Preparing to Move a Parent with Dementia


Unfortunately, when you have a parent or any loved one who begins to show signs of memory loss, it can be incredibly heartbreaking and scary. For a while, when you first notice the signs or perhaps when your loved one receives an official diagnosis, you may be able to help them around the house or hire part-time in-home care.

Eventually, your loved one may need a higher level of care.

Some red flags indicating your parent shouldn’t be living alone include leaving the water running or the stove on, wandering off, or problems with financial judgment. Mismanaging medication, not taking care of themselves or growing increasingly isolated are other signs to watch for.

At that point, you may decide it’s best to consider memory care assisted living or a similar living environment.

If that’s a decision you’ve come to, the following are some tips as you prepare to move your parent or loved one.

Don’t Wait Until There’s an Emergency

Of course, we want our parents to live independently as long as possible, particularly if that’s what they want and they express it to you. That’s not always the best idea, however. Be proactive in your planning and start looking for a good memory care facility early on. Don’t wait until there’s an emergency.

You’ll give yourself time to learn more about the options and the levels of care, and you can visit communities before you decide on one.

If you feel like you’re in a time crunch, you may not be able to make the best decision.

Involve the Whole Family

You may have siblings and other family members who are part of the decision to move your parent. You want to get everyone on the same page as far as the community you choose, your timeline, and how you’ll speak to your parent about it. You don’t want to overwhelm your parent, who’s already dealing with dementia.

Try to stick to a similar script when you do have a conversation about it, and you can keep emphasizing the points from that when your parent needs to hear it. Be very concise and try to use similar wording to one another.

Of course, you want to be mindful of who you involve in the conversation if, for example, someone in the family doesn’t agree with their diagnosis or tends to be more combative in dealing with your parent. Collaborating whenever possible is best, but it’s not always an option.

When you have a conversation with your parent who has dementia, do it in the morning to avoid sundown syndrome. During the morning, older people are sharper mentally and less likely to get agitated or angry.

Listen and Be Empathetic

You may know that it’s the safest, best decision for your parent to go to memory care, but that doesn’t mean they feel the same way or understand your reasoning or rationale. You should try to be empathetic and practice active listening.

Really hear the fears and concerns of your parent to see if there’s anything you can do to address them.

Emphasize the Benefits

When you’re preparing to talk to your parent about their new living environment, focus on the positives. Maybe they’ll form friendships with other people, and they’ll have the comfort of being with a compassionate staff, for example. There might be activities they’ll be able to participate in as well.

Just talk about the present. Consider only the short-term in your conversation and not the long-term.

Even when you prepare for the conversation and you’re confident you’re making the right decision, you should prepare that your parents’ initial response will be no.

Personalize the Space

You’ll probably have some restrictions on what you can bring to the community, but as much as you can, try to prepare the space and personalize it in advance of your parent’s arrival. You want to make the space look and feel as much like home as is feasible.  

Don’t Let Your Guilt Overwhelm You

It’s nearly impossible not to feel guilty about moving your parent into memory care, especially if it’s not what they want. The reality is that you shouldn’t feel guilty because you’re doing something necessary to improve their safety and quality of life.

If you’re feeling very overwhelmed by it all, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

You might join a support group or talk to a therapist. You should remind yourself as many times as necessary that what you’re doing is an act of love.

Self-care is critical and will help you navigate a difficult period of adjustment.

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