Upon opening the mail box to collect the assortment of bills, magazines and promotional materials, I found at the top of the stack a letter from Mom’s nursing home. As soon as I stepped into the house, I opened it - and felt my frustration level rising. The letter’s first paragraph described how the nursing home was going to move the residents yet again.
The last move - which happened in June - was designed to consolidate all residents in one area. In addition, that move resulted in the closing of the secure unit where Mom’s room was located. The move proved to be pretty traumatic; many of the residents who had dementia were very confused, and some who had appeared perfectly fine in the secure unit began a downward slide from which they didn’t recover. What I learned from that move was that structure, security and sameness are critical needs for Mom and others who suffer from Alzheimer’s.
The day after receiving the letter about the second move, I went to the nursing home for my regular visit with Mom. While there, I snagged a few of the staff members to ask about the move and the reasoning behind it. In separate conversations, both staff members said that this move was a good thing because the halls where the residents will reside are better constructed and the interiors are being renovated.
Those conversations calmed some of my worries, but I still had other questions. So upon returning home, I called the nursing home’s office staff to obtain further details. As I made this call, I realized once again how Mom’s and my roles have reversed. When I was a child, my mom would be calling the school to find out what was going on and to make sure that I was handling various situations. Now I’m the one who is responsible for calling the administrator (of a nursing home, instead of a school) in order to stay up-to-date on Mom’s situation.
In that phone call with the director of admissions and in a subsequent conversation with the nursing home’s executive director, I shared my concerns about the upcoming move and the confusion that may result for residents, especially those with Alzheimer’s. I explained that following the last move, most members of the nursing staff who had worked with my mom in the secure unit were not assigned to her when she moved to the new room. Thus, she was surrounded by unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar location. Thankfully, a couple of the nurse’s aides who had a good relationship with Mom would leave their posts on the other halls to check in on her.
As we approach this new move at the end of September, I want to make sure that the staff is thinking through and designing appropriate processes to enable residents to have a smooth transition. These processes include having the resident’s new room set up with their personal things, as well as making nursing staff assignments that will allow familiar faces to work with Mom and other residents in the new location. Some of these structures were in place in the last move, but others were not. I am encouraging the nursing home staff to learn from what worked and - more importantly - what didn’t work, and then focus on continuous improvement.
I learned my lessons during Mom’s last move, and am committed to ensuring that this move goes smoother. As I told the nursing home administrator, I want to work with the staff to have a successful partnership to support Mom. I also want to make sure that the nursing home staff members and administrators are thinking through the steps prior to the move so that they can assist Mom and the other residents in ensuring that this move includes a smooth transition.
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.