The move to a nursing home can be a significant challenge for a senior, especially for the elderly with Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, you’ll discover that caregivers usually opt for nursing homes over in-house care because the majority of the cases pertaining to dementia patients require intensive care from staff members – more than what relatives and family members can offer.
Hence, as a person who cares for a dementia patient, it is one of your core responsibilities to help them adapt easily to their nursing homes. While no one can accurately forecast how long the adjustment period is going to take, there are ways you can ease your loved one’s fears, confusions, and anxiety arising from the shift to a nursing facility. Here’s what you can do.
1. Share your loved one’s habits and priorities with the staff
You have the benefit of being aware of your family member’s routine, history, habits, etc. Why not share the details with the nursing home’s staff? Often, there’ll be a face-to-face shortly after the visit where personnel will ask questions about the patient’s needs, preferences, and medications. If you don’t experience anything like this, speak to a supervisor. You can then decide to talk specific things with them, such as what your loved one likes to be called. When the staff does things that your loved one is familiar with, he/she is more likely to respond in a positive manner and adjust to his/her new home.
2. Create a familiar environment in the nursing home
Individuals with dementia can get overwhelmed when introduced to a new environment, so one of the smartest things you could do is make the surrounding recognizable. Contrasting colors are often an easy and quick method of making the environment stand out. For example, try painting chairs, doors and handrails in different colors. In addition, you can surround your loved one with pictures or portraits that trigger some of their pleasant experiences from the past. An idea is to hang up a portrait from the 1950s featuring artefacts like TVs and radios.
It is also a good idea to use wandering solutions to keep them safe in the nursing home at all times. Check out our Guide to Selecting Wandering Solutions for People with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or Special Needs for tips and recommendations.
If you are looking for tools that can make the daily lives of dementia patients easier and more comfortable, you may read our article about The Benefits of Using Sensory Cushions for more information.
3. Encourage them to participate in social activities
During the functional assessment carried out in nursing homes, a dementia patient’s cognitive function, psychosocial and motor skills are the key focus. Nurses essentially have to fill the RAI (Resident Assessment Instrument) on every person admitted reflecting their mental and physical health. Once the RAI has been carried out, make sure your loved one takes part in social activities. For individuals with advanced level of dementia, multisensory engagements such as interesting voices, tactile games and boldly colored items are handy in capturing their attention. Nursing homes that arrange such social activities score high on the resident satisfaction rate, provided the residents are interested in and taking part in the arrangements.
4. Pay regular visits, but keep them short
Usually, individuals with dementia adapt better to environmental changes if a familiar, reassuring person is nearby. As such, you might need to repeatedly remind your loved one that the nursing facility is now their new home. We also suggest spending time with them and going through memories from their past. Remind them that you leave them, and that leaving them there is as hard for you as it is for them. With that said, if your appearances increase their frustration and aggressiveness, try visiting less frequently and see if there is a change in their behavior. However, do not attempt to use it has a threat or revenge (remember, those with dementia rarely have control over their actions and emotions).
5. Redirect, reassure, and distract
Sometimes, all you need to do is distract and redirect the patient’s attention towards something else instead of the new environment. Because it’s a technique that improves with practice, do not get discouraged if your first few attempts fail to deliver the desired results. You can start by agreeing that it’s hard to make a move to a nursing home and that their reaction is completely natural. At the same time, reassure them that it’s going to be okay and distract them with an activity that leads to a pleasant experience. You can, for example, point out some flowers or beautiful birds outside or show them photos that help them reminisce pleasant memories. Also, ask the facilities staff to shift them to activities that are a part of their routine after you leave.
6. Use the technique of slow transition
Another tactic you can use is that of slow transition. You can convince the elderly to live in the nursing home for a few days and then bring him/her back home. Then you can prolong the next stay to a week, then two weeks and eventually they’ll become used to living their permanently. Dementia patients who’re impaired may even fail to realize that they are not in their real homes or forget that they had to go back to where they were previously residing. Once they begin to feel comfortable at the facility, you can reduce your frequency of visit.
7. Keep on top of your emotions
Helping your loved one adapt to a nursing home can be a very emotional task. You might have spent several years living with and caring for them in your home. So, when moving someone close, it is critical that you do not cry or display emotions like sadness. When the caregiver starts to cry, it can make it stressful for the dementia patient. If you want them to be comfortable, you’ll need to put on a facade.
That’s it. You’re now aware of the steps you can take to help dementia patients adapt easily to their nursing homes. Try building good relationships with the staff there so that you can always stay up to date about your loved ones health and make a visit when the time is right. With the right approach, you’ll find it easy to help your loved one make the move. Good luck.