My Mom Has Memory Loss: How Long Will It Take Her To Adjust To A Move?

Eileen Zagelow, BA, CMC | Professional Geriatric Care Manager/Director of Care Management Services

There are many aspects to consider when we think about moving a parent or other loved one from their current home to an assisted facility. The family is often immersed in an entirely new world filled with new terms, financial contracts and “levels of care”. As advocates, we do our best to find the best fit at the right price. We worry about moving day, what to move and how to orchestrate the day.

The next dilemma, that often arises, is that Mom is unhappy and asking to go home. How long will it take for her to adjust? It has already been 2 weeks!

When we are supporting someone with memory issues, we learn that time takes on a new meaning. It becomes a vague expandable context for change. One thing I always suggest to families is that they practice patience and think about how they feel when they are contemplating a move for themselves. There is the anticipation, planning, anxiety – what if there are obstacles to running smoothly?? What if the kids don’t like the new house – lots of what ifs! Then there is the actuality of the move – OK, so here I am – where is the grocery store, the book store, the pharmacy – all of the things I need? I don’t know anyone. All of these feelings bubble up, even though you chose this move, planned this move and executed this move!

A person with memory loss often should not be intimately involved in the planning and execution. Mom may not be involved in the move and may or may not remember if she was. It often feels as though Mom has been transplanted to a very attractive place where the people seem nice, but thinks, heavens – why am I here? Who are these people in the hall? – I don’t know anyone. Where is my favorite coffee cup, my toaster – my dog? I don’t like this and I don’t think I will.

The solution takes time, reassurance and lots of support to integrate Mom into her new life. As a Care Manager, I usually recommend that a caregiver come a few days a week for just a few hours and help the person find her way into her new world. For a while, your loved one will be straddling a divide between old and new. Whereas we “well” people feel more comfortable negotiating our way through new routines and new friendships, they often need help in getting to that phase. In addition, because there is a memory or cognitive problem, the progress is often much slower, occurring in that vague context of time.

It can take a person with memory issues 3 to 6 months to adjust to a move. In the meanwhile we build a safe container around our loved one to soften the adjustments and reframe them as we go. Geriatric Care Managers are very skilled at supporting loved ones and family members in this very delicate journey.