Making the decision to place a loved one in dementia care home is never an easy one. However, when the effects of dementia become too much for the family or caregivers to handle, dementia care facilities can provide an alternative that betters their quality of living while easing the responsibility from family members. To determine whether dementia care is the best option for it, it’s important to consult your loved one’s therapist and/or health care professional. Speaking to a dementia care specialist will put your mind at ease and allow you to confidently make the decision whether assisted care is right for your family member’s particular situation. Your dementia therapist will point you in the right direction and give you more information on dementia care facilities in South Africa. Livewell is South Africa’s leading personalised and specialist dementia care facility that ensures a memory-care focused lifestyle to address the individual needs of residents.

Once all the technicalities are wrapped up, and you’ve found a dementia care facility for a loved one, it’s time to prepare for the move. This is often an emotional time and can bring about added tension and anxiety for all parties. It’s important to accept the changes openly and to remember that things will get easier with time. 

Elise Whitcher, a lifestyle coordinator at Livewell Estates based in Bryanston in Johannesburg, gave us some tips on what families should look out for when choosing to move their loved one into a dementia care facility. “Before embarking on your search for a suitable dementia care facility, have a clear idea in your mind of your loved one’s present abilities. You do not want to settle on a facility that is not able to cater for your loved one’s present level of ability, but rather on one that will maintain present ADL’s (activities of daily living) and at the same time be equipped to care as the disease progresses,” says Elise. She also suggests that you “Pay more than one visit to the facilities and go at different times of the day and, if possible, in the evening. This will give you an opportunity to observe different staff members.”

Here are some before-moving tips from dementia care specialists to help make the transition easier:

  • Choose the right dementia care facility for you – It’s absolutely crucial that you do your research. Ask friends and daily for recommendations. Visit the facility. Even take your loved one to the facility beforehand to assess how they feel about it. It’s also important to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. Remember, this is a big commitment and it’s worth putting the time in to make sure you’re making the right decision beforehand. It will save you lots of time and worries later.

  • Work with dementia therapists to ease the transition – Chances are the dementia care specialists at the facility they’re moving to, have experienced many new residents moving in before you. They’ve been through this many times and have probably seen it all at this point. It’s a good idea to ask them for assistance or advice if you need it. Whether you’re unsure of what to pack or are worried that your loved one will find certain parts of the transition difficult, the facilities staff might be able to guide you. It’s important to give the staff as much information about your family member beforehand; things like special needs, detailed medicine lists, and background information are vital.

  • Remember it will get easier – It might seem difficult in the moment, but it won’t always be that way. Your parent or family member will get used to their new environment and it might even be a better situation for them in the long term as they will get the care they need. The rest of the family will also adjust and can now look forward to visits and cherish time together even more than before.

The moving process

As you get closer to moving day, you need to start the moving process. Here are some ways that you get the moving process going:

  • Label your loved one’s items – People with dementia can have trouble understanding their surroundings and sometimes a resident may walk into another resident’s room thinking it’s their room. Due to this, things often go missing. By labelling your loved one’s items, if anything does go missing, it saves a lot of trouble finding it.

  • Add familiar touches – When decorating your family member’s new room, made sure to add familiar touches from home. Decorate the room with some of your loved ones favourite items; whether that’s something small like family pictures or big things like their favourite couch.

  • The power of music – Music therapy is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety (And moving to a new environment definitely brings about a lot of added stresses). Either make a playlist of your family member’s favourite songs and give it to the dementia care facility staff or bring a CD or 2 that they enjoy. Let the staff know to play those songs when your loved one is experiencing stress or anxiety as a way to calm them down.

Moving Day

Once the moving day has arrived there are a few other things you can do to smooth the transition:

  • Moving day – On the big day, follow your loved one’s normal routine as much as possible. Plan the move around their best time of day – if they’re the most at ease in the morning, rather plan to move early in the day so that they have time to ease into the environment when they feel their best. Try your best to stay positive and not be too emotional about the move as this can trigger your family member to feel uneasy.

  • Give your loved one time to adjust without you – Especially in the first few days, it’s important to give your loved one the space to adjust to life without you. Give them the space to get used to the facility on their own before you visit and allow them to adjust to things at their own pace. It’s better for them to get used to routines first before you take them on outings.

According to Elize van Graan, a lifestyle coordinator at Livewell Estates based in Cape Town, South Africa, here are some of the ways they help residents feel at home when moving into Livewell:

  • People with dementia need to feel safe and feel like they belong. We assist by building trust and having a “go-to” person for them. They need someone in the building that they feel connected to. We spend extra time with new residents and let them feel at home while supporting and reassuring them.

  • They need time to get used to their room, their carers, their mealtimes and their environment. We assist by giving them a tour around their new home and introducing them to the family at Livewell.

  • 1:1 sessions are good; whereby the carer visits their room and caters for their needs.

  • Gradually easing them in by introducing them to the group by placing them in a group with compatible people to prompt them to connect and build relationships.

  • Gradually inviting them to join activities helps new residents not feel left out.

It may take some time for them to adjust to their new surroundings but the key is to be patient. Remember why you’re doing it and that putting your loved one in a dementia care facility allows them to be well looked after and cared for by highly-trained specialists. If you’re looking for a dementia care facility in South Africa, Livewell offers specialist dementia care in Johannesburg and Cape Town.