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What to Expect During the First 30 Days in Memory Care

By: Commonwealth Senior Living / 19 Aug 2022
What to Expect During the First 30 Days in Memory Care

Whether it's the first day of elementary school, marriage, the birth of a child, or moving to a new home, our lives are filled with transitions. Moving your loved one into our Sweet Memories neighborhood is another one of life's transitions. We hope this will be a transition of new and sweet beginnings, a new way of making memories and creating moments of joy for you and your loved one. However, we know many things that occur in a memory care neighborhood are more difficult for family members to walk through than for the person with memory loss. We believe that the more you know ahead of time, the easier it will be. So we'd like to walk you through the process of orientation into our Sweet Memories neighborhood and share a few tips from our community experts for families who are taking their memory care journey for the first time. 

The first step is participating in our Sweet Beginnings Family Orientation. This is an opportunity to meet all of our community leaders and ask questions about the Sweet Memories neighborhood. During this time you'll also learn about the following:  

What is Sweet Memories Memory Care? 
Sweet Memories is a warm, home-like neighborhood, designed specifically for your loved one living with memory loss. It's a safe place, with familiar surroundings that allows all our residents to live comfortably, safely, and joyfully each day. Our compassionate, specially trained caregivers deliver personalized care with calm, familiar routine schedules and engaging programs and activities.  

The Adjustment Period 
As with any transition in life, there will be an adjustment period. Not just for your loved one, but for you as well. Be patient with the process of getting settled in and ask questions when you need to. For individuals with memory loss, the first three weeks after moving into Sweet Memories are typically the most challenging. Your loved one may experience:  

  • Increased confusion due to new and unfamiliar surroundings 
  • Heightened agitation due to fear and increased confusion 
  • Anger and/or symptoms of depression related to the need for memory care 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Disruption in normal sleep routine 
  • Personality changes 

All of these experiences are normal and expected by the caregiving team. Their job is to assist in managing these experiences and make your loved one as comfortable as possible during this period by engaging them in meaningful and enjoyable activity. While families are always encouraged and welcome to visit and spend as much time with your loved one as you like, it may ease the adjustment period to give them at least three days to settle in before visiting. This is, of course, your decision to make. 

For family members who love someone with memory loss, there is also an adjustment period for you. Moving your loved one into Sweet Memories may have been one of the hardest decisions you ever had to make. Be kind to yourself. It was, most likely, the best decision you've made for them as well. 

Our Person-Centered Care 
This is the heart of all we do to provide your loved one with the very best experiences every day. We understand every person in our community is unique, and person-centered care is our way of honoring them as individuals who bring with them a whole life filled with family, experiences, hobbies, passions, and favorite things. We use all of your loved one's unique "life story" to ensure it continues in their new home. This type of care maintains the integrity and independence of choice in your loved one's life. 

SMILE Technology 
SMILE is a complimentary communication tool which allows families to stay socially connected to their loved one and the Programming team, no matter where they are. You can send messages, upload pictures, music, or videos to be shared with your family member. You can also communicate directly with the Programming team and receive pictures and videos through email or by logging in to your SMILE account. You'll be able to see the specific activities your family member recently enjoyed, what activities are coming up, as well as view the monthly calendar of activities. 

Tips from CSL Eastern Shore by Kristie Annis, Executive Director, and Lindsay Drummond, Program Director: 

