A question we often hear from adult children and their families as they struggle with the concept of moving a beloved senior into memory care is, “What do we tell grandma/grandpa/mom/dad about why we can’t take them back home?”
It’s a delicate topic that many families face as their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts/uncles, and family friends age. It is estimated that 70% of people over the age of 65 will require some sort of long-term care during the rest of their lifetime. On average, those seniors will require care for 3 years. Many of those will require long-term services and support due to a cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
For many seniors and their families, this is a growing concern. Seniors fear losing their independence and their families face the challenge of ensuring their loved ones have the best possible care. These discussions can be difficult and stressful. In our experience with working with individuals and their families, we’ve found that transfer trauma or adjustment trauma is REAL. However, there is HOPE for easing the distress for all. Wendy Briggs, Traditions Management’s new Director of Cognitive Services, has some best practices for addressing and easing this potentially traumatic period of transition. `
We give This advice for nearly every senior living topic because it’s important and true! These are incredibly important conversations to have, and you want to have them as early as possible so that everyone can be involved in the decision-making process and to ensure you are not making these critical family decisions under the pressure and duress of an emergency. Having family discussions around safe and engaging living options as care and safety needs change early and often helps reduce stress when a need to change arises. If you understand your loved one’s wishes, it makes a transition from, say, assisted living into memory care easier and less traumatic. Discuss and understand your loved ones living preferences. Do they prefer an urban or rural setting, for example? Do they want to stay close to the community they are currently living in, or do they prefer to be closer to family, friends, and loved ones? What community offerings, activities, and amenities are important to them and will make their transition easier?
No one wants to lose their sense of independence. While it is important to have these conversations early and often, it is equally important to keep your loved one involved every step of the way. Including them in the process gives them autonomy over their decision. This will make the transition much smoother for everyone. Ask lots of questions. Tour communities together. Carefully read brochures and explore websites together. Take lots of notes and refer back to them. These are not decisions to be made in a vacuum.
Encourage volunteering with loved ones within supportive communities to familiarize them with the “happenings” of the community. This builds trusting relationships prior to needing placement. Your loved one is going to feel more comfortable and experience less stress if they are familiar and involved with their chosen community. Families should get involved as well. Get to know the caregivers. Familiarize yourself with the community's activity calendar. Seek out ways to volunteer and be involved with the community. After all, you want to continue to build traditions with your loved one.
An important key to easing seniors into a new care scenario, such as memory care, is keeping their surroundings comfortable and familiar. Collaborate with the community to arrange the apartment or room to be as familiar as possible. Having a familiar space can ease stress and reduce trauma on your loved one as they transition and ease into memory care.
Create a family or friend calendar of on-site support as needed in the early weeks after they move into memory care. Our communities are made to support multigenerational traditions. Visiting your loved one regularly, staying up-to-date with their care plan, and offering them love and support go a long way in creating a safe, reassuring space for them to thrive.
Communication, participation, and support are huge factors in your loved ones continued success in long-term care. Having open, honest conversations as early as possible, including everyone in making important decisions, and supporting a familiar environment for them to thrive will help address and ease your loved one’s transition into memory care.