STRATEGY SESSION: A LOVED ONE WITH DEMENTIA

After 14 years in the retirement residence industry, and since leaving the industry 6 years ago to launch Tea & Toast, I have worked tirelessly to not only help families find retirement homes “in the moment,” but also do some future planning.

I’ve learned a lot on this Tea & Toast journey. The most critical piece of advice I can share is this: strategy equals success.

Beyond what the situation is today, have you thought – honestly, now – about what things might look like in, say, three years from now? Two years? Or even next year?

I understand. It can be hard to acknowledge that your health or your loved one’s health might change for the worse. We are all most comfortable with “the now,” and it can be scary to think about what might be. And as humans, we like to feel we’re in control.

But when you really think about it, strategizing means you have more control over things, not less. Having a solid plan in place guarantees that if something unexpected happens – for example, a bad fall that sends your senior loved one to hospital – you will know exactly what to do and where to turn. You will be able to act rather than react.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a series of blogs on how to strategize for different situations. I hope you find them helpful and welcome your comments and questions. Here is our first installment.

If your loved one has dementia
As dementia creeps into more advanced later stages, it's important to understand that your loved one will not be reasoning in the same way as they used to. To them, the outcome looks like “I’m getting kicked out of my house.”

Strategies for success
So how do you communicate with someone who may not remember conversations? If they are resisting, how do you get them on the same page as you about a move?

First and foremost: Do your homework! I’m a big fan of using an Advisor, wink wink; however, there are things you can do to lay the groundwork.

  • Assess the situation. Consider where your loved one is at now, both mentally and physically, and where they may end up as they age and as dementia progresses.
  • Understand why they are resisting. Consider that they most likely have “clear times” when they are aware that they are losing their memory, and how terrifying that must be. Now, pile on losing their home and many of their possessions. It’s not hard to figure out why there is so much resistance.

  • Acknowledge their fears. I have seen seniors who, before dementia, would never expect their kids to care for them. Then, after dementia progresses, they turn into a demanding individual who refuses every suggestion. They do this because they are scared. Tell them you understand why they are feeling that way.

  • Share information in installments. One of the biggest challenges to any senior is a situation that has so many moving parts that they are not sure where to begin. I always find it best for your to do a preliminary search of appropriate retirement homes and bring options to the senior - but not a ton of options. Try to narrow the choice down to two residences, three at the most.

  • Talk and tour. Discuss with your loved one your top two choices for homes. Tell your loved one you would like them to visit the places with you. When you get to the point of touring, schedule a lunch and make an outing of it, doing only one tour a day.

Pro Tip: At every home you tour, pay close attention to how your loved one reacts. This should give you a good idea of what they like. They won’t remember later when you want to discuss options, so do as much discussing with them in the moment as possible. If you think it will help, take some photos as you tour.

Final thoughts
Don’t be afraid to have those difficult conversations. Making a plan in the early days and revisiting it as things change is really what sets families up for success. I really believe that if more people did that, we would have far fewer crisis situations and our seniors would be safer.

My new eBook is full of more helpful strategies and insider information about the retirement industry. Please take a look!

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