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Working With Caregivers to Make the Transition into Memory Care as Successful as Possible

Moving a family member from home to memory care is among the top life stressors. The caregiver can often feel guilt, worry, fear and anxiety over their decision to move their loved one from their home to a care facility.

The parent that is being moved into memory care may be resistant and combative as the move is hard to understand in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Studies have shown that working together with professional caregivers can:

  • Ease the transition for the resident
  • Provide a higher level of individualized care
  • Relieve family concerns
  • Improve staff and family relationships
  • Provide greater health outcomes for the resident

The secret to a smooth transition is focusing on the first three days and partnering with a trusted and professional caregiver.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by 2050 there will be as many as 16 million patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Setting up successful programs now to address the transition into memory care can have long lasting results for both patients and their family members who are juggling life and dementia caregiving.

Why Caregiver Involvement Is Essential to Successful Memory Care

The progression of Alzheimer’s will leave the patient often unable to speak for themselves and communicate who they were and are. Many caregivers are there to ensure the physical needs of the patient are met, care measures are taken to preserve the identity and quality of life for the patient, and the foundations of mindful Alzheimer’s care are in place. 1

Caregivers are committed to continuing to care for their patient as they have done at home. Over 53% of caregivers were reported to visit their client daily in the first two weeks of admission to a nursing home.2 During these visits the caregiver provided vital psychosocial support and personalized care such as grooming, visiting with the patient, providing physical affection and walking with the patient.

Love and affection can drastically increase a patient’s quality of life and can decrease loneliness. The value of a hug and a kind word from someone who cares about you can not be underestimated. Both the family and the patient need staff to understand who their loved one was prior to the disease’s progression. This can only be accomplished through clear collaboration. The early days in a care facility are vital in setting the tone for the patient’s stay. Caregivers can help by spending time talking with the staff and sharing details about the patient’s life and routines that provide peace and calmness.

Improved Staff and Family Relationships

Studies have shown that the primary purpose of a caregiver's involvement in transitioning a senior to full time care is to act as a bridge between the patient and the facility staff. A good relationship between the staff and the primary caregiver increases the family’s satisfaction with the facility and is a key indicator of staff job retention.3

The Cornell Gerontology Research Institute, the Foundation for Long Term Care and the Center on Aging at the University of Connecticut Health Center piloted a program designed to promote staff and caregiver cooperation called Partners in Caregiving.4 The program involved both staff members and primary caregivers in workshops that included training in communicating, listening skills and conflict resolution.

At the end of the program primary caregivers reported better relationships with the staff, that they found the staff easier to talk to and responded to staff more positively. Likewise, staff reported reduced conflict with families and fewer symptoms of depression and burnout.5

Effective communication between the staff and the caregivers increases the cost-effectiveness of patient care and results in better client outcomes.4 A win-win situation for all.

Engaged Caregivers Equal Greater Health Outcomes

The greatest result of having a caregiver with a loved one as they transition to memory care is the improved health of the patient. Healthier patients are a good outcome!

Studies show that caregiver involvement and the resulting increased socialization leads to a longer lifespan, decreased chance of infection and a reduction in falls.5Visiting with a trusted caregiver or family member helps the Alzheimer’s patient to be more active and slows the rate of mental deterioration. At the end of the Partners in Caregiving program previously mentioned, staff reported a significant reduction in:

  • Cursing and verbal aggression
  • Self abuse
  • Inappropriate behaviors
  • Constant requests for attention and help
  • Wandering
  • Grabbing
  • Destroying property
  • Restlessness

Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true for both staff and family? More importantly, these measures helped improve the quality of life for the patient in a drastic way.

The Role of Professional Caregivers in Memory Care Transitions

The key steps that the facility and the professional caregiver take in the first three days of admission have a long-term impact on the success of the patient’s stay.

How to transition a parent into memory care can feel overwhelming but the most important strategy to keep in mind is to bridge the relationship between the caregiver at home and the caregivers in the facility. Patient’s benefit greatly from a collaborative relationship between both caregivers.

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Here are some tips and strategies to making the transition as comfortable for the patient as possible:

  1. Caregivers can provide a detailed life story of their loved one or client. Giving information to the staff about what their client did in life, her experiences, personal preferences and daily routines. As well as talking about what helps the patient to cooperate with care activities and which parts of care are the most difficult.6
  2. Staff can commit to regularly communicating with the caregivers prior to concerns coming up. Family members report that hearing from the facility on a regular basis relieved their concerns about the choice they made to move their loved one. Regular communication also helped reduce staff and family conflict.
  3. The facility can set up family programs that continue to actively involve the caregivers once the patient has settled into their new home. This could include family councils, joint activities with patients and caregiver, discussions on care planning, support groups, a newsletter and making room for caregiver support in the facility.
  4. Most importantly, during the transition of your parent to memory care both staff and caregivers can work together to maintain and enhance the client’s sense of dignity and self-esteem. It might be as simple as styling a client’s hair, walking down the hallway to the dining hall together, chatting with the staff about the loved one’s passion for model airplanes.

The little steps you take in the early days of transitioning a loved one to memory care sets the tone for making the best of the move. Involving a professional caregiver makes the transition smoother and better for the staff, the family and the patient.

For more information on how to get the support you need during dementia caregiving, check out our recent article here: https://homecareassistance.com/blog/get-support-need-dementia-caregiving

Sources:

  1. https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/4-29-14-walk-with-me-easing-the-transition-to-memory-care/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2247412/
  3. https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/47/4/504/680288/Partners-in-Caregiving-in-a-Special-Care
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2665/
  5. https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/45/suppl_1/115/553778/Sociocultural-Aspects-of-Transitions-From-Assisted

About the Author(s)

Crystal Jo is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about helping older adults live happy, healthy lives at home. As a freelance writer, she enjoys educating and inspiring seniors, and those who love them, to choose a healthy life.

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