While there are similarities between the packing processes for any senior living move, the items that seniors bring to their new community often depends on what type of care they’ll receive.
Here, we highlight the specific types of possessions seniors should bring to a Memory Care community, as well as what they should leave behind.
What to Bring
When packing for Memory Care, focus on the familiar. You want the new space to look, feel, smell, and sound like home. Familiarity helps those with Alzheimer’s or related dementias feel grounded in a time of transition.
Everyone has something in their house that says “home” to them, whether a comfortable chair, a familiar piece of art, a beautiful plant, or a cozy blanket. Before the move, spend time figuring out which household items hold the most meaning to your loved one. Which items would they miss and which ones would they hardly notice? Consider the arrangement of the space, too. Re-create the look of home as much as possible so that when your loved one wakes up in the morning, they’ll see the same books, photos, and memorabilia as before.
When your loved one moves to a Memory Care community, they may become more confused and feel isolated despite your efforts to make the new space mimic their previous home. Provide constant reminders that you will visit often and continue to spend time with them. Bring a calendar to mark your visits, so you loved one can look forward to your time together.
Since you can’t spend all hours of the day and night with your loved one in Memory Care, photos present a great way for them to maintain a sense of connection. Decorate the room with framed photos, and bring old photo albums and scrapbooks for your loved one to enjoy on their own and when you visit. You can also label pictures to help staff members identify important people and stimulate conversations with your loved one about the past.
Even in the end stage of dementia, the five senses remain intact. Pack cozy blankets and throws, as well as items with lace, fur, and denim to excite the senses. You can also use favorite perfumes, colognes, and lotions to evoke memories. And don’t forget the power of music—even after seniors have lost the ability to form sentences, some can still belt out the words to their favorite songs and hymns. Pack a music player and your loved one’s favorite albums, so they can experience the therapeutic benefits of rhythm and sound.
What to Leave Behind
Of course, you can’t fit the contents of an entire house into a Memory Care apartment. When in doubt about what to leave off the packing list, follow these guidelines.
Families should avoid clutter with any senior living move, especially when it comes to seniors with Alzheimer’s or related dementias. Take size and layout into consideration when you pack, as a cluttered room can cause confusion. Unless that bulky couch, chair, or dresser is significant to your loved one, leave it behind.
Though you may feel tempted to purchase new pieces to make your loved one’s room feel fresh, too much newness can make your loved one feel lost and afraid. You may consider the old things worn and frayed, but those well-loved curtains and bedding can help them feel connected to the new space. Rather than spending money on a beautiful new couch or carpet, ease your loved one’s adjustment by sticking with the familiar.
Eliminate items that can be dangerous or breakable. Anything with sharp corners or glass can cause injuries, so consider replacing a glass table with a wood table and covering any sharp edges with a rounded plastic encasement. In addition, avoid busy patterns, which can cause angst or confusion for those with dementia. Instead, keep décor simple and natural.
Though you want your loved one to feel comforted by the presence of familiar items, beware of bringing anything of great monetary value. Items can easily be misplaced, especially for those living with memory loss. You can save your family a great deal of time and frustration if you leave expensive jewelry, family heirlooms, and priceless keepsakes at home. Instead, pack items you can easily replace, like costume jewelry or copies of old photos.
Above all, when packing for Memory Care, remember to take your loved one’s preferences into account. By respecting their choices, you allow them to experience a measure of control. Don’t forget to listen and let them be part of the senior living decision-making process as much as possible.
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