Last week we talked about entering residential care. This week, the blog is about the adjustment period. Banner Alzheimer's Institute, in Phoenix AZ offers a handout that says it better than I could:
The vast majority of people with dementia have difficulty adjusting to a new home environment. For at least two weeks the person can't find things, is besieged with new people and routines and has feelings of frustration and/or anger. Here are some suggestions for helping a loved one adjust:
Visit often, even if the facility discourages this. Make the visits BRIEF. 10-15 minutes are enough for you to know your loved one is well-cared for and to give them reassurance. A 3-hour visit is going to cause agitation.
If the loved one demands to be taken home, DON'T try to explain. Look at your watch and say, "I have to go now." It will break your heart, but will minimize the behavior after a few times. Many patients start the "take me home" pleas after a 30 minute visit when they get tired. Take it as an indication that it is time to go.
Expect the person to be agitated and angry, but stop beating yourself up about it. You did what had to be done. Your loved one needs to grieve. To expect happiness is unrealistic.
Take something to do. Do their nails or give them a hand or foot massage, have a snack, listen to a new piece of music or share an activity. Once you are done, it is time to go. Have the staff divert your loved one to an activity such as a meal.
Call before you come so you know what kind of day your loved one is having. If you know they are agitated and having a bad day and if you don't think you can face it without becoming upset, don't go. Wait until later, when they are not so agitated. Agitation is contagious and your poor response will just make their already difficult mood worse.
Talk with the staff. Smile. Find the staff doing something right and complement at least one on each visit. There is nothing worse than the family who comes in with their microscope looking for flaws. They will become apparent soon enough -- we are talking about working with demented adults here. Know that the facility and staff have no magic for dealing with behavior problems. If it was difficult to manage at home, it will be worse in the care facility -- especially with 7+ other people who are also demented.
Before you leave, talk with an administrative staff member to see how things are going and what you (as a team) can do to improve care throughout the adjustment.
DO select an activity-based program! (It keeps residents alert longer.) If your loved one is not a socializer, ask the staff to let him have daily alone time, and introduce him more slowly to the group.
Last, do not let the adjustment period dissuade you from the placement. It most likely will work out.
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