Preparing a Loved One with Dementia for Life in a Care Home

Top tips to support a difficult transition to living in a care home

When the time comes for a loved one living with dementia to move into a care home, it can be a stressful and challenging time for them. Not only that, but you and other members of your family might feel guilty and upset that you are no longer able to provide them with the care they need. This is why, for everyone involved, it is important to prepare before your loved one moves into the home.

In this post, we will explore practical strategies and tips to help prepare someone living with dementia before they move into a care home, including the day itself, and how you can offer your loved one ongoing support long after the move.

Preparing for the move

After making the difficult decision that it is time for your loved one with dementia to move into a care home, an open and honest conversation enables them to be part of the decision-making process, fostering a sense of control and understanding. If you hold back too much information it can sometimes come as an unwelcome surprise, and a sudden and unexpected change can be upsetting for everyone involved. 

Before the move, most care homes will arrange to visit your relative at home to meet them and walk them through what they can expect. During the visit, they will likely invite them to visit the home so that they can take a look around and get used to the surroundings, staff and other residents.

This introduction helps to build trust and familiarity, which should always be key considerations. To further help with this, if the care home offers adult day care, or a respite care service, these could be used so your loved one is already comfortable spending time at the home. It’s common for a loved one to build friendships with other residents during these visits, which can really help them develop positive feelings about the move.

The day of the move

When the day of the move arrives, there will likely be a lot of emotions, both from your loved one and yourself. Moving a loved one into a care home is a big moment in your lives, but one you are doing for all the right reasons, no matter how hard it might be. You know your loved one better than anyone, so try to pre-empt anything that may cause anxiety, upset or conflict before it happens. 

At the same time, it is important to be honest about what is happening, but do so with a soft and understanding approach. Familiarity is key to this transition because it offers comfort. So, do what you can to keep things consistent. Ask staff who have met your loved one to be there to greet them, and encourage them to speak to existing residents they may have already met during previous visits. 

During this time, make their room as welcoming as possible by using some of their own furniture, cherished photographs, blankets, small personal items and ornaments. Encouraging your loved one to make decisions about aspects of the move, such as choosing specific items for their room, can also instil a sense of autonomy. 

When the time comes for you to leave, it may get difficult. But, this will be easier if your loved one has received day care, or respite care, in the past. Leaving when they are engaged in an activity, talking with staff, or eating can make it a less emotional time for everyone. If you do have any concerns, care home staff will always be available to answer your questions.

Supporting your loved one in the care home

Following the move, it can be a challenge knowing how to settle a person living with dementia into a home when you are no longer around them all the time. Some may settle quickly, while it might take others a little longer. Agree with the carer team how the following ideas will work best for your loved one to ease their transition.

Create Consistency: discuss with the staff how to establish a routine at the home that mirrors their daily schedule at home as closely as possible. Also, create a memory book containing photos, stories and familiar details about family and friends. This book can serve as a comforting reminder of their life and the people who care about them. Remember, consistency can be grounding and help in easing the adjustment period.

Visit Regularly: you may want to visit regularly to make sure your loved one is settling in, but visiting too soon can disrupt the process. Try to resist the urge to visit within the first week to give them plenty of time to adjust. As hard as it can be, if you visit too soon they may think you have come to take them away. This can make things difficult when the time comes for you to leave. However, this does all depend on your loved one’s emotional needs. So, speak to care staff if you are not sure, or if you are worried about them feeling abandoned, and they will be able to advise. Once your loved one has started to settle, regular visits by family play an important role in maintaining their emotional well-being.

Maintain Connections: maintaining connections with other family members and friends are also important for emotional health. So, encourage others to visit regularly, or make phone calls or video chats. By coordinating some of these connections with family and friends you can help to ensure regular connections are sustained over a period of time and avoid periods where your loved ones may feel isolated, or cut off.

Address Concerns and Emotions: despite everyone’s best efforts to create a positive transition, it is very likely your loved one will initially struggle some aspects of living in a care home. It is important to acknowledge and validate any concerns or emotions they may express. Discussing their fears or anxieties openly can help in finding solutions and provides emotional support.

Seek Professional Advice: the move to a home can be very challenging for you and your loved one. So, in addition to the staff at the home, consider consulting with healthcare professionals, social workers, or support groups experienced in dementia care. They can provide valuable guidance on specific strategies tailored to you and your loved one’s needs at this time.

In summary

Moving a loved one with dementia into a care home can be a huge step for them and you. But, with thoughtful preparation, it can become a transformative and positive experience. As you navigate this transition, each step you take is a testament to your commitment to their well-being. Reflect on the unique qualities and preferences of your loved one, and ask yourself: How can we continue to nurture their spirit and sense of self in this new chapter of their journey?

At The Croft, our dedicated carers are experienced in providing dementia care, so we understand there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to caring for those living with dementia. We listen to the needs of our residents, ensuring personalised, one-on-one care is given so they retain their dignity and independence at all times.  As we get to know your loved one, we can continue to help you with advice and tips on how to make the transition a positive experience for everyone involved.  So, we welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you and will check-in regularly to make sure your loved one is settling.

Leave a Comment