When is the best time to move after a dementia diagnosis?

Our Ask an Expert column explores the subject of moving home after a diagnosis. 

Moving and packing tools

Q: 'My wife has vascular dementia, and I expect we’ll eventually need a smaller house closer to our son’s family. Should we move now or wait until we really have to?'

After a dementia diagnosis, many people think about moving home when planning for the future. Moving home can have a big impact, and being concerned about how the person with dementia might cope with it is understandable.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to when you should do this. It depends on your individual situation, and you’ll need to balance the benefits, such as being closer to family, with any drawbacks.

Balancing

Generally, a person in the earlier stages of dementia is likely to cope better with moving home than someone in the later stages.

However, other aspects of your wife’s life could also make a difference. For example, has she been used to moving home often, or is it an unusual experience for her? Does she have many important memories associated with where you are now?

If you decide to move later on, when her dementia is more advanced, there are still things you could do to make it easier for her.

Preparing

With preparation, time and support, you could help your wife settle into a new home.

Keep the environment as familiar as possible by using furniture or decorations that she’s used to. This might include painting or changing the front door to match the old one.

Leaving the bathroom door open and a light on at night may help her get around a new layout, as could signage and automatic sensor lights. Other technology, such as clocks that tell you whether it’s night or day, may help her orient herself. An occupational therapist should be able to advise on devices – ask your GP or local authority to be referred to one.

A person’s behaviour may become out of character as they get used to a new home, and it’s worth being prepared for this. Your wife might be more confused and disorientated, or she might seem less able to cope. There could be more distressing aspects to these changes, such as accusations or repetitive questioning.

Deciding

If the person with dementia isn’t able to make a decision for themselves about moving home, a decision will need to be made for them.

In England and Wales, this would usually be by an appointed attorney or deputy for health and welfare. If there is a financial element to the decision, an attorney or deputy for property and affairs would be involved.

In Northern Ireland, the decision would be made using a best interests decision-making approach, and any financial aspects would involve someone appointed through an enduring power of attorney.

Decisions made on a person’s behalf must be based on their best interests, taking into account their past or present opinions. It’s important to involve the person in the decision as much as possible.

Dementia together magazine: April/May 18

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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Help. My dad has advanced Alzheimer's and my stepmother has recently announced she and he are moving to a new home 60 miles away. Dad has major anxiety about being away from home - like most Alzheimer's sufferers, he craves familiarity - and is distressed about the proposed move. Major declines in his health have all come during or immediately after stays away from home. And yet my stepmum is pressing ahead, even telling me she wants a change while she's young enough to move on (they're both in their 70s and she's in good health). She barely mentions the effect it will have on Dad, saying he soon won't remember where he is anyway. I have a good relationship with her and don't want to burn bridges (I'm terrified any fall-out will lead to her stopping me seeing Dad), but I need to frame any argument with some genuine facts. Please can someone advise.

Hi Nick. We're so sorry to hear about your difficult situation with your Dad, stepmum and the potential house move.
We strongly recommend speaking with our National Dementia Helpline advisers - they will be able to discuss this matter further and provide you with support. Please call 0300 222 11 22 from Monday to Wednesday (9am-8pm), Thursday to Friday (9am–5pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10am-4pm). We also have a live online advice service. Find out more about our helpline services here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
Additionally, you may benefit from joining our online community where you can share your experiences with other people affected by dementia. Learn more about Dementia Talking Point: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-talking-point-our-on…
We really hope this helps, Nick. Wishing you the best of luck.
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Alzheimer's Society Blog Team

Help !! I live in abroad, my Mum sisters and brother live in UK along with extended family of Mum's. Mum was diagnosed about 3 years ago her memory remembering what happened this morning or yesterday is bad, but she still remembers all the family and I talk to her daily,she does now need help with everyday living making meals ect,but dressing toileting is not an issue, she dresses herself,makes her bed. the problem with Mum was she was frightend and feeling confused and I feel althrough my sisters and brother are living near her, only one sister tried to help and sort things out and she didn't cope, Mum was a nurse and worked in the NHS for all of her working life she looked after people with this disease and always said please never put me in a care home, it was her worst nightmare. to cut a long story short and it would take too long to go into it, Mum went into hospital she had hallucinations one night (my brother we found out was phoning Mum at night and not speaking then putting it down he had been financially abusing her as well we had put a stop to that, this was difficult to deal with, my sister found out it was him as she was there one night when it happened, Why I don't know). I thought the hallucinations could been a new medication, along with the stress she was going through she needed help and was not getting comfort, my sister on leaving the hospital took Mum to the care home telling her her flat had been flooded and she was only staying here untill it was fixed I didn't agree i feel it was too early for this step, but my sister said she couldn't cope as she got no help, Mum did say to me why don't they let me stay with them untill my flat is fixed she felt so bad she kept saying I would always help them when they needed it, she didn't know that there was no going back. my Mum is so distressed every time i speak to her, wishes she was dead she feels she is locked up for no reason it is breaking my heart she feels no one loves her, even though she has family no one comes to take her out, I am planning to come back as soon as I can but it will only be for weeks I have been here 35 years, but all Mums money has now gone as the care home she went into was expensive i know its too late to fix what my Mum wants which is to go home or live with one of my sisters, my sister the one who did try has moved away after always being the one who was with Mum, Mum helped every one over there financially and mentally supporting them when they needed it but as soon as she was diagnosed it feels as through they backed away. I would just like to know if there is any way someone from your society could visit Mum and talk to her about how she is feeling, its terrible to listen to the heartbreak she is going through, when I phone they say Your Mum is fine she is quite happy, but Mum is good at putting on a face sometimes, she feels she has to pretend she is Ok, as soon as she hears my voice she is just devastated and wants help, what can I do

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for getting in touch with us. I'm sorry to hear about the developments in your mum's condition - this sounds like a really difficult situation for you both.

As your situation is quite specific, I'd strongly recommend getting in touch with our helpline to speak with one of our Dementia Advisers. They can provide information, advice and emotional support, and they'll be able to advise on the best ways for us to support you and your mum.

The number is at the top of this page, or you can contact the team via email or live chat. Please find full contact details for the helpline and opening hours here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

I hope this is helpful, and please don't hesitate to get in touch.
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Alzheimer's Society blog team

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