Moving a relative with dementia from out of state

Moving a relative with dementia from out of state is hard.

So many questions are involved in the decision. Can she no longer manage alone? Is it the right thing to do? Is it the right time? Am I breaking a promise to care for my relative at home? Will she be angry at me, feel sad, or be more confused after the move? Could moving from out of state cause a faster decline?

Our book Moving a Relative and Other Transitions in Dementia Care can help you work through these questions. It can help you assess your relative’s level of care, choose an appropriate environment, and grapple with the many details of moving a person from a familiar community and longtime medical and social support to an altogether new place.

Knowing what to do before, during, and after the move may make the process easier for you.

Before the move:

  • Know the housing options and level of care your relative needs.
  • Obtain all medical records from all your relative’s doctors, including dental, optical, audiology and hospital records.
  • Look for a primary care doctor, neurologist or other needed specialists.
  • Refill all medications and get a list of current meds.
  • Change address for national pharmacies or online pharmacies.
  • Leave old bank accounts open until a new one has been established, to receive Social Security and other deposits.
  • Open a new account and change address on checks.
  • Notify Social Security and any investment accounts.
  • Talk to Medicare about possible impacts on the Medicare Supplement plan.
  • Plan how to tell your relative about the move. 24 to 48 hours’ notice may give both of you time to be emotionally and psychologically prepared. Keep it simple and be consistent. Too many details can be confusing. Be sure to acknowledge his or her feelings. “I know this is hard for you. This is hard for me, too.” (Find a sample script for a family meeting with a relative on page 126 of Moving a Relative and Other Transitions in Dementia Care.)
  • Plan the journey. Can your relative tolerate a long car drive or flight? Will a sedative be needed? Bathroom breaks? a motel?

Making the move:

  • Watch for a change in your relative’s mood and behavior. Sometimes a person with dementia can become more confused, angry or agitated when a move is imminent.
  • If you are flying, choose a direct route with no layovers, and seats that are near the bathroom. Consider wheelchair assistance (even if your relative is relatively mobile) and have someone meet you at the airport.

Getting settled after the move:

  • Get a new state ID card, which in some states may require original birth certificates.
  • Learn about Medicaid regulations in the new state, if you think your relative may eventually need to be on Medicaid. If your relative was on Medicaid in the old state, you will need to close out coverage there before applying in the new state.
  • Review legal paperwork to see if changes are needed to powers of attorney for health care or finances.
  • Schedule appointments with new physicians to establish baseline care.
  • Some people do not react strongly to their new surroundings. When a new resident feels secure with the people and the place—which may be your home—she or he may be more accepting than you expect.

While moving a relative from out of state is daunting, most people adjust given time and a secure, nurturing environment.  If you can, give yourself time for careful planning.

Laurie White and Beth Spencer, Dementia Care Books

An expanded version of this topic is available in our book, Moving and Other Transitions in Dementia Care