Living with dementia

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Moving to long-term care

Preparing for the move

The move from home or the community to a long-term care home can be made easier for both the caregiver and the person with the disease by preparing ahead of time. If appropriate, have the person visit the long-term care home in advance so that he can become familiar with the new environment. Since many facilities' social activities are open to the public, you may find it helpful to attend a few functions prior to the move.

On moving day, take any items that might make the person with dementia feel more comfortable. Photographs, a radio, or a favourite blanket can help to personalize a room. Seeing familiar objects may also help the person adjust to the new environment.

Take care of yourself on moving day. If you can, bring a friend along or plan to have someone at home when you return so you are not alone.

What you might be feeling

As a caregiver, you will experience a broad range of emotions once the person you have cared for has moved to a long-term care home. You may feel guilty. You may feel relieved that the responsibility of providing care is no longer solely on your shoulders. You may even experience second thoughts about your decision. These are all normal reactions.

Adjusting to the new situation

It will take time for both of you to adjust to your new situation. Keep in mind that there is no correct number of times to visit the person during this period. For some people, the strain of caregiving has been such that they need a "rest" during the first few weeks after moving. Others will want to go as often as possible during the first few weeks.

Whatever you decide during this period is the right decision for you. Go as often as you want and stay for as long as you feel comfortable. The important thing is to make each visit — no matter the length or the frequency — as full and rewarding as possible for both of you.

The person with dementia will also need some time to adjust to the new environment. Try to be patient as she settles in. For some, this may take weeks or months; for others, it may be less. Communicate closely with the staff during this adjustment period.

Changes in the person with dementia

Sometimes, the person with dementia adjusts quite well to the new surroundings. This may leave you with mixed emotions — while you feel happy that he is doing so well, you may also feel slightly rejected because he seems more content in the facility than at home. These feelings are perfectly natural.

You have not lost your role as caregiver. You are now sharing the responsibility of care with others. There are bound to be some fundamental differences in the caregiving routine provided by a facility and that which you had provided at home. Remember, you were providing ongoing care at home for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but staff are not responsible for carrying the caregiving responsibilities alone. Staff members work in shifts, sharing the responsibility of caring for a number of people with other health-care professionals.

A benefit of having outside care is that you can focus your time and energy, to provide the person with a sense of belonging and love that no one else can give.

Remember that dementia will continue to progress regardless of where the person lives. Sometimes, caregivers expect that the person with dementia will improve once she is under the care of staff. When this does not happen, there is disappointment. You may find that you need to continue to learn more about the disease process and care techniques. Your local Alzheimer Society can provide information and resources to help you.

Last Updated: 04/18/12