Moving elderly parents out of their home into a memory care community can be an emotional, challenging process. During this transitional time, keep in mind this is what’s best for both you and your parent—and while difficult, this change will allow them to live their best life.
To help make the process as smooth and positive as possible, we’ve gathered five tips for a successful move.
1. Be Empathetic During Your Conversation About Moving
The initial conversation with your parent about moving into memory care may be the hardest part of this process. Ideally, try to have this conversation in the earlier stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Not only can this make the process simpler, but it allows your parent to be more involved in the decision-making, and more cognitively aware of what’s going on.
If that’s no longer an option, consider having their doctor help you with the conversation. Sometimes, the suggestion to move into memory care can be easier to accept when coming from a medical professional. Plus, their doctor can help you assess how much information about the transition your parent can safely handle.
No matter what, be empathetic during this conversation, allow them to ask questions, and be as honest as they can safely process. Know that your conversation may span several days (or weeks) so that they can process this momentous change. While you want to be positive about the beneficial aspects of a memory care community, you also want to give them space to grieve or be sad about leaving their house.
2. Help Them Prepare to Downsize
While many memory care apartments are spacious, they’re still likely smaller than your parent’s current home—especially if they live in a large family house. Before the move, help them downsize their belongings. Try the Marie Kondo method of only keeping items that make them happy, or what they can’t do without.
Make sure to check with your memory care community to see what furniture they provide so you don’t double up.
Sell or donate any unneeded items. If they have family or friends nearby, they could even gift items to their loved ones. This way, they’ll know that their belongings still bring joy to others.
3. Surround Them With Familiar Things
When setting up your parent’s new memory care apartment, fill it with familiar, beloved items. Make their new space feel like their home as much as possible. Being surrounded by their kitchenware, bedding, art, and decor can help them feel grounded and like less is changing in their life.
Also, ensure that they have belongings associated with strong, positive, happy memories. As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, these items can remind them of a reassuring, uplifting memory during the moments when they feel confused, disoriented, or afraid.
4. Be Sensitive to Any Changes
Similar to being empathetic during your initial conversation, you’ll want to be mindful of any and all changes that happen during this transition. Even if it feels like a small change to you, it may be a massive, unsettling change to someone with memory issues.
Be prepared to listen to their concerns or fears, reassure them, or help them process any new progression. If possible, try to avoid springing any surprises on your parent during this time (unless their doctor suggests not to inform them of changes in advance); try to keep change to a minimum.
Related to this: it can be tempting to buy your parent new, exciting items for their living space. But adjusting to this transition can be more than enough to process, especially for someone with dementia. Avoid gifting them a new TV or a coffee maker they don’t know how to work and let them settle into their new home and routine first.
5. Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to focus all of your energy on your parent, so that you may neglect yourself and your own feelings. Recognize any emotional difficulties with the situation. Lean on friends, loved ones or a support group to discuss this process.
Be mindful of your own health and well-being. Make sure to eat a well-balanced diet, sleep enough, and manage stress. While you aren’t the one moving, this is a transitional time for you as well. Many children moving elderly parents out of their home are also saying good bye to a childhood or beloved space. Take time to grieve that loss.
Be gentle with yourself, and recognize that you deserve love and care as well.
This Tips Will Ease the Transition to Memory Care
There’s no denying that transitioning your parents can be a difficult, emotional process. But by preparing yourself and your parent and following these steps, you can help make it that much easier.
Remember, memory care communities are a safer place for your parent as they’ll be surrounded by support and health care experts that understand their needs. What’s more, your parent (or you) won’t have to maintain a house, everything is taken care of!
Additional resources for those moving elderly parents out of the home: