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Published November 23, 2013, 11:30 PM

Minding Our Elders: Moving parents with dementia closer to family

DEAR CAROL: My parents both have dementia, though Mom is declining faster than Dad. They live in the home I grew up in, 700 miles away from my current home.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR CAROL: My parents both have dementia, though Mom is declining faster than Dad. They live in the home I grew up in, 700 miles away from my current home.

During the last years, their old neighbors have moved and most of their friends are ill or deceased. I want to move them into a nice memory center close to my home. When I talked to Dad a month ago, he said that would be fine, but now he doesn’t remember anything about our conversation.

I’ll be taking my large van when I go to get them and am wondering what to bring back for them to have in their unit. It would cost more than their furniture is worth to have big items moved. I’m wondering, too, what to tell them when I arrive since they won’t remember why I’m there. – Rod

DEAR ROD: Since your dad once said it was all right with him to move to the memory unit, I think you can have a clear conscience moving forward.

Yes, he forgot about the plan, but with his memory issues he’ll likely forget whatever you discuss. Just move forward while talking about their new home near you as though they remember the conversation.

Remain positive. If you have pictures of the home they’ll move to, bring them along with you. Try to make your excitement about having them live close to you infectious enough that they’ll think about that rather than what they are leaving behind.

Sympathize with them if they seem anxious or reluctant to leave home, but don’t dwell on that part. Let them know you’re excited to be able to see them regularly instead of waiting for vacation time to see them.

While it would be nice to take a few pieces of their furniture along, I can see how that could be difficult. Could you bring bedding, blankets, keepsakes and pictures for the walls of their new home? Bring holiday decorations, if they have them. Smaller, more intimate belongings often have greater meaning than furniture. Eventually, you’ll need to decide what to do with the house and furniture, but moving your parents is likely the primary worry now.

Their adjustment may not be easy, but if you don’t move them now they’ll most likely have to move into some type of care later. At that point, a change could be even more traumatic for them. Living closer to you now will give you all more time together before one of both of them advances to the point that they don’t even know you as their son. For them, as well as for yourself, I’d suggest that you go forward with your plan soon. Help them get settled and spend as much time with them as you can to help them adjust to their new surroundings.

Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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