Senior woman bending over and hugging her grandsons arm

Explain what’s happening

Change can be very disturbing for many people with dementia, so before the move explain simply and gently where and why they are moving. You may need the support of a health professional to have this conversation.

If at all possible, introduce the person with dementia to the new facility gradually so the place becomes a little more familiar and a little less confusing and frightening. However, this is not always possible, especially if the move has to be made quickly.

Some people like to compile a ‘care guide’ which gives a brief background of the person going into care, and outlining their daily routine, likes/dislikes, what may trigger distress and what soothes/comforts. Include activities the person enjoys and is able to do, and who the key people are in this person‘s life.

Another suggestion is to make a small photo album with short pieces of text to explain who/what is in the photo, this will give the care facility a way to get to know the person and develop a rapport with them.

Keep as much familiarity as possible

Ahead of time have the person’s room ready with a few photos and familiar items such as recognisable pictures or paintings on the wall, and familiar bed coverings. Keep the room simple so the person is not overwhelmed.

More things can be added as time goes on as appropriate. Label all personal items with large, easy-to-read identification. Check if the facility has a labelling service as this may save you some time.

Expect a period of adjustment

During this initial moving stage it will take time for both the person with dementia – as well as you – to adjust to the new situation.

You should expect a period of adjustment, but people do settle. Many people with dementia actually do better in a structured environment because they feel more secure and get more stimulation. Staff at care facilities are skilled in assisting people to become comfortable in the new environment. Make a time to meet with the activities staff member so they can know what may help settle the person you have been caring for.

Visiting during the adjustment period

There is no right number of times to visit or length of time to stay during this settling period. Some people want to visit a lot during this time, while others will want to take time out to rest and gain their own strength and process their own feelings. Talk with facility staff if you have any concerns and need support during, or at the end, of a visit.

A good tip is to leave just before a meal or tea break so the person with dementia has something positive to move their attention to.

Take care of yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself when the move takes place. Residential staff will be looking after the person with dementia, so think about who’s going to help you during this time.

It will be important to think about who may be able to offer support, both on the day of the move and as everyone adjusts to the change. Ask for help from family or friends, or your local organisation.

Particularly in the early days it may be good to have something positive planned immediately after you have visited such as meeting a friend, or going to a movie.