As people move through the stages of dementia, more dementia care is required. Some people in the early stages of memory loss recognize their need for more assistance with personal care and activities. However, many other people with memory problems don’t, because their insight into their own behavior and needs has been impaired due to brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, small strokes, or similar illnesses.
That means it’s usually the family of the person with memory loss who will recognize the need to move, find a place, and make the final decision to move a relative. Our book Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver’s Guide can help you think about the issues involved in moving a relative to residential care, and give you practical ideas for making this an easier process.
But how do you know when it’s time to consider a move? Although there are no magic signs to tell you “this is the right time,” care partners often move a relative with memory loss to residential care for one or more of the following reasons:
- It is no longer a one-person job and no other family members are available.
- The care has become too overwhelming and exhausting, frequently due to incontinence or being up at night.
- Your relative with memory loss is no longer safe in her current residence.
- You are unable to keep up with both family and work responsibilities.
- Emergency and crisis situations for you or your relative have arisen.
- You or your relative has become ill or injured.
- The current level of services is not enough, is too expensive, or is too difficult to arrange and sustain.
- Your relative no longer recognizes her home or family.
- Everyone is telling you that it’s time to move your relative.
If you and your family are having one or more of these experiences, it may be time to start investigating other care options, including residential care homes. Even if none of these things is happening in your family, advance planning can give you the widest range of alternatives. You may find that selecting a place gives you peace of mind, even though you may not need it for a long time.
Many kinds of care are available, and your choice may be complicated by the fact that names and licensing categories of residential care vary from state to state. Your Area Agency on Aging (find yours here) can help you sort out what kind of care you are looking for and what it is called in your area: skilled nursing, assisted living, a small group home or some other arrangement. They can also help you clarify whether you need to find a general setting for older adults, or a setting that is specifically designed for people with memory problems or dementia. When you have narrowed the field, you can start contacting residential care homes that you think will meet your family’s needs.
Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver’s Guide offers a useful worksheet, “Choosing a Residential Care Setting: Things to Look for, Questions to Ask.” Among the criteria it helps you evaluate are the environment, the cost, staffing and activities, medical care, discharge plans and care plans, family programs and support, and end of life care. This tool from California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform can help you evaluate skilled nursing homes.
Moving is not easy! Our book can guide you through the challenging process of visiting prospective care residences, talking to your relative about the move, planning and making the move, coping with after-move reactions…and it will reassure you that yes, you are doing the right thing. Our goal is to help you make a choice that works for everyone, and helps your relative have a happier, more engaged life than before.