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7 Tips For When You Move Your Dementia Mom To The Nursing Home or Memory Care

Today I am going to give you some tips and ideas to help when you have to move your Mom into a nursing home!

7 Tips For When You Move Your Dementia Mom To The Nursing Home or Memory Care

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Why I Am Writing This Post

I have documented much of my mother in law's journey through dementia (and yes, she gave me permission before she became unable to!) Some of it good and some of it bad, but all of it distressing!

Just the other day I told my husband (her son), “I just wish I could talk to Mom for a couple of minutes” and he totally got it. I wanted to talk to the gal who was there before, not this sad shell of a Mom.

She has been my “mom” for over twenty years now, and while it isn't as bad as if she had been my Mom-Mom, it still was horrible when we realized that we couldn't care for her at home anymore.

It was no longer fair to our teenagers who didn't have parents who could attend events together (because someone had to stay home with Mom).

And it was no longer fair to her… she needed more constant care of her needs than we could give (just getting her to take a shower became impossible)…. sigh.

So today I am going to give you my best tips I learned about as we moved Mom to a nursing home!

1. One that works for her

So the first thing that was weird about our selecting a home for mom was that she doesn't like people… no one but me, Johnny and the kids.

So all those “great activities” like bingo or dancing would just freak her out!

So I found her a home that is old and a bit run down, but that has a petting zoo! Because as much as Mom doesn't like people, she LOVES animals!

So step one, ask everyone you know about nursing homes in the area! It was only after telling her care team about mom's anti-people stance that they recommended the older nursing home, because other people wanted bright and new homes.

2. Make sure it ready before you move her in

While our nursing home had the greatest intentions to have her room done, I got there an hour before and the bathroom hadn't been cleaned and there were a fair number of things that needed to be done still.

If I could go back, I would have called the morning of the move (early) and reminded them that Mom was moving in.

Make sure you stay on top of her move day and go there to make sure her room is up snuff!

3. Have someone she recognizes go with her

We had Johnny move Mom from the rehab facility to the nursing home. Yes, he is her son so it makes sense, but also he is most calm, stable steady guy on the planet.

I would have wanted him to drive MY MOM to the nursing home as his energy and demeanor is just so calming.

If you don't have a husband, maybe pick her favorite granddaughter or a family friend that she recognizes and who is less emotional about that transfer (you might not have the right energy at this exact moment… no shame! you are moving your mom to a home!)

4. Have everything ready to go

As a dementia patient, everything is weird to Mom. That is why I wanted to have her room ready to go, all the people out and things calm when she got there (we did it, with about 2 minutes to spare, but I got it done!)

This is not the “have her stuff there”… this is the “don't cause more confusion because things are happening around her one.

We had the lighting right, her recliner ready to go and she was able to plop down and just kind of get a feel for where she was at.

So make sure everything is as calm and nurturing as it can be when you drop her off!

5. Yes have her “stuff”, but

One of the tips that non-dementia people give is to have all her things there so she feels comfortable.

Well, functionally, Mom has “lost” the last three years that she lived with us, so the furniture we had (that was hers) and the things we brought were no more recognizable to her than if we had put in brand new furniture… sigh.

We actually swapped out the chair that we put in there for her, giving her Johnny's big old Lazy Boy and putting her chair in our family room instead. We felt like her comfort was more important than having the “right” things around… she didn't remember them anyways!

Your job is to know what will make her feel “at home” and give it to her… maybe it is a big TV or a favorite blanket… whatever it is that YOUR Mom finds helps her.

6. Tell them about your Mom

We were VERY explicit about Mom when talking to the nursing home people.

We told then she won't come out of her room, she doesn't like people and she won't move around much unless you specifically ask her to.

We pay extra each meal to have it delivered to her room because having to go to the dining room would be actually distressing to her.

The nursing home people were super hopeful that they could get her to participate, but WE are the ones that know what is best for Mom and how her dementia works. She didn't change how she was her whole life, she just forgot lots of it.

And no, she doesn't go out of her room… she sort of thinks that she is in a hotel for a really long time. Heddy (the nicest aide ever) is the “gal who comes and cleans the room” and should she tip her?

7. That “wait a couple of weeks” and dementia thing

Okay, let's get down to dementia brass tacks now….

One of the suggestions that nursing homes often give is to have a 2 weeks waiting time between when you put your Mom in a home and when you go to see her so she has time to “settle in”.

They are super smart and it is their job to know how to facilitate a smooth(ish) transition, but I am not sure that works for dementia peeps.

Mom doesn't really remember anything new anymore, so she wouldn't know if you waited two weeks or two months.

Our goal was to show Mom that she was not being abandoned and that we would come to see her regularly.

We visit at least 4 times a week (Johnny twice and me 2-3 times). We take the grandkids and the great grandkids. We don't spend hours there, but we remind her that we are here for her!

Additional Resource:: Dementia Caregiver PTSD… It is a real thing!

Tips For Moving Mom Into A Home Wrapup

Whether you are moving your Mom to memory care or a nursing home, this is a truly traumatizing for you!

She might have been mean or nice, incontinent or had falls, but any which way, your “job” was to mind her and now you are going to be giving that responsibility to someone else.

And that is super hard.

Just know that things will work out, that you have done the best the best that you can and that you will continue to be her champion, but you will get a little help.

I love you and know you are doing the best that you can!

Reader Bonus : Handling Phone Problems

here is a great tip sent in by a reader!

Do you write on other issues with caring for a family member with dementia?  Here’s another issue we ran into that we “solved” in a creative way that others may want to try.

At one point my Dad was on a Memory Care floor in one facility but his wife was in a different nursing home.  She had broken her hip and needed more nursing care than my Dad’s home could provide.  The situation was complicated because all of his daughters lived in Canada and he was living in the US.  With covid restrictions we were not able to physically spend time with him.

His wife didn’t have a phone in her room, and couldn’t have managed to answer it anyway. Phone calls had to go through the nursing station. My Dad was incredibly worried about her and missing her, and wanted to talk to her on the phone.  

He called constantly – 35 times one morning alone.  This tied up the phone at the nursing station and drove the staff crazy.  They couldn’t block his number or not answer the phone, and were pressuring my father’s home to take his phone away.  That would have isolated him from his family that could only spend time with him on the phone. We came up with a slightly devious but effective solution. 

We signed up with an online company that was set up to provide answering services for small businesses without receptionists.  They gave us a phone number, and we were able to record a message that Dad would hear when he called.  We said “Evelyn is not available right now.  She’s doing her physio or resting.  She is doing well and will call when she can.” 

Dad was able to leave a message, which we could monitor and intervene if he was very upset.  He could continue to call and not cause problems.  We arranged with the nursing home to help his wife actually call when they could so that he did have some time on the phone with her.

This might be a solution for families in similar situations, or perhaps where their loved one who was living in a care home was calling all night and waking them up.  It was not expensive – a small monthly fee.  It worked well until, sadly, his wife died of covid.

Mary Lou Boudreau