Last week we talked about the caregivers and their issues with the move of a loved one from home care to residential care. This week is about the loved ones. The decision has been made. Your loved one is no longer safe at home, for whatever reason. This process can be wrenching for both of you, even when it is voluntary. How do you get your loved one into the new home with the least amount of stress? Ideally, this process started with the first diagnosis of dementia.
Talk about it early. Talk about the possibility of such a move while there is still reasoning ability. Jan and Peter talked first about the possibility of residential care right after his diagnosis. He begged her to "never put him away." Jan knew she couldn't promise this. Instead, she told him, "I will keep you as long as it is safe for both of us." You don't want to make promises you can't keep!
Cry. Likely, you are as upset as your loved one is about the idea. Go ahead and cry. Jan said, "When I cried, it gave Peter permission to cry too. It really made us feel close to grieve this together." Crying is an emotional response. Much more than talking, it will bring you together and let him know you aren't deserting him. A warning: like the talking, crying should be done well in advance of the move. It is too stressful at moving time.
Chose something close. Sue finally found a facility that worked for her mother-in-law. It was an hour away. Now, Sue finds this a great drawback. Not only does she spend far too much time on the road, she can't visit as often as she could otherwise. Norma finally settled for a place that was only five miles from her home. "It isn't as nice as some of the others," Norma explained. "And it is more expensive than some of them too, but it's close enough I can visit a couple of times a day and still have lots of time for myself. And I think I probably save a enough on gas to make up for most of the extra cost.
Consider Adult Day Care. Larry took his wife, Eve, to the Adult Day Care program that their chosen facility offered. It gave him some respite and allowed Eve to get acquainted with the place. When the next step came, and she moved into Assisted Living, both of them were more comfortable with the idea.
Just do it. Nancy wanted to involve Bill in his move. "We've always done these things together," she explained. Her support group discouraged her. "Bill will just worry and fret," they warned. The group is right. Moving involves major change. For someone with dementia, even voluntary change leads to anxiety, which increases LBD symptoms like hallucinations and delusions--and acting out behavior.
To avoid these issues, Nancy needs to keep the time up to moving day as calm and uneventful as possible. This means not telling Bill when he is moving. If it isn't talked about in the last day or so, he will likely forget any earlier conversations. Nancy can pack up and bring Bill's belongings to him after she has delivered him to his new home.
This may sound unfair, but the rules have changed. Dementia decreases the ability to understand cause and effect. Likely, Bill can no longer understand why he must move. There's also the fear of abandonment.Thus, not letting Bill know about the move is like the therapeutic fib: when it is done for his good and to avoid damaging stress, it is therapeutic.
Use a little medicine. Matthew's doctor suggested that he take a small dose of Seroquel, starting a few days before his move and lasting a week or so afterwards, while he was getting situated. . Dorothy reported that it really helped to smooth the way for the move. "Matthew wasn't nearly so upset as I was afraid he'd be," she said. Even for the family who avoids drugs as much as possible, there are times when they can be very useful and this is one of them!
Next week will be about the first weeks in residential care.
For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s & Other Lewy Body Disorders