“Your father is suffering from extreme memory loss.” These were probably the hardest words I have had to hear about my father’s medical condition in the last 20 years. My father suffers from cardiovascular disease. In its late stages, the cardiovascular disease does begin to affect memory as the heart weakens, and blood flow to the brain slows. Understanding the causes and the extent of a loved one’s memory loss is the first thing families need to do prior to moving them into a new home or senior care facility.
Understand the Extent of Memory Loss
Get help dealing with a senior move by understanding the extent of the memory loss. Families can adjust the schedule of moving the elderly with memory loss based upon the senior’s personal needs. For example, seniors with memory loss and moving may be able to make certain decisions on what to possessions to bring and what to leave behind. However, some seniors with severe memory loss, and the elderly may need a seamless transition from one place to another with the new place looking as similar as possible to the old. How a family deals with a senior move depends on the level of memory loss.
One thing I have heard often since my father starting losing his memory is “Why can he remember some things but not others” The answer I received from his physician is that the brain is like a computer and some memory areas have been compromised while others have not. That is why patience is very important when dealing with seniors with memory loss and moving. They may repeat themselves often or ask the same question a number of times.
They may even forget that they are going to move and will experience the same sadness or emotions as the first time they were told. These emotional reactions require their caregivers to be patient and understanding. Remember it is not their fault they forget things. With some seniors, it is helpful to write notes or action plans of what is going to happen and review it with them during each visit. Get a calendar and mark off the days until the move happens. Offer them as much support as they need without judgment or comments which can make the situation emotionally worse.
Seniors with memory loss who are moving may need extra help in sorting and packing their things. Keep in mind, memory loss and elderly moving may involve cleaning up after them. Try not to criticize their housekeeping; poor eyesight, memory loss, and loss of mobility do affect a senior’s ability to clean up. If they decide to pack a broken or ragged item, ask if they have a sentimental value prior to removing them. Seniors with memory loss may pack ragged items that have pleasant memory triggers for them. By throwing them away without asking you may be throwing away part of their past. It might look like junk to you but it may be a treasure to them.
Where to Start
Dealing with a senior move is always difficult and emotional. Try to give the elderly with memory loss as much control over the move as possible. Allow extra time to pack and do not rush them to make quick decisions about items or mementos to pack. If they cannot decide, just pack them in labeled storage boxes and store them for a time at another location. That way the elderly with memory loss do not feel rushed, which can cause anxiety, depression, angry outbursts, and indecisiveness on what objects to take.
Moving the elderly with memory loss can be difficult. Sometimes they forget they have moved, become depressed, or disorientated. To make the transition as easy as possible, seniors with some memory loss should be included in the decorating decisions of their new home, while senior with severe memory loss should have their new homes look as similar to their old home as possible.
Make sure to take pictures of the home prior to moving so that you can reproduce a bedroom, bathroom, get all the necessary toilet aids, and/or living space as similar to their original home as possible. For seniors with severe memory loss, this is a very comforting thing to do. Sometimes as memory loss deepens, the senior wants to go home. By having to take some pictures prior to their move, you can reproduce their old bedroom, easily. Even a similar color pallet can be comforting to an elderly person suffering from memory loss.