What to Take to a Memory Care Unit: 7 Things to Consider

Your parent is moving to a memory care unit at a retirement community. You’re not sure what they’ll need to take with them. On the one hand, you’d like them to be surrounded by familiar belongings that make them feel at home, but on the other, you don’t want them tripping over things.

Here are 7 things to consider when figuring out what to move:

1. Check what the retirement community provides.

Some places come furnished or partly furnished. Start by finding out whether your parent needs to bring their own bed and linen. What about window coverings or a shower curtain? The best way to clarify this is by talking directly with the retirement community.

2. Make sure furniture is suitable for the space they’re moving into.

Before moving furniture from your parent’s current home, first, make sure things will fit by arranging them on a scale floor plan of the new place. For instance, is your parent’s current bed going to comfortably fit in their new bedroom and will it fit through the doorway? Also, consider what items your parent will actually need in their new home. Does it make sense for them to bring along their dining room set if meals are provided down the hall and the only thing they’ll be eating in their suite is breakfast or an occasional snack?

3. Avoid things that present a tripping hazard.

Your parent’s dementia may distort their spatial perception, make them more impulsive, and reduce their ability to recognize unsafe situations, which means they’re more prone to falls. Avoid bringing things like loose rugs, bedspreads that are too big for the bed, rolling chairs, and excess furniture that could trip them up.

4. Pack enough clothes for 7-14 days.

Consider the closet space available and what sort of room there is for a dresser. Does the retirement home provide laundry services, and if so, how frequently? If your parent has trouble with incontinence, pack a few more items. Make sure footwear is slip-resistant and covers the heel so your parent won’t accidentally walk out of them. Check with the retirement community to see if they offer residents a place to store seasonal items.

5. Take items that will make them feel at home.

This could include a favourite chair, a familiar afghan, or their own pillow. Family photos can do that too but be prepared if they don’t recognize people in recent pictures. If their dementia is advanced, they may be seeing things from the perspective of a younger version of themselves. For instance, they may believe they’re still in school and their own parents are still alive, so they may have trouble making sense of pictures of you and your children. If that happens, don’t try to correct them or bring them back to the present. Simply go with the flow as best as you can. 

6. Pick items that reveal something about them to staff.

Display things that tell visitors and staff something about your parent’s life. For instance, if your parent did a lot of travelling, a map showing the various places they’ve been can quickly give staff a glimpse into their past. Mementoes from their work-life can do the same thing. It will help staff relate to them on a more personal level.

7. Include some things to help pass the time.

If they still enjoy reading, make sure they have some reading material on hand. See if the retirement community has books they can borrow. Music can have a profoundly positive effect on people with dementia, especially if it’s the music they listened to in the past. Put together a playlist of your parent’s favourite tunes. If your parent is restless and fidgety, an activity box – a small container full of little things that they enjoy doing, looking through, or talking about – can help keep them occupied and give staff or visitors a way of relating to them.

Looking for retirement communities in the Ottawa area that offer memory care? We can help save you hours upon hours researching your options. Give us a call or drop us a line.

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