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How to Move a Parent with Dementia to Assisted Living

How to Move a Parent with Dementia to Assisted Living

When your loved one, whether it’s a parent, an aunt or uncle, or a dear friend, begins showing signs of memory loss, it is difficult for everyone. For a while, a little extra help from family members, friends, or even an in-home service can help an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments. But eventually, around-the-clock care and more opportunities for engagement may be needed.

You may notice changes in your loved one that make it no longer safe for them to live on their own or are more than an at-home caregiver can manage. These may include:

  • Forgetting to turn the stove off or leaving water running.
  • Wandering off.
  • Showing poor financial judgment.
  • Mismanaging medications.
  • Eating poorly or not taking care of oneself.
  • Becoming increasingly isolated.

With any of these circumstances, it may be time to consider Memory Care Assisted Living for your loved one. Like Assisted Living, Memory Care Assisted Living provides that extra help and care your loved one needs. In addition, Memory Care Assisted Living is specially designed for residents with early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments.

Memory Care Assisted Living can benefit an older adult with dementia. Staff is there to care for them. Activities and programming are planned to engage them. But moving an older adult with memory impairment issues can come with challenges. A move can be a large undertaking for anyone, and it can be especially challenging for older adults with memory impairment issues. They can become overwhelmed with the idea of moving and concerned about transitioning to a new environment. There are things you can do to help your loved one prepare for and achieve a successful transition to Memory Care Assisted Living.


Plan Ahead

When selecting senior living, it’s important not to wait until there’s an emergency. Talk with your loved one about their wishes and what they want. If this isn’t possible, don’t worry – there’s still time to form a plan.

Do a little research on your options. You can select a community that offers only Memory Care Assisted Living or you can choose a Life Plan Community that includes all levels of living. At a Life Plan Community, residents have access to higher levels of care such as Long Term Care if needed.

You should visit these communities yourself before selecting one. See the space, ask about their Memory Care programming and activities, and meet the staff. Once you select a community, they can help you prepare a plan to help your loved one have a successful transition into their new home.


Select Memory Care Assisted Living

If it is time for your loved one to move to a community where they can get more assistance, Memory Care Assisted Living is what you want to look for, whether it’s a single-offering community or part of a Life Plan Community. Memory Care Assisted Living is a controlled-access, purposeful environment created with the residents’ special needs in mind. Staff cater to those needs, with a focus on the residents’ holistic well-being. Older adults living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments can benefit from a living setting that provides the care they need along with programming that engages them.

Memory Care Assisted Living provides many opportunities designed specifically for residents. Each day is planned by knowledgeable, caring staff with activities and programming tailored to keep residents engaged physically, mentally, and spiritually. This includes daily routines and opportunities to participate in normal daily tasks. Residents who live in Memory Care Assisted Living also receive assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, and toileting.


Visit Before Moving Day

Julia Buchler, Director of Assisted Living and the Care Center at Mason Pointe, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community located in Town and Country, Missouri, suggests you bring your loved one in for a meal and short tour. Buchler explains this will help them become familiar with the community.

“Your loved one may not remember it, but a visit will help,” said Buchler. “You should make frequent mentions of the community using terms like ‘new home’ and not institutional words such as ‘facility’ or ‘nursing home.’”


Include Your Loved One

Moving is overwhelming whether you have dementia or not. The physical move is extremely difficult for someone with dementia.

Debra Rhoads, Director of Assisted Living at Concordia Village, an LSS Life Plan Community in Springfield, Illinois, suggests involving your loved one but setting limits to their involvement so they don’t get overwhelmed. Rhoads recommends that you sort through something: Their clothing, jewelry, or knick-knacks. Go through the items first – you know what your loved one likes – and pick their favorites. This gives them a small amount to sort through. You can help them sort through this smaller pile by asking what they would like to take with them and letting them choose.

Rhoads also advises that as you sort through things, be sure to remove the already sorted items from the house. If you leave them in the house, your loved one might sort through that box again and again and that repetitive work could become overwhelming.


Prepare for Moving

Introducing your loved one to the idea of moving can feel daunting. Using the right terms such as “home” and talking about this as a positive opportunity can set up for a successful transition.

“It’s helpful to talk to your loved one about how the move to Memory Care Assisted Living will give them more support,” explained Rhoads. “When older adults are struggling with memory loss, they often find it comforting to know they will be somewhere where there are people to reach out to for help and they don’t have to be alone.”

After your loved one is in their new home, allow for a transition period. Some residents do better if their family members are there every day. Others are better if they have time with the staff to acclimate to the new environment. It’s important that you work closely with staff to decide which approach is best for your loved one to have a smooth and comfortable transition.


Communicate with Staff

Both Buchler and Rhoads, who oversee Memory Care Assisted Living at their communities, strongly encourage you to meet with the staff at the community you have selected. The more the staff can know about your loved one – who they are now, and what their life was like before the need for memory care – the smoother the transition can be. It’s important for staff to meet the resident where they are, as sometimes older adults with memory impairments believe they are at a different point in their life. For example, they may think they are living in their childhood or early adulthood. Memory care staff members are trained to embrace where residents are today and to not contradict them.

“It’s really important that staff and family work together,” added Rhoads. “Because the family members have so much knowledge and so much experience with their loved one and staff have knowledge and experience with memory loss, both are needed to make a move successful and to help the resident get to a place where they are comfortable or feel at home.”



Regular visits to see your loved one in their new home are important. You should continue to treat these visits the same as visits to their old home. For example, if you went to your mom’s house every weekend to help her water her flowers, find ways to continue to do this at her new home. Doing this helps make the community feel more like home.

Buchler suggests bringing tactile items your loved one can see, touch, taste, or smell. Favorite foods, old photos, and memorabilia are all good items to consider bringing to help engage your loved one. Staff can also provide assistance with visits.

“Caregivers can support family during visits and help them engage with their loved one,” said Rhoads. “Family needs to be as present as they’ve always been and wish to be. We can help maintain those relations that are so important.”


It Does Get Better

With the right community and help of dedicated staff, older adults living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments can have meaningful days and full lives. Family members and friends can continue to be a part of their loved ones’ lives, too. A little support from a care team and working together will benefit your loved one and the relationship you have with them.


LSS Life Plan Communities offer Memory Care Assisted Living. Visit our Communities page to find a Memory Care Assisted Living near you!

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