Moving and Memories: How to Cope with a Move and Downsizing of a Parent or Loved One with Dementia

Moving is just a part of life.  Some of us will move more than others, and some will move farther away than others.  But, at one time or another, we’ve probably all had this experience.  My husband and I are in the process of a lateral move.  We both are working in the area yet found that it was time for a change from our current residence.

As we pack all of our belongings, I am surprised by how much “stuff” we have collected over the past ten years.  And while I do tend to be a bit too sentimental, I found that many of the trinkets we had out on display did, in fact, hold a fond memory.

Because of this, however, it became challenging to part ways with said trinkets and against my best attempts to “downsize” in this move, I’ve found the “keep pile” is much larger than the “discards.”

I sat there amongst my possessions and remembered helping the residents over the years decorate their rooms with their own knick-knacks and keepsakes after a move into the Care Home I was working.  I was always amazed at how much stuff residents would move into these somewhat spacious rooms. But then, they had been collecting items for a lot longer than ten years.

At the time, I was so focused on making them feel comfortable and at ease during their transition onto the wing that I didn’t think very much about how much they had just been through. Everything really happens so quickly that by the time the person is moved in and settled, the realization of the loss can easily go unprocessed.

Over the years, I have seen how often family members are left to make and follow through on difficult decisions for the older adults in their life.  Making the decision that it is time for your loved one to move is probably the most difficult. The move, while practical and necessary is still incredibly emotional.

The moving process is chaotic, but for older adults living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, it can be especially overwhelming. Most memory care units actually have plans in place for new residents because the transition after a move can sometimes take months to become comfortable in their surroundings.

I’m not sure any move can be easy, and, while I set out to write this article to offer some advice, I’ve thought better of it.  The only piece I can offer is to plan and prepare when you are still able to tell your loved ones exactly what you want.  In hopes that they don’t feel the stresss of having to make the decision and in hopes that you remain in control of the choices being made for you.

Moving and transitions are emotional, but they also signifiy a new chapter. Whether you are reading this during a move, after a move, or you are thinking about it for you and your loved one living with dementia, all I can say is to trust yourself and go easy on yourself.


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