How to make the transition to long-term care easier for residents with Alzheimer’s

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. In the United States alone, there were an estimated 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, according to a report published by the Alzheimer’s Association. As their conditions progress, many of these people will need around-the-clock care that is not able to be met at home. Their loved ones may seek the help of a nursing home to provide the safe environment and care they need. If you are considering moving a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease into long-term care, the decision can be difficult and filled with conflicting emotions. However, this decision can be made easier when the transition from home to the nursing home is made as smooth as possible. During this time, it’s important to balance the emotional and logistical factors of getting ready to move into a facility as well as sound decision-making. The following tips should be considered for providing a seamless transition to a nursing home.

Know before they go. It is always best to discuss your loved one’s preferences for living arrangements before their dementia progresses too far. Knowing their desires can help limit confusion when deciding what type of long-term facility environment would be best. If you do not have their preferences beforehand, doing extensive research can be helpful in making a decision about options. Talk with your loved one’s doctor, your family members and friends about facilities in your area. Refer to resources like Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website for more information about facility quality. When you have narrowed down your choices, visit the facilities and learn about their available medical care, services, social activities, dining services and amenities.

Have a talk. Once a decision has been made, let your loved one know. Their ability to understand may be limited, but be patient and allow them to share their concerns and ask questions. Be understanding and reassuring and avoid arguing with them about their need for long-term care.

Limit stress. Change can be a difficult experience and moving a loved one to a new location can be stressful and bring up feelings of loss, guilt and sadness. When you can, rely on friends and family for support and help. Work out a transition plan with the facility’s social worker and admissions team. On the day of the move, explain to your loved one what is happening and let them know that they will be okay.

Make it familiar. Making their surroundings more familiar eases the transition. When decorating your loved one’s room, add personal touches that may remind them of home. Add familiar themes, knickknacks, photos or color schemes from home. Furnishings or decorations from home help new surroundings feel more comfortable. Check with the admissions staff to find out what furniture and decorations you may bring from home.

Be involved. Get to know the staff at the nursing home and help them get know your loved one. Talk to the admissions staff and social worker about your loved one’s background, needs and personal preferences. Try to regularly visit and stay in contact with your loved one and their new home. Attending care plan meetings is important and will help you learn more about their health and the care they are receiving. They are also opportunities to ask questions, share your concerns and work with your loved one’s care team to resolve problems. When you can’t visit, try to stay in touch with phone calls, letters or E-cards.

Be an advocate. You probably know your loved one better than anyone else. If there are changes or signs that concern you, respectfully let their care team know. Build a relationship with staff so that you may work together as partners to ensure your loved one gets the best possible care.