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“Dad isn’t like the other people here,” she said, shaking her head and inhaling deeply. “Look, I know he has dementia, but he’s so upset. He keeps saying that he wants to go home! I think we need to talk about moving him out,” Matthew’s daughter said.
Working in long-term care, I have seen a lot of first days for new residents. I have also seen a lot of first days go poorly. In fact, one could argue that most first days for new residents do not go well at all.
For family members, though, a loved one’s first day at a dementia care community can be scary.
In the story above, Matthew had only been at the community for two days. He was having a normal reaction to a new environment, but his family saw it as a catastrophic event.
They saw his frustration and confusion with the new community, and mistook it for dislike for the dementia care community as a whole.
“He hates it here,” they argued.
“We need to move him out, or maybe even just move him to your assisted living facility. He’d be better off there, I know it,” the daughter continued. “It is normal for first days to go poorly,” I replied. “Just give it a few more days.”
Within a week, Matthew had adjusted completely. He enjoyed singing and dancing when entertainers came in. He liked sitting with his new friends in the dining room. Matthew’s sleep pattern changed, and he was even able to sleep through the night.
It can be very challenging for family members to feel at ease when their loved ones are in a dementia care community.
Having seen many first days, though, I can tell you that things almost always get better.
Give it time, take a deep breath, and rely on the knowledge of the professionals at your loved one’s community. They can tell you when things are not working out, or they can assure you that everything will improve.
Trust that you made the right decision for your loved one’s care, and that you are doing the absolute best that you can.
Rachael Wonderlin is the Director of Memory Care at Blue Harbor Senior Living, and specializes in long term dementia care. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s degree in Gerontology. She writes and answers questions from readers at Dementia By Day.
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