  1. Set up your loved one's suite similarly to the way they set their own room up at home. Little touches like a family photo on the nightstand, grandchildren's pictures on the wall, or a special blanket on the bed are so important. A resident's suite is one of the most important areas of the neighborhood. For this reason, the more personalized and familiar the suite is, the more comfortable your loved one will be. 
  2. Bring pictures of your loved one from the past, small trinkets they will recognize, and memorabilia they're likely to remember. Each suite has a memory box outside the door. This may be used by your loved one to locate their suite more easily. It also serves as a quick reminder for associates of what makes each resident unique so they're able to have rich and meaningful conversations while providing care.  
  3. Know that your loved one will be engaged in our award-winning Memory Care Signature Programs. Family members have told us they are reassured to know they will be having fun, especially soon after moving in. Our standard at Commonwealth Senior Living is for our residents to engage in seven or more activities each day. 
  4. Know the best times to visit your loved one. While we encourage you to visit whenever and as often as you like. We ask that you keep in mind that meal times are not always the best time to visit. For many individuals with memory loss, having a visitor during a meal is distracting and may interfere with their eating routine. That is true for your loved one as well as anyone sitting with them at their table. Additionally, with sundowning, afternoon or early evening visits are often difficult. Sundowning may occur for some individuals with Alzheimer's disease and cause restlessness, agitation, or confusion that begins or worsens as daylight begins to fade, which can sometimes make visits more challenging. 
  5. Label everything. This includes clothing, books, photos, glasses, hearing aids, etc. Whether you do your loved one's laundry or we do it in the neighborhood, it is recommended that all clothing brought to the neighborhood be labeled with your loved one's name. It is very helpful when items are misplaced to be able to return them to our residents.  
  6. Know that your loved one is safe and in the best hands. Our Sweet Memories neighborhood is a secure area of our community. This means the door to the neighborhood requires a passcode to enter. This is to always ensure the safety of all our residents. The door is not there to keep your loved one "locked in," but to alert us when they would like to go out, so we may safely accompany them or provide whatever need they are having at the moment. Personal care supplies are also kept in a secure area in our Sweet Memories neighborhood if they are a risk of harm to our residents. 

Some of the biggest shocks for families from Sonja Dotson, Executive Director at CSL Cedar Bluff: 

  • Wandering. In our Sweet Memories neighborhood, everyone living with memory loss has the right to experience this challenge in their own way, just as they would in their own home. Due to the nature of memory loss, there are things that you may witness or experience that are impossible to prevent and may be frowned upon by others outside our community. However, they are perfectly normal within a neighborhood of individuals living with memory loss. We try to explain to families that most of us don't life in a home with 15-20 doors, but our residents see our entire community as their home, so at some point or another, they will likely have a visitor enter their room or be a visitor in someone else's room. That visitor may sit down, lie on the bed, use the restroom, or open the closet or a drawer and try on a sweater. This is a common occurrence in a memory care neighborhood and it's perfectly normal. Sonja explains this as "similar to dormitory living or sharing everything with your brothers and sisters. We do advise families not to bring expensive clothing or items they wouldn't want someone else to share." 
  • Not being able to keep toothpaste in their room. As mentioned by our Eastern Shore team, personal care supplies are kept in a secure space. If your loved one is able to take care of their own personal hygiene, an associate will get their supplies for them at the appropriate time and give them time to clean up. When they're done, the associate will return the supplies to the secure area.  
  • Not wanting to wear socks or shoes. Many individuals will prefer loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and they may not feel like socks fit in that category. Additionally, shoes can sometimes be easily taken off. Try using Velcro or slip-on shoes. 
  • Your loved one may make new relationships. You may notice them gravitating to a certain person, holding hands, etc. This happens at times. Sexuality is a normal and natural part of life and is not diminished by memory loss. Everyone seeks the comfort of being with other people, especially when a major life transition has occurred. Most of the time these new relationships are not sexual in nature, but rather an attempt to find comfort with another person. Sonja says their team always communicates with families to keep them updated so they are not surprised by their loved one's behavior when they visit the community. 

At Commonwealth Senior Living we know family is everything. Family Night is an opportunity for families, residents, and associates of Sweet Memories to spend time together and get to know one another in a relaxed and comfortable setting. It's a time for the caregiving team to build relationships with you and your loved one as a part of our family and we'd love for you to join us as well. 

Reach out to the community nearest you to visit us during our next Family Night. 

contact the community nearest you

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