Are you worried about the ill effects of taking dementia patients out of their environment? Are you planning to move your dementia-affected parent to a long-term care facility?
Moving is challenging as is, but you need to consider a litany of things before taking dementia patients out of their environment.
Before switching to a new environment, it is normal for a healthy person to plan, contemplate and prepare for what’s about to come. Such is not the case with an older adult with dementia.
The stress attached to the process of moving can become overbearing in the mind of a dementia patient. This is where a diligent and understanding caregiver can step in and make life easy for them.
As a caregiver, you want to make the process of moving to a new home as smooth as possible. Further in this post, we will discuss concepts like transfer trauma and lived space, and lived experience.
What Is Transfer Trauma in Dementia Patients?
The term “Transfer Trauma” was coined by Tracy Greene Mintz, a dementia care worker from Redondo Beach, California. Transfer trauma was originally known as “Relocation stress syndrome”.
Note that not much research has been done on this topic yet. Hence Tracy’s work is critical in understanding transfer trauma.
Transfer trauma occurs in older adults a few days after moving from their private residence to a long-term care facility such as a nursing home.
Symptoms include anxiety, depression, loneliness, screaming, irritability, complaining, and exhibiting difficult behavior.
You’d think transfer trauma is general stress and confusion associated with relocation. Unfortunately, it’s not, it’s much more than that. Especially in the case of a person suffering from a neurodegenerative disease.
Transfer trauma changes the way a dementia patient interprets reality. It can make them delusional. Consequently, patients begin to feel uneasy and unsafe in a new environment. Transfer trauma is more than just homesickness.
Understanding the Concept of Lived Space and Lived Experience
The concept of lived space and lived experience is mentioned in the works of Henri Lefebvre, a French Marxist philosopher, and sociologist.
Although we won’t be discussing politics in this post, the concept of lived space and lived experience is key for caregivers.
Lived space is nothing but the space we feel around us. For instance, a person sitting in a room would feel the walls, the objects, and the air without being aware of it. It’s the basic human intelligence that helps us experience the spatial dimensions in a confined space.
This is why some people find it challenging to speak loudly when outdoors under the open sky. The same person can scream, yell or simply speak loud when in a closed environment such as a shopping mall, warehouse, or movie theatre.
It all depends on how their brain perceives the space around them. The human brain is constantly calculating the distance between themselves and their surroundings. The way a healthy person perceives living space is different than how a dementia person does.
This concept was further studied by Max Van Manen, a Canadian phenomenological researcher.
In his book Researching Lived Experience, he dived deeper into how humans experience their lives. In his words, a lived experience is not something that can be perceived or represented, it is there-for-you as humans have reflexive awareness of it.
How Does Lived Space Relate to Relocating a Dementia Patient?
It is imperative to understand the concept of lived space to create a better living environment for dementia-affected people. Before you relocate your loved one with dementia, you want to redesign the living space (aka their new home) as per their unique needs.
Gone are days when folks with dementia used to sit around— doing nothing— in their homes or a nursing home facility. With the advancement of medicine and technology, a dementia patient can make a living. They are quite capable of living autonomously.
A family member of a dementia-affected person can enhance their loved one’s quality of life by understanding how they see and experience space. This will help you create a living environment suited for a person with declining cognitive ability.
3 Tips on Taking Dementia Patients Out of Their Environment
Before taking dementia patients out of their environment, you must make sure that the new home is dementia-friendly and dementia-capable. Do not relocate unless you are done preparing the new home. It is important to be ready for the challenges life may throw at you.
Here’s how you can prepare the new home for a family member with dementia:
#1 Create an Air of Familiarity
You don’t want your loved one to walk into a home with new and unfamiliar objects. To create an air of familiarity in your new home, you can carry some of the older stuff with you. Needless to mention, you’ll have to hire a moving company for this job.
Also, make sure the walls have the same color and texture as your previous home. Does your loved one prefer a certain type of wallpaper in their room? Make sure to cover the walls of their new room with their favorite wallpaper or poster.
Furthermore, the placement of objects is also key. Hence, make sure to place the television set, sofa, dining table, etc in the same area of the room as your previous home. Also, place them at the same distance and angle from your loved one’s bed or a common resting place in the room.
#2 Focus On Safety and Security
When it comes to the safety and security of an elderly person with dementia, you must inform and educate every single person in the home on this issue. You must have every single person in the family on the same page.
Ask them to keep the doors locked, keep the floor dry, and keep the patient’s medicines in a safe cabinet. As the lead caregiver in the home, it is your responsibility to make sure that the security alarms are working at all times.
#3 Keep it Simple
Keeping the structure of the home simple makes wayfinding easy and effort-free for a dementia patient. You don’t want your loved one to struggle to try to find the toilet or a certain room in the house. Ideally, the dementia patient should have a washroom within their room.
When structuring the new home, also make sure that the privacy of your loved one with dementia is respected. Allow them to spend time alone. But also make it easy for them to find others to socialize with. Have a common room where everyone can congregate in the evening.
Relocating a dementia patient to a new home or a long-term care facility is not easy. This article informs you about the factors that might affect the health of your loved ones once they have moved into a new environment.
Moreover, long-term facilities such as nursing homes allow you to redesign the living space— up to a certain degree. Ask your loved one if they have any preferences as to the design and make-up of the room.