Navigating the Transition: Top Tips for Moving Individuals with Dementia into Long-Term Care

Transitioning from the familiarity of home to long-term nursing care can be particularly challenging for individuals with dementia and their families. The journey requires careful consideration, specialized support, and a deep understanding of the unique needs associated with dementia.

Nursing homes are often thought of as a last resort, but in some cases skilled care is necessary for the people living with dementia in the later stages of the disease. The majority of people want to remain at home for as long as possible, and some may have even asked their family not to send them to a nursing home. However, if a loved one with dementia has severe symptoms that put their health and safety at risk or you, as the caregiver, is unable to cope, a care home may be required. 

More than 40% of nursing home residents nationally are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease, related dementia or cognitive impairment, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If this is a decision that you are contemplating for your loved one with dementia, below are some important tips and considerations.

  1. Seek Dementia-Friendly Facilities:
    When researching long-term care facilities, prioritize those with expertise in dementia care. Look for facilities that offer specialized programs, staff training, and dementia-friendly environments tailored to the unique needs of individuals with cognitive impairments. These facilities are equipped to provide personalized care, support meaningful engagement, and create a safe and supportive atmosphere for residents with dementia. St. John’s has a specialized program called Beyond Memory for people living with dementia who need long-term care services. Focused on creating moments of joy every day, residents are supported to continue embracing life regardless the stage of memory loss.
  2. Create a Familiar Environment:
    Moving to a new place can be disorienting for individuals with dementia. To ease the transition, recreate elements of familiarity in their new living space. Bring along familiar items such as photographs, favorite objects, and mementos that evoke positive memories. Arrange the room in a familiar layout to reduce confusion and promote a sense of comfort and security.
  3. Establish Routine and Structure:
    Consistency and routine are essential for individuals with dementia as they provide a sense of stability and predictability. Work with the care facility staff to establish a daily routine that aligns with the individual’s preferences and habits. Consistent meal times, structured activities, and regular social interactions can help reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
  4. Communicate Effectively:
    Effective communication is key to supporting individuals with dementia during the transition to long-term care. Use simple language, speak slowly and clearly, and maintain eye contact to facilitate understanding. Allow ample time for responses and be patient and empathetic in your interactions. Validate your loved one’s feelings and concerns, and reassure that he/she is safe and being provided proper care.
  5. Foster Meaningful Connections:
    Social connections are vital for individuals with dementia as they provide a sense of belonging and purpose. Encourage visits from family and friends, participate in group activities, and facilitate interactions with other residents. Engage in reminiscence activities that tap into long-term memories and encourage storytelling and sharing. Meaningful connections can enhance quality of life and promote emotional well-being.
  6. Provide Ongoing Support:
    The transition to long-term care is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires continuous support and adjustment. Stay involved in your loved one’s care journey, attend care plan meetings, and communicate regularly with the care facility staff. Advocate for your loved one’s needs and preferences, and collaborate with the care team to ensure he/she receives personalized and compassionate care.
  7. Practice Self-Care:
    Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally and physically demanding, especially during times of transition. Prioritize self-care and seek support from family members, support groups, or professional caregivers. Take breaks when needed, engage in activities that bring you joy, and do not hesitate to ask for help when feeling overwhelmed. By caring for yourself, you will be better equipped to provide the support and care your loved one’s needs.

    Transitioning from home to long-term nursing care can be a challenging journey for individuals with dementia and their families, but with the right support and preparation, it can also be a positive and enriching experience. By approaching the transition with empathy, understanding, and patience, individuals with dementia can find comfort, support, and a sense of belonging in their new care environment. Remember that you are not alone, and there are resources and support networks available to help you navigate this journey every step of the way.