The days after a family moves their loved one into a Memory Care Community can be a challenging time with many emotions and expectations. Here are some helpful tips for understanding and managing the next steps to take after the move, both for yourself and your senior loved one.
An Emotional Time
First off, recognize this is an emotional time for all the family members, particularly those who were the most involved in the caregiving. A spouse whose entire mission has been to care for their life partner now has 90 percent more time on their hands, time when they often run over in their minds when they could have done better. Their emotions will be different from a family member who has been an important member of the support team, but wasn’t as involved in the direct caregiving. The best advice is to be gentle on yourselves and each other. Be satisfied that you have accomplished an important transition, and this is a life event for many in your family. It is the passing of an era, a bereavement and emotions will be raw.
When to Visit
Second, anticipate the question of how often and when to visit your loved one in the days after the move. You will hear of people who weren’t allowed to visit their loved one for a week or two after the move. This isn’t exactly true, because visitation is entirely the family’s right and choice, and no one can dictate visitation rules, except for things like pandemic related health concerns. Having said that, the question of when and how often to visit is situation dependent. It depends on how the resident will react to the family’s visit. For many people, the visit will be smooth and trouble free. It is often true that the move is harder on the family than on the new Memory Care resident. In other cases, such as when the new resident will become more agitated as a result of the visit, it may be more prudent too wait for a few days after the move. For example, the new resident may demand they be taken home, or get angry with the family member for their situation. In this case it may be wise to give them a week to become more acclimated to their new environment. And it is wise to have a strategy for how you part with the new resident. Time your visit so that you can leave the facility when they are going to a meal, or to an activity, so that your transition away from them can be less stressful.
Anticipate a Decline
Third, be prepared for your loved one to have an apparent cognitive decline after the move. This will not be a result of any health deterioration. This is because your loved one’s deficiencies are being revealed by the move to a new environment. Consider the fact they now have to figure out where the bathroom is, or the route to the dining room. Before they had memory pathways from living for years in their former home. Now they have to use their problem-solving skills and sequencing to accomplish these simple tasks. They will be more confused than normal and that may be alarming until you consider the circumstances. Usually it takes about three weeks for people to adapt fully, but every case is different. Many adapt quite quickly, and really enjoy the new environment. Others can be less than happy for an extended period.
Advocate for your Loved One
Be prepared to be an advocate for your loved one. This does not mean you should be a controlling presence—far from it. You need to partner with the management of the community in the spirit of cooperation. Remember that management can’t be everywhere, and the caregiver workforce aren’t all of the highest quality. But you also need to go into what Ronald Reagan was famous for saying: Trust but Verify. Gather information by visiting your loved one at different times of the day. There are usually three work shifts, and they can be very different. Make connections with your loved one’s principal caregivers, and get phone numbers. Communication is important. Also remember that no place is perfect, but by being a good advocate you can help ensure your loved one gets the best care.
Keep your expectations realistic. Memory Care is an end-of-life environment, with particularly difficult challenges for staff. Remember that you aren’t paying for one-on-one care. There will be falls. Falls can happen at any time, even with a caregiver or loved one standing right next to them. There will be a lot of annoying circumstances, from more important things like occasional medication errors, to minor things like lost clothes and personal items. Most of these circumstances will be forgivable, things you can overlook in the interest of knowing which battles to fight, and which can be corrected by alerting management. Save your energy for what I think of as unforgivable sins: neglect and indifference that could potentially rise to the level of abuse. You’ll know it when you see it, and hopefully it will be very rare.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Assisted Living, Independent Living, or Memory Care in the Austin Texas area, please call Michael Gill at 512-630-7133.