Helping Your Loved One Adjust to a Nursing Home
Changes in the environment can be challenging for people with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. If your loved one with dementia is moving to a nursing home, try the six tips below to help him or her adjust.
Choose a Few Familiar Items and Pictures to Bring
Your space in a nursing home is limited, but it’s important to bring a few things with your loved one that are recognizable and familiar.
For example, rather than going out and buying a new bedspread for the room, bring the one from the bed at home. Does the person have a picture with their significant other? If he or she does, ask if you can hang pictures on the wall.
Provide Information About Your Loved One
You have the advantage of knowing your family member, including history, likes, and dislikes. Share that information with the staff so they know.
There will sometimes be a short meeting after admission where staff asks questions about your loved one, his or her needs, and preferences. If this doesn’t happen, ask to speak with the nursing supervisor on your family member’s hall or the social worker. You can then choose a few things that you want to share with them, such as the best time of day for a shower, what the person really dislikes to eat, or the nickname that your loved one loves being called. When you share these things, your family member is more likely to respond positively to the staff and the staff to your loved one since they know the person individually, not just as a patient.
You can also create a short life story to share with others about your dad. This can be done through writing, photos, or video, and it is a good way to help staff members get to know your family member.
Visit Frequently for Short Intervals
Typically, people with memory loss adjust better to changes if a reassuring, familiar face is near them. You may need to remind the individual several times where their new home is. Spend time in the family member’s room and go through some photos together. Remind your loved one that you love them. If leaving is initially harder, for either you or your loved one, you may want to have a staff member distract the person and then you can slip out of the door. Mealtime is sometimes a good time to do this.
Also, be aware that people occasionally take it out on family members and become very angry with them for having to move. If your visits increase the anger and frustration, it’s okay for you to visit less frequently in the beginning since you seem to trigger those feelings. However, this should not be used as a punishment or a threat. Remember that people with dementia often don’t have control over their emotions and behaviors.
Take Loved One Out After Getting Adjusted
You may feel the urge to take your loved one out for a drive shortly after moving into the nursing home, but it is usually better for your loved one to get into a routine and feel settled before doing that. Give the individual a little time to adjust to his or her new home before you go on an outing.
Encourage Participation in Activities
Maybe you’re not sure what to do or say when you visit your family member in a new facility, so consider going with him or her to an activity. Nursing homes offer several activities, and becoming involved with them can help foster socialization and provide stimulation for the mind. Going to an activity with your family member is a great way to spend time with one another and get adjusted to the facility.
May be Harder on You Than Your Loved One
The transition of someone with dementia to a nursing home is generally harder on the family members watching it than the person experiencing it. While you continue to wonder how your loved one is doing, he or she may already feel well-adjusted. You will continue to remember the way it used to be, but people with Alzheimer’s typically live in the present.
If your loved one continues to struggle with adjusting to the facility for more than 30 days, consider speaking with his or her social worker so you can work together on developing a plan to help your loved one feel at home.
A Final Note
Making the transition to a nursing home can be emotionally difficult, both for the one experiencing it and for the family members who are watching it happen. Make sure to communicate any specific concerns with the facility staff, whether it’s something small or large. They will appreciate the chance to know how to best help you.