The retirement community where Mom lives is closing the secure unit where Alzheimer’s patients lived, so we spent a day moving Mom to a room in another part of the facility. Even though we went from one area of the building to another area (which is also where she plays bingo and goes to the hairdresser), it’s amazing how discombobulated she quickly became.
I had already spent two previous visits touring her around the new area and showing her the new room. However, the day of the move ended up being challenging in helping her acclimate to new surroundings.
I had arranged a particular time for the move with the retirement community’s social worker so that I could be present with Mom. Immediately prior to the move, I went to her room in order to set it up. At that point, the staff had not made Mom’s bed; thinking that the room would be more inviting if that was done, I snagged one of the nurses and asked for help. I also hung up a collage of family photos on the wall that Mom had created almost two decades ago, and placed the trinkets that Mom had won in bingo on the nightstand by the bed.
With that much in place, I went to meet Mom and the social worker who would be helping us move the other items (TV, clothes, rocking chair). When I got to the secure unit, I found Mom in tears. She wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, so I proceeded to try to cheer her up by talking about the new room and the surprises (the photo collage) that I had already placed there. Mom’s mood began to brighten, and we went back to her room to inventory what still needed to be moved.
The social worker joined us and said she would bring the bulk of Mom’s items if I wanted to take Mom to her new room. To help Mom make the transition, I put the festive quilt I had given to Mom (which has become her security blanket) in her lap. I also grabbed the whiteboard where I write notes to help Mom remember. With those items in hand, I wheeled Mom to her new room. We put the quilt on her new bed (which also provides her with a visual cue in finding her room from the hallway). I also hung up the whiteboard and wrote notes on it.
At that point, Mom was pleased but not sure where she was. I reminded her how close she was to the activities she enjoyed. To help her get her bearings, I took her on another quick tour to see the common areas (cafeteria, community room, etc.). We then went back to her room to wait for her additional things to arrive.
Within a few minutes, Mom started panicking in her new setting. Thinking that she had moved to another retirement community, she asked whether Dad knew where she was and whether her favorite doctor knew that she had moved. I assured her that I had told them of her move and that they were pleased with her new surroundings. Fortunately, a few of the nurses aides that Mom knew from the secure unit stopped by to say "hello." This gave Mom some friendly faces that she could watch for in the hallways.
Mom started looking tired from all of the activity, so I asked her if she wanted to take a nap. She did, so I left for awhile, but returned that night to check and see how the transition was going.
This move made it more evident to me that people with Alzheimer’s Disease need limited change and regular structure in their lives. I’m thankful that we were able to work with the retirement community to make this transition as easy as possible for Mom. It’s thinking about the big things (such as assigning staff with whom Mom is familiar to the area she is in during the transition) and the little things (the quilt on the bed) that will make Mom feel at home a lot sooner.
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Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.