Adjusting to memory care

Once your loved one is in their new home, the two of you will have a lot of adjusting to do. Like any big change, it takes time to find a new internal balance, a “new normal.” One to three months is about average.

For you. Expect a range of emotions: Sadness, guilt, doubt, and anxiety. You may feel that you’ve failed. Understand that 90 percent of families are not able to provide the necessary 24/7 care. It’s the disease that’s to blame, not you. Acknowledge that their new environment provides fresh shifts of care providers around the clock. It also gives your relative access to activities and opportunities to socialize. There are good reasons you made this choice.

For your loved one. They too will have feelings arise and be confused. It may seem that their dementia is suddenly worse. (This is a natural response to disruptions in routine. Over time the initial anxiety and agitation will diminish, although the disease will also be progressing, as it would have at home.) Listen to their feelings and acknowledge them. “I know this is hard. I don’t like it either. It’s not something we expected!” Trying to talk them out of their feelings usually backfires. And reasoning is not their strong suit. Instead, have a story in place that the family and staff all repeat: “The doctor said you need to stay here for a while.” “The house isn’t safe right now.” Don’t say that this is their new permanent home. Just let them know they are safe and that you know where they are.

Other tips

  • Follow staff guidance about frequency and length of visits.
  • Ask the staff if your relative’s behavior is normal for the length of time they have been there.
  • Participate in activities when you visit so when the activity concludes, it’s natural for the visit to end too.