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Bursack: Transitioning from home to memory care takes thoughtful organization

Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders columnist.

Dear Carol: My 93-year-old mother lives alone with significant help from my youngest sister and me, but her worsening cognitive ability is dictating changes. We found an assisted living facility (ALF) with memory care near our brother’s home, which is one county over, yet it’s still near enough for us all to visit often.

What we need to know is how to transition Mom’s care both for her practical services as well as her emotional health. Mom is on board with the move since she will be near her oldest child, but she often forgets what she’s been told so we expect that even though she says this is all good, she’ll be confused by the move. How can we make sure that her services are in place in the new county and also help her adjust to the move? — GHD.

Dear GHD: I’m happy to see you and your siblings working together to help your mom during her later years. It’s heartening, as well, that you’ve got the foresight to plan carefully for transitioning her to memory care.

You’ve already identified the two major aspects of the move that need attention. First, look at practical issues which should be worked out ahead of time with the ALF. You didn’t say if you’d already signed the contract, but if not read it over carefully so that you know what services they can provide, what type of care is covered in the base fee and what additions will cost more. Every facility is different in what they offer, but people often find that they must contract with outside agencies for specific needs.

With that in mind, I’d encourage you to become familiar with the site www.aging.gov. Once on the site, click “Resources Near You” and type in your mom’s expected ZIP code. You’ll then see a list of links for available services in your mom’s new location. This will help you find replacements for services that your mom receives if they are not provided by the ALF and don’t transfer to the new county.

Next, you should jointly decide what personal items your mom will want or need for comfort. That would include family photos, beloved mementos that remind her of good times in her life, her own pillow and bedspread and supplies for any activities that she can still enjoy, such as knitting or puzzles.

While you’re bound to feel some anxiety over the move, your mom needs to know that you have full confidence that this is the best thing for her, so be intentional about projecting such confidence. Remind her that there are three of you to visit and you’ll all work to make sure that her new home is the best it can be.

Some people slip some cognitively after any move because of the inherent stress, while others love the attention and activities and thrive from the start. Most do adjust, however, if family members are attentive and the facility care is good.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbradleybursack@mindingourelders.com.

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