Change can be very hard on someone with dementia. It can trigger stress, which can elevate symptoms and make for a very difficult transition. But, there are some things you or your caregivers can do to help mitigate additional pain with moving a dementia patient to another state or facility. Some quick tips for easing the transition include:
- Having a thorough but flexible plan
- Sticking to their routine the day of the move, as much as possible
- Keeping their favorite or familiar things close by for comfort
When the day comes for moving a dementia patient, keep calm, plan ahead, and get plenty of help to get the move done fast and still be able to support the person with dementia. This will help it go more smoothly.
Why Might Someone Transfer a Dementia Patient to a Different State?
There are many reasons you might need to move a person with dementia to another state. Here are some of the most common:
- The primary caregiver needs respite care, and there is no one available in the current state willing or able to help.
- The patient’s condition has progressed, and they now require more specialized care than what is available in the current state.
- Care is cheaper in another state— it can vary greatly depending on where you live.
While it’s a major change that can really shake up someone with dementia, it’s often worth the risk to get your loved one the care they really need at a cost they can afford. Just make sure to follow some of our tips to ease the transition and make it as smooth as possible.
What Happens When You Move Someone With Dementia?
A series of 13 articles via PubMed observed the health effects of relocating a person with dementia. There was a very common theme among the various studies, finding a recurring pattern of two tell-tale things:
- A decline in physical, mental, behavioral, and functional well-being
- Higher levels of stress
Some of the symptoms of dementia include memory problems, getting lost in familiar places, and major changes in mood or behavior. Changing environments is something that triggers all of these and causes them to spiral into even worse symptoms.
While the studies found that there was an overall decline in well-being after a move, it’s important to note that not everyone experiences the same effects. Some people may only experience a mild decline, while others may see a more significant change. It all depends on the individual and how they respond to change— something that’s different for everyone.
How Does Change Affect Dementia Patients?
An elderly person suffering from dementia has many challenges that affect how their brain processes and emits information. During the initial stages of Alzheimer’s, they are often greatly affected by memory loss, and therefore it is important to have familiar furniture around. This will keep the individual in contact with the surrounding environment.
As the illness progresses, some patients experience hallucinations. They could even be unaware of their surroundings, which might be confusing, especially when that environment changes suddenly or frequently. So while change can affect dementia patients very differently, there are a few things you can do to help facilitate a safe and comfortable environment:
- Keep photos of family members around in frames or bulletin boards. Don’t change them often to avoid confusion.
- If they’re in a senior living community or memory care unit, decorate their room with as many items and furniture as possible that are from their prior home.
- Include their favorite blanket and some realistic stuffed animals, so they feel comforted and don’t get too lonely.
- Don’t change the layout of their room or bathroom— this small change can be a major factor in worsening symptoms.
When Is the Best Time to Move Someone With Dementia?
The Alzheimer’s Association says that the best time to move someone with dementia is when they are most stable. This may mean both mentally or physically or both. Because a move can take both a physical and an emotional toll on someone with dementia, it’s important to do it at a time where they aren’t being forced to move or are in a bad place in their disease.
Sadly, many times it is a rapid worsening of symptoms or a physical injury that triggers the need to move them to another state or facility— in that case, it is unavoidable, but you can still try to mitigate some of the stress with a few key things.
9 Tips for Moving Someone With Dementia
Not only is moving a burden for the majority of people, but it also becomes harder for those suffering from dementia. A person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia might not be able to realize that they need to move, which then falls onto the family members and caregivers to figure out. In this case, the process of planning and executing a move can be complicated, stressful, and very time-consuming.
However, we have some very helpful tips for you during this tough transition. First, a few things to consider before deciding to move someone with dementia.
- Are you moving for cost savings or better care?
- Will the move disrupt their care substantially?
- Do any family members live near the new location ? Or will they be relocating?
- Can you send someone beforehand to scout the area?
- How expensive will moving costs be?
- Will the move be worth it in the end?
It’s very important to sit down with your family and the caregivers or facility responsible for the patient’s care currently and determine the best plan of action. Once you decide the move is the best option for their care, you can try some of these stress-relieving tips before and during moving day.
1) Have a Thorough Plan
This includes everything from what time you’ll be leaving to what will happen when you arrive at your destination. Make sure everyone knows their role in the move and that there is a clear understanding of the plan. The less confusion, the better.
2) Stick to Their Routine if Possible
If they’re used to taking a nap at 3 PM every day or eating dinner at 5:30, try your best to stick to that schedule as closely as possible. This will help minimize anxiety and confusion.
3) Downsize and Pack Things Early
The more stuff they have to pack and move, the more confusing and overwhelming it will be. Help them sort through their belongings well in advance and only bring what’s absolutely necessary.
4) Keep Familiar Items Handy
Be sure to pack their favorite clothing items, stuffed animals, books, etc., and have them readily available if they feel stressed and need something familiar to calm them down.
5) Move Things Without Them Around
If possible, move bigger pieces of furniture and boxes ahead of time so they’re not around when it’s time to go. This will make the actual moving process less chaotic for them.
6) Try to Give Them Options
If they’re having a hard time with the move, try giving them some choices along the way. This could be something as simple as what color shirt they want to wear or what route they take to get to the new house.
7) Keep Them Involved As Much As Possible
Encourage them to help with packing their belongings or even just labeling boxes. This will help them feel like they’re part of the process and in control rather than feeling like everything is being done to them.
8) Be Patient and Understanding
This is probably the most important tip of all. Moving is a very stressful time for everyone involved, so it’s important to be patient and understanding with your loved one. Things will probably not go perfectly, but that’s okay. Just take a deep breath and remember that you’re doing this for them.
9) Be Flexible and Prepared to Stall
Even with the best-laid plans, there’s a chance that things won’t go as smoothly as you’d like. Be prepared to stall or even turn back if necessary. The most important thing is that your loved one feels safe and comfortable.
Getting the Memory Care Your Family Member Needs
If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, you might be able to manage their care at home with the help of a few caregivers. However, as the disease progresses, they will eventually need more specialized care that you can’t provide at home. That’s where memory care comes in.
Sunflower Communities has an amazing memory care program that gives people with dementia the support and care they need no matter what stage of dementia they are in or what symptoms they may have. Let us help you or your loved one get the care you deserve. Schedule a tour with us today!