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Minding our Elders: How does moving affect people with Alzheimer’s?

Carol Bradley Bursack

DEAR CAROL: My mother has lived with me for two years. It’s just the two of us. She has Alzheimer’s and is becoming harder to care for, but that I can live with. The problem is she thinks I’m crabby when I contradict her and she says she wants to live with my brother and his wife instead. They are willing to take her for a trial to see how it goes. I feel sad and even angry because she thinks they will take better care of her than I do. I’m doing my best. Will she like living with them better than living with me? – Sue Ann

DEAR SUE ANN: It’s your mom’s condition that she’s so unhappy with, not you. I’m sure that you’ve done your best under very difficult circumstances. There is a possibility that if she does move to your brother’s home she’ll be happier for a short time because of the novelty, but that isn’t likely to last.

Accepting your mother’s disease is essential for you, your brother, his wife and any other family members who are or will be involved. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like the situation. It simply means that you are acknowledging that you can’t change the circumstances.

You likely, with a generous heart, took your mom into your home as soon as she needed care.

You may not even have had time to look into some tips on how to take care of her as well as yourself. You’ve taken your turn, so why not try letting your brother and his family handle the situation for now? You haven’t failed. Your mom is simply too confused to be happy about much. Remember, too, that your brother and his wife are a team. There was only one of you.

Being a couple provides them with occasions to take breaks from caregiving, which should make things easier on everyone.

The Alzheimer’s Association, found at as well in your local phone book, can be an enormous help in teaching caregivers about validating the thoughts of people with AD and other approaches that may contribute to keeping anxiety and agitation at bay for the person with the disease. This approach generally makes them more content as well as easier to care for. The Alzheimer’s Association can also give your whole family tips about caring for the caregiver.

You are all likely to cope better with your mom’s disease if everyone gets some education about the stages of Alzheimer’s and the most effective ways to manage things.

Generally, the less someone with Alzheimer’s changes living arrangements, the better, since moving to a different environment can be confusing. However, it sounds as though your mother is cognitively able to comprehend this move and that she still recognizes you and your brother.

Therefore, if this change is to be made, now would be the time.

Evaluate how your mother responds to your visiting and continuing to be part of the care team, but don’t push yourself beyond what you can emotionally handle. It’s likely the next move for your mom will be a memory unit unless this trial with your brother and his wife either works out exceptionally well or not at all, in which case you may have mom back soon.