6 Ways of Helping Your Loved One Adjust to a Nursing Home

Changes in the environment can be challenging for people with Alzheimer’s or another dement If your loved one with dementia is moving to a nursing home, how can you help with that transition? Try these six tips to help him adjust:

Woman kissing the top of grandmother's head
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1. Choose a Few Familiar Items and Pictures to Bring

Your space in a nursing home is limited, but it's important to bring a few things with your loved one that is recognizable and familiar.

For example, rather than going out and purchasing a new bedspread for your father's room, bring the one from his bed at home. Does he have a picture of his wife and him on the wall at home? Ask the facility about hanging it in his new room. If he is particularly attached to a book about fishing, bring it along.

2. Provide Information About Your Loved One

You have the advantage of knowing your family member, their history, their likes, and dislikes. Share that information with the staff.
Sometimes, there will be a meeting shortly after admission where staff will ask questions about your loved one, their needs, and their preferences. If this doesn't happen, ask to speak with the nursing supervisor on your their hall or the social worker. You can then choose a few things that you want to share with them, such as the best time of day for a shower, what they really dislike to eat, or the nickname that they loved to be called. When you share these things, your loved one is more likely to respond positively to the staff and the staff to them since they know them as a person, not just a patient.

You can also create a short life story to share with others about your loved one. This can be done through writing, photos or video and is an effective way to help staff members get to know them.

3. Visit Frequently for Short Intervals

Typically, people with memory loss adjust better to changes if a reassuring, familiar face is near them. You may need to remind them several times that this is their home. Spend time with them in their room and go through some pictures together. Remind them that you love them. If leaving is hard initially, either for you or for them, you may want to have staff distract them and then you can slip out the door. Sometimes, mealtime is a good time to do this.
Also, be aware that occasionally people take it out on family members and become very angry with them for making them move. If your visits increase his anger and frustration, it's okay for you to visit less frequently initially since you seem to trigger those feelings. However, this should not be used as a punishment or a threat. Remember that people with dementia often don't have control over their emotions and behaviors.

4. Wait Until They're Adjusted to Take Them Out

You may feel the urge to take them out for a drive shortly after they've moved in, but it is usually better for your loved one to get into a routine and feel settled before you do that. Give them a little time to adjust to their new home before you take them on an outing.

5. Encourage Participation in Activities

Maybe you're not sure what to do or say when you visit your loved one in a new facility. Consider going with them to an activity. Nursing homes offer several activities, and becoming involved in them can help foster socialization and provide stimulation for their mind. You can go with them to the exercise class or the music program. This is a positive way to spend time with them and help in their adjustment to the facility.

6. This May Be Harder for You Than for Your Loved One

Often, the transition of someone with dementia to a nursing home is harder on the family members watching it than the person experiencing it. While you continue to wonder how your loved one is doing and if they are sleeping and eating well, they might already be adjusted and feel at home. You will continue to remember the way it used to be, but people with Alzheimer's typically live in the present. If this is the case for your loved one, may you be able to take comfort in it?

If your they continue to struggle with adjusting to the facility beyond 30 days, consider speaking with their social worker so you can work together on developing a plans to help your loved one feel at home.

A Word From Verywell

Making the transition to a nursing home can be emotionally difficult, both for the one experiencing it and for the family members who are watching it happen. Be sure to communicate any specific concerns with the facility staff, whether it's something little or big. They will appreciate the chance to know how to best help you. 

1 Source
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  1. Alzheimer’s Association. Residential care.

By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.