in their new living environment? Use descriptive, positive statements about what is happening and where they are going. Stay positive and focus on assuring them that they will be safe, supported, and will belong in their new community.

Some examples of helpful phrases include:

  • “We just want to let you know that we are all going to a beautiful place today.”
  •  “All the people there are kind and supportive.”
  • “We are sure you’ll feel safe and comfortable there, but you let me know if it’s not working.”
  • “You have your own place – you belong.”  (Avoid saying, “This is your new home”)
  • “This place is full of people who will care for you. You have delicious meals here!”

Here are some accessible ways to describe what a memory care community is to a person who has Alzheimer’s or dementia:

  • A nice place
  • A place with a lot of caring attendants to be sure people have everything they need
  • A place that smells good
  • A place with a lot of happy sounds, music, laughter
  • A place with beautiful décor and lighting
  • A place within their familiar city/town
  • A place where your family and friends will love to spend time with you

4. Create a Partnership

Despite your best efforts to make your loved one feel comfortable with the move, they may still resist the transition to a memory care community. Try not to worry if your loved one complains about their new living situation; instead, reassure them that you are on the same page and try to redirect their attention to a positive activity.

If your loved one is agitated, tell them you appreciate them telling you how they feel and then suggest another activity such as taking a walk around to see what you can find out. It’s OK to say that the situation isn’t permanent – in fact, permanence can be scary for people with dementia. You can reassure your loved one by saying, “we are just testing things out, you let me know if it’s not working.”

5. Seek Advice

Whether you are deciding if a move is right for your loved one, are anticipating a move or are struggling during the transition, a dementia specialist can provide guidance and support. Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care Team is here to help with any challenges related to caring for a loved one who is experiencing dementia.

To learn more about the Center for Dementia Care or to schedule a consultation with a dementia specialist, call 415-449-3700 or contact us online today.

Superior memory care living is provided at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, adjacent to Seniors At Home and JFCS’ offices in San Francisco. Find out more >