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Minding Our Elders: Should someone with Alzheimer's move to another state?

Dear Carol: My husband and I hate northern winters and vowed to move south when we retired. Anywhere warm. Now, with retirement near, my husband has developed younger-onset Alzheimer's disease. He's still in a very early stage so we are unsure ab...

Carol Bursack
Carol Bursack

Dear Carol: My husband and I hate northern winters and vowed to move south when we retired. Anywhere warm. Now, with retirement near, my husband has developed younger-onset Alzheimer's disease. He's still in a very early stage so we are unsure about whether it's best to stay where we are or to go ahead with our plans. If we move, should we move now or wait? We hate to scrap our dream but we don't want to make things worse for him. What do you think? - Amy

Dear Amy: Younger-onset Alzheimer's disease is particularly devastating because symptoms start at a time when people are often planning the next phase of their lives. I'm so sorry that you and your husband are among those who must face this.

My short answer to your question would be that if you want to move, move soon. It will likely be easier for your husband to make changes while he has the ability to absorb the move and develop some sense of familiarity with his new home than it would be later on.

That being said, think carefully about the support system that you would be leaving behind. Do you have grown children in the area? Close friends? Moving to another part of the country where you don't know anyone could add to the isolation many caregivers feel. It could also make it more difficult for you to find respite care for your husband when you need a break.

Talk with your husband's doctor about the idea of moving. He or she will have a greater understanding of where in the trajectory of the disease your husband currently is and how fast he may decline.

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If you think this through and still want to move, I'd suggest that you choose your new state carefully. Go to www.aging.gov and find the states that interest you. They will be listed on the left side under state services. Compare services for seniors as well as caregiver services.

Next, investigate housing. Since you are starting fresh, you may want to consider a retirement community where there are many amenities designed for the aging population. Alternately, you may want to find a home with the potential for safety upgrades that can be added when needed. Do look for easy access to clinics and other medical care, if possible.

Ideally, your new location would have a medical center with a well-respected neurology department, so that your husband has excellent care. However, you can't forget your own needs, either. You, as a caregiver, will be under substantial stress. You will both be best served by your taking good care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.

Research potential communities for Alzheimer's support groups. The national Alzheimer's Association at www.alz.org will be able to help you with this. You might find a support group even more important than most people because you'd be new to the area.

Make lists with the pros and cons of moving and also of locations. Prioritize your needs and your wants. Then, if you decide to move, do it soon, knowing that getting settled before your husband's condition worsens is important.

It's rarely easy to make these big decisions. When you add dementia to the mix, things get even trickier. I hope that you and your husband can find many more years of enjoyment whatever you decide.

Carol Bradley 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 carolbursack@msn.com .

Related Topics: HEALTH
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