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How To Get Your Dementia Mom To Leave Home

Today we are going to look at ways we can help our dementia parents understand that living independently is not the safest option for them! Tips and ideas for how to get your dementia or Alzheimers mom to move!

How To Get Your Dementia Mom To Leave Home

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Our Dementia Mom Moving Story

My husband Johnny's mom has always been super independent. She had jobs and paid her bills and bought houses. She was a bookkeeper for 20 years so she was great with finances and loved dressing up in fancy clothes she bought on sale from Macys, scouring the store for beautiful clothes on a budget.

And yes, we noticed that she was losing weight and repeating herself, but it wasn't until she fell and laid there for two days, unable to get herself up, that we realized Mom living alone was no longer an option.

We had “the talk” about her coming to live with us. We laughed, we cried, and everyone (including Mom) decided that it was time to let our daughter move into Mom's condo and we would have Mom live with us.

And then about an hour passed, Mom reset and was confused about why she couldn't go home… sigh.

THIS is the part that people who are not around dementia peeps don't understand. The non-remembering thing!

I have a great example of this from Mom's last doctors appointment. We filled out the “how is your mental health” form together, no bother.

Then during the appointment her doctor (who we love) asked why we did it together. Couldn't Mom read the questions. Yep, she could read the questions, but if asked, would say everything is okay because she can't remember how she felt in the last few months AND she wants to seem “normal” to the doctor… double sigh.

It was a little shocking to realize her doctor didn't really understand all the complications that come along with memory loss.

Reader Question

So I popped open my email this morning and had a reader question about how to get her family to admit that moving Mom across the country would be the best for everyone (including Mom!)

lightly edited for length

My husband has POA. His Brother has MPOA. My mother in law lives in NY where she and her now deceased husband chose a lovely place to live with all the living  steps they would need. Her dementia has progressed. We have someone coming in and giving her meds, light cleaning, meals are delivered.

Problem is, all three sons live in Florida. My husband is her primary caregiver, meaning, HE is the one that flies or drives out to take care of health, taxes, etc… the other brothers “promised” Mom they would not MAKE her move and I get that, but THEY are not doing any of the traveling to help her. My husband spends hours on the phone daily and weekly trying to be there for her.

They will not let us move her to Florida (and we’ve found a lovely assisted living about 7 minutes from us). It is causing some arguments and hateful feelings within the family. I know mom would be so unhappy to know that.

She won’t leave her apt.  Says Dad is there with her. Her dementia is short term memory only at this point.
Her grandchildren and great grandson are here where she could see them as often as she wants but we can’t get her to say she will move so we can get the brothers to help.

How To Get Mom To Move

I read that and felt so bad for EVERYONE involved! Here are some thoughts I have on how to get Mom to move.

1. It's A Safety Issue

First off I would give anything to have understood how dementia effects motor skills so Mom would not have spent two days alone on the floor, probably scared to death (she forgot how to use the phone to call for help, even though it was there with her).

When you are early in the dementia caregiving process, it is easy to want to how much your loved one still has. “Mom CAN still live alone with help”, but SHOULD she?

Had we moved her in with us (or into assisted living) BEFORE she fell, her quality of life would have been so much better.

I don't blame us, but for sure had we know how dire things had become so quickly we would have done things differently.

Additional Resource: Why Does Dementia Increase Fall Risk? source Alzheimers San Diego

2. Quality of Life

People with dementia are already isolated in their confusion. It breaks my heart when Mom will say that she doesn't remember well anymore because she doesn't know WHY it is happening.

When she was living alone she was even more isolated. She had her dog and cat and I went to see her once a week, but there were long stretches when she was just alone. Someone with home care would have those moments of company, but would also be alone for long stretches of time.

Now that she lives here, she has so much more interaction with humans on a base level (this would be the same in assisted living facilities).

The activity of daily life with teenagers keeps her engaged and less able to just sit in her room alone. And when our granddaughter comes she always pops out to see the baby!

We can also keep an eye on her personal care, making sure she takes showers or is actually eating and getting enough to drink.

If your Mom is at an early stage, it can be easy to think that everything is okay and they are “just not remembering things”, but dementia is insidious and can make them forget even simple things like the last time they ate.

3. The Earlier You Do It The Better

Here is another lesson that you can take from our ignorance at the beginning. We waited FAR too long to get Mom moved out of her home!

Moving is disorienting for anyone… you have to figure out where the thermostat is, how to work the tub drain, and even which part of the floor is more slippery when it gets wet.

If you can get your person with dementia to move early, they can acclimate to their new surroundings while they still have the cognitive ability to adapt more easily.

Mom will still occasionally get “lost” in our house, not knowing which direction her room is from the kitchen and needing to be pointed in the right direction.

Dementia, Alzheimers, whatever your loved one has, just know it is progressive. There is no “going back” to better times, it is only going to get worse. I don't say that to be mean, just to say that the more you can do while they are more high functioning, the better.

What About Emotional Ties To Their Home?

Of course the reader's Mom has emotional ties to her home! That is where she can “remember” her deceased husband the best.

She is independent and able to make her own decisions and probably feels like “everyone” is trying to get her to move out of her safe place.

That is one “lucky” thing we had because of Mom's fall. She was OBVIOUSLY unable to care for herself and her pets anymore, so it was kind of a foregone conclusion we just had to get her to agree to.

So, if you have to get Mom to agree to move, here are some ideas…

Talk about the benefits of moving. Make sure she knows how much everyone wants to be able to spend time with her, or that the facility you are moving her to has great people there!

Show her what it will be like! Sometimes we can't imagine something we have never seen. I would fly Mom down for a “vacation” and show her how nice it can be with everyone around. Go have lunch at the new home you are thinking she would like. Stop by a couple of times during her trip so she gets used to being there and knows that she can leave to come be with the family.

Bring ALL the memories. No one likes to lose their “things”. Assure Mom she can bring anything that she want to have. Get a storage unit if you have to so she KNOWS that everything she wants can come with her. Now is not the time to worry about her “stuff”… let her have it ALL! Getting her to a safe place to live overrides anything else right now.

Making Moving A Season

One last thing before I wrap this up…. try to remember this is just a season. Eventually family members will realize the direness of the situation and hopefully help.

I KNOW the privilege I have been talking about here. My husband and I are financially well off and work from home so we can care for Mom. My reader has the financial ability to find an amazing long term care home for her Mother In Law.

Many people are not in this situation. They NEED the family to help financially or can't just take in their loved one because they have to work for their own family's needs.

I don't have a great response to make everything better for you (we are SO lucky that my husband is an only child and we don't have to consult with anyone to make things happen).

But no matter your situation, it is just a season in time.

Your Mom will move sometime, you will have to place them in a home sometime, they will pass away sometime.

I don't have great words of comfort here to end with, just know you aren't alone. I get so many emails from people who are struggling just like we are and all we can do is the best we can do.