In January 2021, Carol’s mother moved into memory care, a continual learning process for Carol. Below are some things that Carol has done to help her mother adapt to her new home and ensure she is getting the best possible care.
This place would be my mother’s new home, so selecting a memory care facility required planning and research. I knew that no facility was perfect, so I identified what was important to my mother and us, her children. My mother enjoys the afternoon sun, so I knew her room had to get sunlight and that the view from her window would matter to her.
Seeing a home firsthand is essential, and I recommend going around at mealtime. During the visit, speak with the staff and residents to see if they are happy and engaged. Mellie’s Assisted Living Checklist includes these questions. Before we toured, I asked to see the activity calendar, menus, and room layouts.
Once we decided on a memory care home, my next job was to make it “like home” for my mother. I inquired about what furniture and items could be brought into the facility since I wanted her to have things that she would recognize. The kitchen table was important - it’s where we eat and play games. I decorated the living quarters with family photos from my mother’s lifespan. We added floor lights by the recliner and the table in her main sitting area. I looked for other ways to incorporate her interests, such as adding a bird feeder outside her window.
"I think of my #1 job as being my mother’s advocate."
I wanted the staff to get to know her to engage her better. I wrote a little something about her for the staff and included photographs. And just as important, I got to know the employees, especially the aides - they are the ones who usually have the most information about how the residents are doing. I also introduce myself to other family members who visit their relatives at the facility and exchange phone numbers and email addresses with them. It is nice to have additional eyes providing information.
Every resident has a care plan, and I make sure to read it and ask questions if it needs to be clarified or if I think something needs adding. In Minnesota, they must conduct an assessment every 90 days and whenever a change occurs, such as a fall or hospitalization. I always advocate for my mother by being present for the assessment and keeping copies of all the assessments. It is good to review them as they are done differently by each RN.
Inquire whether there is a family council or other similar group. Minnesota started these in 2021, so I always ask for the meeting minutes and the facility’s response to issues raised. The family council should be a resource for the family, and you can request informational speakers on topics of interest such as hospice, signs of progressing dementia, etc.
My siblings and I live within 30 minutes of the facility, and one of us visits daily. It is best for our mother to see familiar faces and for us to talk with the staff during the visit.
Questions I ask the staff and keep track of in the Mellie app.
What and how much is mom eating? The facility keeps track of the percentage of the meal that she eats.
How is mom sleeping?
Is mom engaging in the activities?
Has the staff noticed any changes? Especially concerning weight, bowel movements, and urine output.
Activities that I do with my mother during visits:
Do exercises or go for a walk
Play games, such as Dominos or Shut The Box.
Call or video chat with friends and family
Bring my dog - they cuddle up together in her recliner.
Touch is HUGE. I hold her hands and put lotion on her hands and legs.
YouTube is fabulous. We watch a lot of Lawerence Welk.
Watch church services
I bring in meals when they are serving something that she does not like. I even brought in the fine china; she gets a kick out of using it.
Put outfits together on hangers. This action also helps the staff since my mother is very indecisive.
Look around my mother’s apartment for anything out of place. Check her closet to see if any clothes are missing and ask the aides to find missing items. Some dementia behaviors are hiding or hoarding their belonging or taking others' belongings. These instances are why you need to label all clothes and toiletries.
It has been a journey, and it continues. I have learned to take time for myself and recharge by walking with my dog, sharing my journey with others, and asking for help. I know that setbacks happen. I learned early on that after any trauma or setback; there is a new normal for the person with dementia. I used to long for the previous person. I now embrace the person I have every day. Every day is the best day with my mother.