Transitioning a senior loved one into memory care requires a delicate choreography and balance as you determine the “best way” to move into the new place, decide what should go and what should remain behind, and even how often you should wait – or not – before visiting.
Let Your Loved One & Memory Care Staff Lead The Way
In most cases, your loved one’s level of comfort or agitation will determine how soon or how often you should visit.
Also, trained memory center staff have wonderful insight into whether your presence seems to soothe or unsettle their new resident, or what times of day seem best for him/her (which may vary in the new setting from what you were used to at home).
Feel free to check in with the staff to learn more about how your visits affect your spouse, parent or relative.
At first, more may be more
Often, visits from you and other loving, familiar faces help to ease the transition from home or an assisted living facility into a memory care community. In the beginning, these visits may need to be more regular to help the new resident settle in.
Regular visits from the ones they love assure new residents they are not being forgotten or abandoned. Your presence proves you meant it when you said, “we’ll visit you often,” and that can provide peace of mind.
Then again, sometimes less-is-more
There are exceptions, however, to the above. Some new residents have a harder time settling into their new home and need more time before they are ready for a visit.
When well-meaning visits immediately after a move cause more homesickness instead of less; or more agitation than calm, or emotional goodbyes, ask the staff if you should consider waiting before your next visit. This can lead to emotional and traumatic goodbyes.
If it seems early visits are detrimental to the resident’s ability to settle in, administration or staff will recommend a modified visiting schedule. It may be that remaining absent for a full week or two is enough for your loved one to “re-anchor,” after which regular visits are better appreciated.
NOTE: It can be heartbreaking if your loved one falls into the category of “less is more” on post-transition visits. Let’s be honest, while regular visits from loved ones can help your loved one with the change, those visits are just as likely to help you transition into a new life.
If it turns out you need to take a visiting break in order to facilitate the new resident’s transition, consider this your opportunity to adjust to your new life as yourself,rather than a full-time caregiver.
It may be all about timing
Often, residents settle in so well, and become so instantly engaged in the routine of routine, calendared social events, we realize that it wasn’t your visit that triggered the agitation, it was the fact that it coincided with a favorite music class or crafting activity they enjoy during that period.
Establishing the best days and times for visits, with respect to your loved one’s “optimal time of day” or the center’s activity calendar, could be the key to more satisfying visits.
Tips For Visiting A Loved One With Dementia
Depending on how your loved one’s dementia progresses, visits may increasingly become a challenge.
Prepare yourself and other family members for more successful visits by reviewing the following tips:
Only one or two at a time
The temptation to come in “reunion format,” especially when family is visiting from out-of-town is a natural one. However, this may be too overwhelming for someone with dementia.
Instead, plan for only one or two people to visit at a time, perhaps staggering visits over the course of the collective group’s visit. This keeps things simple and focused.
Do a photo album review
Hopefully, you put together or brought along some great photo albums to provide a comforting sense of “Home” in the new living space. Photo albums are a great way to spend quality time, reflecting on the past and hearing family stories you may not have heard before.
Learn to revel in the silence
Our culture is a busy – and talkative – one. We don’t always thrive in silence, hence the term awkward silence. However, as memories fade and those with dementia have a harder time finding the right words (aphasia), conversations get shorter and shorter – or more challenging to follow.
Use this opportunity to enjoy the sanctity of quiet and the simple, physical presence of someone you love. If the weather is nice, take a walk together or sit with a beautiful view and see if things like birds, trees or beautiful flowers elicit a notice or verbal acknowledgment. If not, the silence can become a welcome respite from the outside world.
Don’t expect recognition at every visit
Questions like, “Do you know who I am?” or trying to reinstate who you are can be very upsetting for those with dementia.
Be prepared for visits when they know you, and those when they don’t, for stories remembered and stories forgotten. Finding ways to connect positively where they are each day will lead to higher quality visits with your loved one.
Remain as positive as possible
There is no doubt that anger, frustration, resentment, etc. can be tangible at the unconscious level.
Try your best to remain as positive (or neutral) as possible during visits to prevent agitating your loved one. That being said, it’s also okay to cut a visit short if you need a break, and it’s also encouraged that you honor and be present with your loved one’s feelings when s/he expresses sadness, grief, frustration, etc.
Visiting Loved Ones In Memory Care
A transition into memory care is a big one for everyone involved, not just the new resident.
Be gentle and patient with yourself – and your loved ones – as you work to find the visiting routine that’s “just right” for the well-being of all involved.
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