FlowersWhen To Tell Your Loved One
By Carol Simpson

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Deciding how and when --- or even if --- to tell your loved one that there's a move coming up depends on your assessment of his or her ability to deal with the information.

In the earlier stages of the disease, you will probably want to discuss it, giving your loved one the respect and dignity that comes with participating in this important decision. You may even want to involve the person in choosing the home.

Tell a relative with Alzheimer's about a planned move does not always go smoothly. You may encounter resistance and resentment. As heartbreaking as it is to hear your loved one's protests, they should not make you change your mind.

"You want to do what is good for your loved one," says Dr. Sloane, "and that is not necessarily what he says he wants." You may want to concentrate on the fact that even if your relative is unhappy about the move, once he or she is in an environment that offers security, freedom of movement, social interaction and interesting activities, he or she will settle in comfortably. And you should reassure the person with Alzheimer's that the move does not mean that you don't love them or that they will never see you again.

Timing is important, however. At certain times, your loved one may be more agitated, paranoid or angry. Changes in environment, the presence of new faces and loss of familiar surroundings can all increase anxiety. It may not be possible to eliminate the negative reactions to change entirely, but you do want to diminish them as much as possible. That's why it's smarter, if possible, to make the move when the person is in a relatively calm period.

When you do tell your relative that they will be moving to a care facility, offer an explanation in a straightforward way. And don't bring up the subject too far in advance. In the early stages of the disease, notice of a week or two is plenty. That gives them time to ask about the facility, make choices about what they want to take, even visit the facility if that is appropriate. You can schedule an appointment with the social worker or the doctor to get help with answers to questions and worries.

You may want to say something like: "Mother, next week we're going to take a drive to a place where you are going to live. It's got lots of other people your age for you to spend time with and you'll be able to do a lot of activities that you don't get to do now. I'll be going with you that day, and afterwards I'll see you there all the time."

Listen to what your family member has to say. Don't overload him or her with information. If he or she mentions not wanting to leave behind certain possessions, offer reassurance that the treasures will be moved too. If that is not possible, assure the person with Alzheimer's that there will be many things to enjoy in the new place.

In the later stages of the disease, however, you may determine that it is neither necessary nor wise to tell your relative that the move is going to happen. Instead, you may simply want to wait until moving day to mention it---he or she may not even understand or react.

Saying So Long

When it comes time to leave your loved one, work with the nurses, aides and activity director to make it as smooth as possible. They should help involve your relative in an activity---a meal, a walk down the hall, a conversation with one of the staff members. Distracting attention from the farewell will help both of you to cope.

(c) copyright 1997


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