By Beverly Theis, LCSW, Director of Resident and Family Support
The emotional impact of a living environment transition for a loved one with dementia is a significant concern for families. In fact, it’s among the most common struggle when families are considering moving their loved one into Abe’s Garden.
Relocation Stress Syndrome, also referred to as “Transition Trauma,” is a nursing diagnosis characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, hopelessness, and loneliness. These symptoms, as well as cognition decline, may arise after a move from a private residence to a nursing home or assisted living or memory care community, especially when the individual who is moving in has a neurocognitive disorder. The condition results from feelings of fear, unfamiliarity, and the loss of control and independence.
Most often, those with neurocognitive disorders don’t provide input on their long-term residential care. They may feel they can take care of themselves and not process the reason for the move. Their short-term memory is nearly always impacted, therefore talking with them about relocation plans to prepare them isn't effective. Consequently, they typically have difficulty adjusting.
However, tactics exist to prepare your loved one for the move to Abe’s Garden:
Schedule a physician visit so an independent, trusted individual will reinforce the need for your loved one to be in a safe environment.
Meet with me to develop a transition plan. Sharing coping techniques, such as historically effective reassurance approaches, will help us determine the path to a smoother transition. Having a transition plan will also boost your confidence, which, in time, results in your loved one feeling secure.
Make positive adjustments to your own emotions about the move. Your loved one can sense what you’re feeling. If you’re anxious or upset about the move, they’ll sense this, so be confident in your decision. Your loved one will feel that sense of confidence, and in turn, they’ll feel better about the transition.
Experiencing symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome will likely occur post-move. However, nearly all Abe’s Garden residents quickly become acquainted with the new environment. Then, with a supportive, well-trained team providing care and encouragement, they gradually adjust, build new relationships, and thrive. Most residents experience a sense of relief, as they no longer have to “hold it together” 24/7. Instead, they can relax and participate in life.
Finally, you may be reassured in the knowledge that these positive outcomes are visible much more quickly than families anticipate.