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How to Help a Loved One Feel at Home in a Memory Care Program

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If you’re moving your loved one into an advanced memory care program, you know better than anyone the weight and importance of this life-changing time. Your mom or dad is likely distressed at the prospect of moving, and your family has to make significant decisions, sometimes with little guidance or outside support. With the multitude of decisions to make, you also will want to prepare for your loved one’s life after the move.

With this major change, you may find a sense of relief that your mom or dad is no longer living alone. Your loved one, however, will still be in a transitional period. This is a period of vulnerability and uncertainty. Your mom may be concerned that some of her things are missing, your father may not recognize where he is and become distressed. During this time, it’s natural to want to visit and help appease some of their anxiety, however, that’s not always the best solution. 

In our experience, here are the best ways to ease your loved one into feeling at home in a memory care program:

Connect the present with the past

As memory impairment progresses, your loved one will live in the past more than the present. When setting up your loved one’s room, focus on ways to make it more familiar and homey. Decorate the room with what your loved one loves most. If your dad admired a painting in his bedroom, be sure to hang it on the wall in his new room. If your mom always had a jar of candy in the kitchen for guests, fill that same jar, so your mother understands visitors are welcome. These examples will not only make them feel comfortable, but it will give them a sense of belonging and assurance that they are in the right place.

Having familiar items in a home also helps to reaffirm your loved one’s identity. The items may resonate with your loved one and remind them of when it was purchased, or the person that gifted it to them. Personal belongings will not only provide a sense of comfort but help remind your loved one that he or she is loved and cherished.

Visit at the right time, in the right way

Family and friends should visit often, but not in the first two weeks. It’s natural to want to help guide your loved one through this new experience, but sometimes your presence can trigger the notion of going home.  This is why we recommend you save your visits for after your loved one has settled into the new setting. Of course, this also depends on the level of memory impairment your loved one has, so before you make a plan, discuss it with the new providers and get a professional opinion.

After the initial acclimation period is over and you are visiting, try your best to remain positive and loving. Share memories and stories and keep things light.  Many of those with memory impairment mimic the emotions they see. So, be happy and smile, and you’ll likely get the same response.

Prepare for the “I want to go home” statement

To help with the transition, call your loved one frequently to reinforce that you are only a phone call away. Stop by with a coffee and treats, allowing your loved one to see a familiar face often.

When you visit, your loved one may mention home. Listen carefully, use positive language, and do your best to remain responsive to your loved one’s needs. If your dad insists that he wants to go home, do not try to reason with him, instead redirect him to another topic. Share a loving memory of your life together, or talk about a favorite pastime or hobby. Practice patience and understand that your loved one may want to “go home” for a while, but rest assured that you’ve done the right thing in keeping him safe. 

Use family and friends if you need extra support. And, remember that you are not alone in this process, the care staff is always able to help you navigate any tough or stressful situations. 

Promote social engagement

Your loved one may not understand he or she is no longer at home. To make this transition a bit easier, closely monitor the activities calendar to see what upcoming events will appeal to your loved one. If your mom is apprehensive to go alone, offer to join her. However, if she doesn’t seem interested in attending, give it some time and allow her to get acquainted with the new environment.

As your loved one acclimates to the new home, try bringing him or her to a few community activities and staying to provide support. Attend a community movie showing, join a game in the common area, or attend a class by a visiting expert. Conversing with other residents during the events will help your loved one become more social. Eventually, your loved one will learn that other residents are feeling a bit homesick as well and in search of companionship.