How long should it take for my mother with Alzheimer's adjust to her new home?

Paulieh asked...

had posted a while back after having my 80 year old mother with dementia / alzheimers into an assisted living facility - for her own safety.

She had been in hospital for 4 months following shoulder replacement surgery (a result of a fall). While in hospital she fell again and broke her wrist. Assisted living was the only answer in my opinion.

The facility she was placed in is very nice. Very nice. Never an overly 'social' woman her alzheimers has resulted in her being I'd say less social. Residents are expected to go to the dining room for meals (she balks at this daily I'm sure).

When we first placed her we visited daily. Every day we (myself specifically) were told she hated it there. She would ask on every visit when she was going home - we would try to explain this is your home but the question kept coming.

After posting the last time and speaking to the nurse at the facility it was decided that to best allow her to adjust to the new home a bit of distance would be best - visits were limited to twice a week and phone calls lessened as well.

After almost 4 weeks there we had to take her to emergency as the on-site nurse was concerned about a 'twitch' she'd developed and her inability to even sit on her own (how long the symptoms had been present I can only guess as asking my Mom isn't actually going to return an accurate response).

Mom was hospitalized for 12 days for various symptoms (very low oxygen, urinary tract infection, a cough that was nasty) ..

While in the hospital visits were pleasant. No questions about going home, no negative comments. Nice. However she was released yesterday.

Today we are back to square one - she hates it there. When is she going home ... man this is TOUGH ...

I'm wondering (while I think I know the answer I more likely and just looking for the support now) if I probably should return to the 'allowing her to adjust' phase - limiting visits and phone calls for a while to allow her to accept and maybe (fingers crossed) see what is good in this residence?

It's so hard to visit and feel beaten by the 'decision' you made for their safety. While I'm sure that she doesn't really remember each and every visit the guilt I feel for not visiting is horrible ...

Ideas .. suggestions ..

Thanks so much :)

Expert Answer

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

You are right. Limit your visits and calls.

It's important for you to remember that YOU did not cause your mother to go to this facility. OK, you chose this particular community, but you are not responsible for her need to be in some facility. That need was caused by her disease, which was not your fault. All you have done is to find the best possible place for your mother to have ongoing care, in a way that cannot be provided in her home.

There are several articles online about dementia people asking to "go home." Interesting, often elders who are taken to their former residence will continue to request to go home. This implies that the person is not asking to go to a particular place so much as wanting to go back to a time when they were in control of their lives. This request is something you very much wish to grant, but cannot.

When you visit, as soon as your mother brings up the guilt trip, smile and hug her and tell her you love her, and leave. Immediately. Do NOT explain why she is there. Rational thought is no longer available to her. Even if you could explain it and she understood, she would forget by the time you came next. So, leave when the complaints start. Do this every time you visit.

After 3 or 4 visits, she will begin to catch on that you stay longer when she does not complain. This works. Try it.