Tips for Transitioning Senior with Cognitive Disorders
By Chris Seman, President, Caring Transitions (as seen on The Caregiver’s Voice)
There comes a time when our elder loved ones need to consider a home transition–whether it’s relocating to a smaller home or downsizing to an independent assisted living community. Late-life transitions are often perceived as a negative aspect of aging and can be rather stressful on relocating seniors and their loved ones.
Transitioning seniors experiencing cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, will experience even greater stress than those without an illness. This is because removing a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s from a familiar place can cause feelings of disorientation and confusion.
In general, our homes are our most recognized places. As the caregivers of seniors in transition, especially those with cognitive disorders, it’s important to understand how moving or making a major change to a home environment can cause seniors to lose not only their sense of place, but also their sense of self.
By following the tips below, caregivers can make the transitioning process easier for their loved one and for themselves.
- Reinstate a sense of control.
People often experience stress when they feel things are out of control.
Caregivers can lessen the stress of transitioning by reinstating a sense of order and control to the events their loved ones find stressful. Offering choices helps the senior maintain his/her sense of self in the midst of chaos.
It’s important to understand that when we remove someone’s ability to make decisions on his or her own behalf, we also remove an essential practice that would otherwise help a senior maintain a sense of control over unfamiliar situations.
- Give seniors a voice.
With cognitive issues present, it becomes difficult for older adults to voice their fears and opinions.
Caregivers can give their loved one a voice by offering a few simple options with outcomes that are always acceptable.
For example, asking something as simple as, “Would you like to explore three assisted living communities or just two?” presents an outcome favorable to both parties, while allowing the older adult to make his/her voice heard.
When caregivers present options for discussion, their loved one develops a sense of being important to the relocation process.
- Use outside resources.
Caregivers and their elders should not feel they have to handle every detail of a late-life transition, alone.
Using dedicated professional resources helps relieve the stress of dealing with the nitty gritty details of relocating and instead, allows caregivers to focus on their loved ones. For instance, Caring Transitions gives families peace of mind by managing and supporting transitions; initially, with sorting personal belongings, and then packing, shipping, and selling items to the final clearing and cleaning of the property.
- Practice “Mirror Placement™.”
As seniors settle into a new home or an assisted living community, it’s important to help them maintain or regain their sense of place as well as their sense of self.
Surrounding loved ones with familiar things helps them to assimilate to a new environment more quickly. Caregivers can create familiarity by practicing “Mirror Placement™,” thus duplicating the furniture arrangement and location of objects to mimic that of the original home setting. Caring Transitions uses specially designed technology to ensure their new space is mirrored as closely as possible.
By establishing processes where transitioning seniors, even those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, can express their concerns, regain some control and focus on the road ahead, caregivers can help their loved ones and themselves turn a late-life home transition into a meaningful life experience with less stress and more positive outcomes.