by Carolyn Lukert, MBA, CGCM,
PAC Consultant and Mentor
Dear PAC Consultant,
My 68 year-old husband, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, just moved to a locked memory support community because I simply couldn’t keep him safe at home anymore. I tried my best, but it just wasn’t working. He was constantly leaving and unable to find his way home, and always angry at me when I tried to help. And now, when I visit, he wants to leave with me and it is heartbreaking. People have actually suggested I stop visiting him. I just cannot imagine doing that. But, if my visits are making us both upset, maybe it is the best thing. Can you help me sort this out?
- Heartbroken in Hanover
I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you. You did what you felt was the right thing to do – moved your husband into a secure, supportive community to best meet his needs – and he is not settling in well. I can hear the distress in your words – I am so sorry, this is really hard.
Before we explore further, allow me to acknowledge that most transitions are tough, despite the fact that they are the right thing to do. While I suspect this doesn’t cause you to feel better, I hope it helps to at least enable you to take a pause.
I will put a few questions on the table to consider, with the goal being to think about one possible next step you can take to make a positive difference for either (or both) of you.
When moving to a new environment (or living well in any environment, for that matter), success depends largely on a few key variables. At PAC, we often refer to these as the Four Fs.
Is the environment:
- Friendly – does your loved one have people there that he feels like he knows and with whom he has positive relationships? How has his (or is his) care team facilitated building relationships with other residents or staff members?
- Familiar –Does he know his way around his new community? Does it feel like home? Or, might he feel trapped in a place that he doesn’t want to be?
- Functional – is he able (and enabled) to use his current level of skill/ability? Is everything done to him or for him, or is he engaged in a way that honors and enables him to do what he can do?
- Forgiving – Is he allowed to make mistakes – without being made to feel less? Do you have any sense of how those who are now around him respond or react when he makes a mistake?
Given what you know about your husband, is there one of these that stands out as a priority area that would be a good starting point to explore in more detail?
While my response just scratches the surface of a complex and important topic, I hope it provides some ideas for areas to focus. Additionally, a thinking partner can often be helpful as you sort through and consider options. Please do not hesitate to reach out by emailing email@example.com to set up a phone call, and we would welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation.