June Caregiver Connection: Making a Smooth Transition to Long-Term Care

Moving an individual with Alzheimer’s disease into a long-term care facility can be a very traumatic experience, not only for the individual with the disease, but also for the caregiver.  There are a variety of things that can be done to make the transition go more smoothly.

  • Approach the transition in a way that will create a positive experience for the individual. It is important that the person not feel like this is a negative move in their life.
  • Determine how much information should be given to the individual. Telling the person weeks ahead of time will result in unnecessary trauma and anxiety.  Consider sharing information about the upcoming move based on the person’s ability to understand what’s happening and their ability to handle stress.
  • Choose the right time for the move. Try to arrange the admission time during the individual’s “best” time of day.  Avoid staff shift changes or meal times when facilities tend to be loud or hectic.  Mid-morning hours are best because more staff are usually present and there is an activity the new resident can attend right away.

  • Personalize the room before admission. Decorate the person’s room with personal items such as pictures, a favorite chair, end table or bedspread.  Familiar items provide reassurance and comfort to the person when they arrive.
  • Spend some time with the individual at the time of admission. Many care facilities will make arrangements for you to have the first meal together, which can make the person more comfortable.  This is also a good time to help staff orient the person to the facility and orient the staff to the individual’s history and needs.
  • Try not to show fear and sadness. Do your best not to be outwardly upset.  Individuals with Alzheimer’s can be very perceptive of the emotions of those around them.
  • Help facility staff get to know your loved one better. Provide photographs, share stories or memories about the person, prepare a written personal history, explain their favorite hobbies, activities, and relay caregiving tips that work for you.
  • Maintain good ongoing communication with facility staff. Share your concerns and suggestions with staff so they can provide a safe and comfortable environment for the person.  You know your loved one better than anyone, so offering information will not only help the staff, but also improve quality of life for the person with Alzheimer’s.
  • Develop a visitation schedule that is comfortable for you. At first, you may need some time away to process the change, define your new role and accept the placement.  Visit with a friend or family member if it is too difficult to visit alone.  Encourage other family members to visit with you or at times when you are not able to.  This is a good way to involve the family in the person’s care.
  • Define your new caregiving role. Your role changes (but doesn’t end) when a loved one moves into a facility.  You may want to come in for meals or do an activity together.  This change can be difficult, so it is good to stay active and pursue some of your own interests as well.  Enjoying yourself in no way means that you are abandoning or forgetting your loved one.
  • Talk with others about your feelings and emotions. It is beneficial to join a support group.  Talking to others who are experiencing similar situations can be helpful.

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