Relocation for most people is stressful and not trivial as it is a major life event and change. For individuals with cognitive impairment and dementia it is an even more significant life event as their environment and routine all provide them with comfort, cueing, safety, and security. It is therefore important to do ample planning when relocating an individual with any type of dementia. There are many areas that need to be considered along the way as the details do matter! A detailed and individualized transition plan will minimize relocation trauma and help to foster timely and effective adjustment for all!
Some things to consider along the way when relocating a loved one:
Take your time in choosing a care community - do not rush a decision. Finding the right fit, location, and care situation long term is critical. Get guidance from a care manager to best understand all your relocation options, key considerations, supportive service providers, and potential covered services to maximize quality, efficiency, and effectiveness while minimizing costs. Remember that you want to minimize multiple relocations and make this their only and if possible last move. Accordingly, current needs and advanced planning future needs, depending upon co existing conditions, financials, and dementia type need to all be planned for and discussed.
Try to set up their new home in a similar manner to what they have become accustomed to prior to relocation. This will help to cue them to their routine, minimize anxiety, and provide them with security and comfort. Choose a favorite and familiar comforter, pillow, wall hangings that will bring them joy and help them to settle into their new space tapping into preserved memories and positive emotions.
Take a less is more approach to decorating and create balance as clutter can lead to anxiety, confusion, and present as a hazard. Aim to create a safe, comfortable, and familiar space for your loved one.
Consider colors along the way! Although yellow is often considered a cheerful color, research has shown that many people become agitated more often in yellow rooms so if an individual is more prone to aggression or agitation, it may be helpful to minimize their exposure to yellow in decor choices. Blue and green are often calming colors for those with dementia. Green is easy on the eyes and is thought to improve vision. Green is known to be the last color that most individuals with dementia lose the ability to visualize. Green is therefore a great color for entry doors top bathrooms and toilet seats to create contrast. Blue is also a helpful color for those with dementia and is universally know as a tranquil and calming color. It is thought by many that is a color that connects with core and preserved memories such as the sky or water, thus often having positive emotional response and calming effects.
Some colors can be also be used as a tool, especially prior to relocation. For example, dark blue is often shown to decrease appetite in individuals with dementia. For individuals with fronto temporal dementia, who often sugar and carb crave and at times over eat, having a dark blue plate can be used as a tool to decrease appetite. Black is often viewed as a void to those with dementia. So, having a black doormat can help to deter individuals from crossing and entering into unsafe spaces. Black can also present in a scary way to individuals with dementia so this color should be avoided when decorating. Light shades and using contrast can be also very effective tools to help individuals with dementia visualize hand rails, corners of furniture when having spatial relations challenges, and in general furnishings.
Have a detailed transition plan and timeline in place especially for relocation day drawing on positive preserved emotions, memories and preferences for dining and activities critical as all of this will minimize anxiety, stress and support timely adjustment. Planning is key! More is more in this regard!
Pick a time of the day that is best for your loved one for the relocation to take place. Generally, it is advised to avoid relocation in the early morning or late afternoon as these are usually not the best times for individuals with cognitive impairment. If a care community will not work with you on this then consider this to be a red flag for moving forward. Reevaluate the relocation and staff experience level.
Tap into their senses based on preferences by having music , television and even favorite scents and foods in their new space as ways to calm, connect, and cue. Add key components to the relocation plan!
Try to ensure that the Care community has plenty of information so that they can support as close to the same schedule and routine for your family member as possible. It is also important for the community to take a trauma informed care approach as they need to understand where your loved one has been and what they have experienced in order to understand where they are today and where they will be in the future. This is critical for tapping into preserved memories and effectively using therapeutic redirection and dementia communication.
Try to shelter your loved one from the packing and actual moving aspects as much as possible as some of this and leaving their home can be stressful and lead to anxiety. For those with significant short term memory impairment reminding about the move and talking about it often can be stressful. Talk with a care management expert to understand more about best approaches and preparation.
Because relocation is a stressor for an individual with dementia be sure about the care community when relocating and again plan for this to be their only move if possible. it is not a good idea to relocate an individual multiple times as it can have negative cognitive and health consequences.
Doing advanced care planing with a care manager is important to find the best long term fit based on current and future care needs, expressed wishes, preferences for care, cultural components, and affordability.
Proactive and detailed planning with knowledgeable experts will lead to success for all as the details do matter!
Finally, no matter how hard you plan be prepared for some complaints and some adjustment on the part of your loved one. Give this time and realize that you’ve made the best choices possible for them and they will in fact adjust. Care managers can often help in limiting transition trauma through proactive planning and detailed transition timelines. Reach out if you need assistance. The rode is best travelled with others!