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Can I visit my grandma in memory care when she first arrives?

We just admitted grandma to memory care and they recommended we not visit for the first two week. Won't that make her feel more abandoned?
Status: Open    Nov 22, 2014 - 02:48 AM

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2 answers

Expert Answers

Mar 04, 2015 - 08:27 AM

First, it is important for you to understand that you should visit, and often, after the first two weeks. The reason for the two week recommendation stems from the best practices in allowing a new resident to adjust to the staff, routine and facility of their new home. It is not meant as something negative and it is not something that every family chooses to follow. Also, it is not something that is necessarily universally recommended to every family.

Before continuing, let me be very clear that it is important for you and all of your family to be advocates for your grandmother to ensure that she is being provided the quality of care that you expect and that she deserves.

Let me give you an example of why I recommend waiting 2 weeks to some families, from my experience. This is a true story:

I worked with a family several years ago. Let's call the resident "Mary". Mary had moderate Alzheimer's Disease. She was eloping daily from her home, and several days before moving in was picked up by a neighbor over a mile away. She still recognized her husband at that time, though with some vagueness. She would become highly agitated, especially if she felt restrained. Her catastrophic reactions manifested as exit seeking and physically and verbally abusive behavior.

I prepared the family to drop Mary off and to take 2 weeks away from seeing her as she adjusted. However, Mary's daughter and husband ignored the plan and my lengthy advice on the subject. On the evening she moved in, Mary incessantly exhibited her catastrophic behavior, beginning with questioning and moving to exit seeking and finally to physical and verbal abuse. She couldn't understand this new place or why her husband and daughter were sad. She couldn't understand why she was being left somewhere. By the next day, Mary was discharged to the local geriatric psychiatric hospital, where she stayed for the two weeks she was supposed to transition at the memory care. During that time, she had to be physically and chemically restrained and she went through a period that the only safe way to provide her care was for the psychiatric doctors and nurses to drug her to a nearly vegetative state.

Would it have been better if the family had followed my advice and refrained from visiting for 2 weeks? Honestly, we will never know. If we could do it all over again, I would put money on yes.

My recommendation to you:
Not knowing your grandma, I can't give you a personal recommendation. I can tell you that I don't believe that any memory care community gives a 2 week recommendation lightly. Moving someone to memory care is never easy, and it is very difficult for staff while the new resident adjusts to the routine and environment. If you have concerns, raise them with the executive director or nurse, both of who should have an open door policy. Talk it over with your family. Ask how she is doing every day over the phone. Stay involved and be an advocate.

After the two weeks, visit your grandmother often. Do activities, engage with other residents and staff. Leave quietly without tears or goodbyes. And, always, cherish every memory with your grandmother.


APFM Staff Answers

Mar 04, 2015 - 10:04 AM

You are always welcome to visit your Grandma any time you like. However, the reason many communities suggest giving them a couple of weeks is that it's been proven that if the resident has a couple of weeks to adjust alone with the staff, your Grandma will adjust faster and smoother than with the family there.

It sounds as though it would be the opposite- your family knows her best and could help with this transition. But what winds up happening is that the resident also knows YOU the best and knows how to push your buttons. She will tell you how horrible it is there, how they aren't doing this and that, they want to go home, etc. When we, as a family, get in the middle, we start second guessing the staff and our decision to move our loved one at all. Your Grandma will pick up on that stress and it adds fuel to the fire, so to speak, to what she already thinks is awful.

Giving them that little bit of time to get to know each other and the routines without family interference really does help move things along quickly. Think about when kids go to Summer Camp. They traditionally write these awful letters with pleas for help out of unbelievable scenarios at the beginning. Then when the parents show up a couple of weeks later, the child loves camp and isn't ready to leave.

It takes a resident with memory care issues that much longer to adjust. In the meantime, you and her family members can send her cards, pictures for her new room, etc. that will show your love & encouragement while giving everyone the space they need to adjust. Don't worry- two weeks will go by fast and you'll be right there with her again.
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