How to settle someone with dementia into a nursing home

This post follows on from How Fulford cares for residents with dementia. There, we discuss the benefits of nursing home care for dementia patients, how to know when to move a loved one with dementia into care, and Fulford’s approach to dementia care. 

Here, in part two, we explore the days, weeks, and months after someone with dementia has relocated to a nursing home. Below, you’ll find advice for supporting your loved one on the day of the move, and some insight into how nursing homes (like Fulford) help dementia patients settle into their new environment. 

On the day: supporting your loved one’s move into dementia care

As we mentioned in part one, discussing the possibility of nursing home care with your loved one while they still have the mental capacity to understand and make decisions can be vital. If you know that they’re happy with the idea of living in a nursing home in the future, this can take a great deal of stress off your shoulders when the time comes to move.

However, on the day, you may find that your loved one is reluctant to move (or they may have forgotten about the arrangement altogether).

Try to minimise their worries by explaining that the move is simply a trial. Most homes will help you arrange short (respite) care to test the waters. This should help your loved one overcome any fears they may have regarding longer-term nursing home care. 

It may only take a brief time for your loved one to settle into their new environment, at which point you and the home can make the call to transition to long-term dementia care. 

Back to moving day, there are several ways you can help make the move into a nursing home a smooth one for your loved one. 

Above all else, making sure their new room feels familiar and inviting is crucial. We always recommend that you try and set up the room ahead of move-in day. If you can, try to replicate the decor and layout of your loved one’s home within the space provided. To achieve this, you may wish to display personal items, pictures, nick-nacks, books, games, and other cherished belongings that will trigger happy memories. 

And on moving day itself, listen to your loved one’s immediate feedback. If they think something’s in the wrong place or something is missing, work with them to make the space as comfortable and as familiar as possible. 

Knowing when to leave on move-in day

Leaving your loved one in care can be emotional for all involved. With this in mind, you may wish to coordinate your exit with the nursing home staff to avoid distressing your relative. 

For example, rather than saying your goodbyes face-to-face and risking upsetting your loved one, you could leave while they’re distracted (perhaps during mealtime or with an activity).  

Knowing when to return

Every person with dementia is different. Some will take to their new surroundings with ease, while others may find it difficult. 

During the initial settling-in period, you may be asked not to visit for the first week or so. However, you’ll be on-call if it’s clear that your loved one is struggling to adjust. 

In the weeks and months that follow, you’ll be encouraged to visit regularly as part of your loved one’s care plan. Supporting them as they participate in mealtimes, activities, and socialising with other residents can help them feel more settled in their new home.

The role of the nursing home in settling dementia patients into care

Moving your loved one into dementia care can be stressful, emotional, and challenging. But it’s not your burden to shoulder alone. 

Highly trained nursing home staff will be on hand to take most of the stress off your shoulders. From senior management and administrators to the nursing staff, care assistants, chefs and janitorial staff, everyone has a part to play in helping your relative settle into a new way of life.

Here at Fulford, we ensure our staff are appropriately trained and all accreditation is fully up-to-date. 

We are working towards employing a “household” model of care, where all staff  are at the same grade and have a responsibility for a household within the home. 

For the here and now, however, your loved one will be assigned a key worker, who will have 3 or 4 residents each. They will oversee each resident’s personal care, health care, activities, and more — ably supported by the rest of the team where necessary. 

An individual’s daily needs must be carefully considered

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for dementia patients. 

As we highlight in part one of this two-part blog post, no two people are the same, and every resident will have differing abilities and needs. 

Therefore, every care plan must be tailored to the individual and focused on the resident’s strengths, goals, and desired outcomes.

Whether it’s at Fulford or in another nursing home, we recommend speaking with staff to understand the home’s approach to catering to individual care needs.

Finally, the importance of the home’s environment cannot be understated 

When it comes to settling a dementia patient into a nursing home, reducing anxiety and increasing comfort levels is pivotal. To that end, getting the environment right is key.

There has been a great deal of research into the effect of colour in dementia care homes, with warm, well-designed spaces being shown to positively impact a patient’s mental wellbeing.

Many homes are now removing patterned carpets and wallpapers, as these can confuse people with dementia. Things can appear to leap out at them, and in less lucid moments, this can be particularly frightening.  

Meanwhile, some homes are choosing to paint the resident’s door and door frame a specific colour to help them more easily recognise it.  

And research into the effects of colour on dementia patients goes beyond the decor. The traditional navy blue of nursing staff uniforms can appear shadowy to some people with dementia, whereas lighter shades of blue are deemed to be more soothing.

Here at Fulford, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our approach to dementia care and the environment in which we operate. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us on 01904 654 269. We’re ready to listen and happy to help.

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