How to Talk to Your Parent About Memory Care
Updated: Jul 17
When your aging parent gets a diagnosis of dementia, it is easy to feel quite alone. However, there are millions of other families living through the experience alongside you. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association tells us that about 6.7 million older Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, with millions more living with other types of dementia. And while it can feel especially isolating to try to navigate cognitive decline, and all the challenges that come with it, with your loved one, there can be some comfort in knowing you are not the only one making difficult decisions and having hard conversations.
For many families, choosing a memory care community can be one of those difficult decisions to walk through. While the right memory care community can offer safety, peace of mind, and comfort to you and your loved one, telling your aging parent about the move can be challenging, even if the move is the very best decision for their overall well-being.
Here are a few strategies and considerations we have found useful when talking to a parent about a move to memory care.
When Possible, Involve Your Loved One In the Full Process
Early awareness leads to early diagnosis, which has proven true when it comes to dementia. In the past decade, people living with dementia have been diagnosed much earlier than in years prior. And while it is always difficult to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, there is power in early diagnosis as well.
An early diagnosis often means the senior is still in the very early stages of the disease, able to participate in their own self-advocacy, and still make sound judgment calls. If this is the case in your situation, encourage your loved one to become a part of the process of choosing a memory care community, even if it won’t be needed for years. This gives your loved one the opportunity to advocate for their own budget, preferences, and needs.
Early Stage Means Planning
If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, getting them involved in future planning can be empowering. It allows them to settle their personal affairs, get their estate in order, and have frank conversations with adult children so that there is no question about what they want.
If your loved one is in the early stages of cognitive decline, make sure they are a part of any future planning. This can mean taking tours of memory care communities, starting the downsizing process, and talking about their feelings. Get a counselor who has experience with dementia involved as well, setting regular individual and family sessions as needed. Your loved one might also benefit from journaling their feelings or writing letters to their future selves as a way to cope with what is to come.
Involve a Physician
When the time finally comes to move, whether due to a scary situation at home or otherwise, you might find it helpful to have your loved one’s physician break the news first. This approach can mean that your loved one puts any angry feelings toward the physician, not you, which can make your conversations together more productive and helpful.
Talk About Solutions
For those in the early stages of dementia, they already know when they are struggling to keep up with chores and tasks at home. Sometimes, a move to a community that can provide them relief from the stressors they feel at home can be a relief.
When you open the conversation, talk about problems you see them having and how a memory care community can be a solution to those problems. For example, you might say, “Mom, I know you’ve been struggling with keeping up with all of your house chores. It’s stressful for you. A memory care community will take care of all of those chores so you can have the time and brain energy to paint more or get outside and garden.”
Answer Their Questions
People with cognitive decline, especially in the early stages, feel like their autonomy is slipping away. They can often feel overlooked and unheard. You can make a conversation more effective if you always take the time to listen to their concerns and questions. If you’re able to answer those questions, do so. If you aren’t sure, tell them you’ll find out and follow up appropriately.
Know When to Stop
Not all conversations are going to be productive ones. The moment you feel the conversation is getting heated, or someone is getting defensive, shut it down in a positive way. Switch subjects and end the interaction on a high note. You can always come back to it later.
Middle Stage Transitions
For someone living in the middle stage of dementia, they may not be able to take part in any planning, including choosing what memory care community to live in. In these situations, family members are making the decision and then have to figure out how to move their loved one to their new community without causing too much transition trauma.
In these cases, it is important to work closely with the memory care community staff. They will help you set up times when you can bring your loved one to the memory care community for meals and activities prior to the move. Getting to know new neighbors, staff, and routines can be quite helpful, even if the senior doesn’t remember the specifics.
It can also be helpful to prepare your loved one’s apartment with familiar items before they move in. This way, when they do move in, their apartment feels like home and can ease the stress and confusion that comes with any memory care move.
We’re Here to Help
The team at iNavigate is here to help you and your loved one not only choose a senior living community, but also help you all get settled in. Contact us to schedule your free assessment.
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