The Trauma of Moving to Dementia Care
My mom is in total denial of her dementia/alzheimers. She now needs to go into assisted living. How on earth do I minimize the trauma of going? We have visited the location, actually gotten on their bus and gone with the group to a brunch outing. While in the facility (assisted living) she looked at me, said "Do these people live here?" I said "Yes" then she replied "Im not going to." Thanks for your suggestions.
As the daughter of someone with advancing dementia, usually the best way to minimize the "trauma" of a forced move to a care facility is to do everything you can to make the move quick and smooth. Someone with dementia serious enough to warrant an involuntary move is likely no longer able to personally make these kinds of important decisions and will usually not cope well with having extended advance notice or a chaotic moving day.
That said, no two people are alike. While some families choose to move in furniture and personal items and decorate the room in secret prior to a move, others know that their elder will adjust much better when they are an integral part of the planning and moving process. You know which approach would probably work best for your parent.
The thing to remember when moving a parent, with or without dementia, is that the adjustment is one the senior has to make. You and other family members can be positive and encouraging, but you can't make the adjustment for your mother.
After the initial shock, many dementia care residents settle in quickly and do well in the predictable routine of a good dementia care residence. Some may never truly come to terms with the move. And, of course, there will be someone on every rung between these two extremes. There is no way to know with certainty how things will go with a non-voluntary move to assisted living or dementia care.
Of course, all of the above posits that you have the legal authority to make these decisions for your mother, whether or not she agrees.
Legally, a person is assumed to be competent to make - or refuse to make - these kinds of decisions unless something has triggered the legal system to find them no longer capable. This might be through a court proceeding, such as a guardianship hearing, or by the declaration of one or more doctors under the terms of a Power of Attorney document.
If your mother is still legally competent, she can - and probably will - refuse to consider moving to the assisted living residence. Legally you cannot compel her to move.
No assisted living residence can force someone to live on their property in a non-secure area, nor should they try. Residents who have been "persuaded" by their loved ones to sign a lease and move to assisted living always have the right to walk out the front door unless they are not legally competent and have beeen placed in a locked dementia care facility.
Some residents will reluctantly stay, but will be unhappy for the duration of their stay. Others will eventually adjust and be content. There is no way to know in advance how things will go with a non-voluntary move to assisted living.
One especially sainted daughter we know tried regularly for five years to convince her mother to move to a nice assisted living residence. Mother would have none of it, even though it would have made both her life and her daughter's life easier.
As far as Mother was concerned, "easier" somewhere else was no substitute for staying put in her own home thanks to the indentured servitude of her daughter. Because she hadn't crossed the "line" to obvious incompetence, no one was able to legally force her to move.
Eventually Mother's mental and physical health did decline to the point that she could no longer fight the move to a secure dementia care residence. Luckily, her daughter held her Power of Attorney, so it wasn't necessary to do anything more than have Mother's doctor state that she was no longer able to make decisions. Without that Power of Attorney, had Mother continued to refuse a move, daughter might have had to ask a court for guardianship. That would have been messy.
As it was, Mother's emotional adjustment period was prolonged and difficult, and her daughter suffered the expected amount of unjustified guilt. But Mother also wore clean clothing every day and ate regular balanced meals. If she wandered at night there was staff to keep an eye on her. Had she moved earlier, when her thought processes were more flexible, Mother might have had an easier time adjusting. In the end, she eventually did settle in and the initial trauma was forgotten.