I Have to Move Mom to a Care Community! What Do I Do?

Eileen had come to a very difficult conclusion. Because of her advancing Alzheimer’s disease, Mom had to be moved from her home to a care community. It was so hard to accept. Mom loved her home. She had been there 38 years and it was comfortable. And yet, Mom had been asking Eileen lately, “When do I get to go home?” Eileen kept telling her, “You are home, Mom,” but that didn’t seem to help. All the signs were there that it was time, but Eileen had resisted proceeding. She knew her Mom would object to the move and she just didn’t want to rock the boat.

It is probably one of the most difficult decisions that a person will make for their parent or spouse. It can feel like failure. You’re riddled with guilt. It can seem to be so unfair and unkind and rarely does the parent agree with the idea. And yet, it’s sometimes the only option when the situation has developed to the point where Mom is not safe and or she is anxious and afraid to be alone. So, recognizing the fact that every person is unique and not all solutions work the same for everyone, here are some tips to help you navigate this situation and avoid some common pitfalls.

WHAT TO SAY
Tell her that its time to move. Make it about you. “Mom, I’m so worried about you being here alone that I’m not sleeping well,” or “Mom, I can’t keep coming over every day. It’s affecting my work and I’m afraid I’ll lose my job.” Resist the urge to tell her that she is no longer capable of taking care of herself. She won’t believe you and it will feel like a put-down.

Many people are afraid of the reaction to the news that will come and keep it secret until the day of the move. When a person has a reaction to change, it is part of their coping mechanism that helps them adjust to the idea. Even if Mom can’t remember that you told her, somewhere down inside, she is making an emotional shift that will help her transition better. She may express anger or fear. It’s okay. Comfort her and validate her feelings. She needs to be able to express them. Continue to talk about the move as positively as you can and let her know you’ll still be there for her.

MOVING DAY
When the day comes, let her help you with packing. Ask her which picture she would like to bring or what clothes. If she’s really expressing a lot of fear, tell her that you feel she should just “try” the new community and that if, after a month she isn’t happy, you will move her back home. Since the concept of time and place is lost on a person that has reached this stage of the disease process, the words will reassure her but the time will not be a factor.

Plan the move to take place on a weekday around 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m.. Take her to her new place and explore the community with her. When it’s time for lunch, sit down with her and eat together.

After lunch, take her to her room and let her help you decorate and unpack. All these activities will help her start to transition. Make sure you let her lie down for a little while in the afternoon. She will be tired due to all the stimulation of the move. A rest will help her cope.

Enlist the help of the staff at the care community to engage her in the activities scheduled that afternoon. They will introduce her to other residents that are close to her cognitive level of function.

If she says she wants to go home, tell her she just needs to stay a few more days. Often when a person with Alzheimer’s says they want to “go home,” they are thinking of the home they were living in at a younger age…maybe even the family home they grew up in. The memories that feel current are often old ones.

TIME TO LEAVE
When it’s time to leave, let the staff know you’re going and they will redirect her to an activity. For some people, it’s best not to say, “Goodbye,” even though it seems like the kind thing to do. Anticipating your departure may escalate her anxiety in the moment. Just tell her you’re going to run an errand and you’ll be right back. That will seem less final and make it easier for her.

If you are worried call the community later to check in on her. They will let you know how her transition is going. For most people, it takes three weeks to three months to make this transition. When they are settled, most residents find they really like the community environment. For many of them, life at home was boring and lonely. Now they are surrounded by friends, things to do and good care. As family, you can just be there to love and support Mom through this stage of the disease with less worries and exhaustion.

As difficult as this type of move is, remember that doing the right thing for Mom to protect and shield her is a loving act. When you were young she protected you. Now it’s your turn to return the favor.

2 Comments

  1. scott
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Dwayne,

    I am grateful for your Aegis Living network and I appreciate your wisdom:

    "Often when a person with Alzheimer’s says they want to “go home,” they are thinking of the home they were living in at a younger age."

    This is a conversation I have daily with my father while he is in skilled nursing care and waiting to come "home" on Juniper Street in Issaquah.

    Something I have been able to do, through my professional contacts, that will allow my father to relive his earlier times as a sailor is to locate a catamaran in Bellingham (through Waypoint Yacht Charter Services) that will take residents out sailing next month and in September.

    Thanks for your blog and tweets.

    Stop by for potato soup any time you are in San Jose.

    Scott Rains

  2. Laurie
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Dwayne,

    I just wanted to add that adult children have the option to hire a move management company to assist them with their parent's move. On moving day, someone else is taking care of the moving details while the family is relaxing at lunch in the new restaurant. We can move someone into an Aegis retirement community in 2 days or less–from packing to moving to all settled in–clothes hung up, dishes in cupboards, beds made–no boxes!

    Laurie Lamoureux
    Chief Box Opener, Out of the Box
    http://www.WeKnowWhereToStart.com

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