Many families often question themselves about when is the right time to move a parent suffering from dementia (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body, Frontal Lobe or other). There are many factors to take into consideration:

Reason #1: I will wait until mom gets worse to make a move.

Many families hope their parents will never get worse, or wait from a directive from their primary care physician or the hospital (if a crisis happened before). Here is a reason why waiting is not always the best scenario:

Yes, a move may affect mom’s memory but it will allow her to enjoy the benefits of assisted living (companionship, activities, brain stimulation, good nutrition, nursing supervision) while she still can. It will also make her transition better if in the future she needs to move to the community’s memory care because:

–          Mom may now know the staff and be less reluctant to receive care

–          Mom will have a structured routine that will minimize her fears. She will also have more of a feeling of companionship rather than abandonment.

–          Mom will have by then some familiar faces and friends who will be transitioning with her

–          Most secured memory cares have a wait list and allow the community’s own residents placement before a new resident

Reason #2: Mom wants to stay home.

If financially, your family is able to provide in home care, this may be an option. However, 6 out of 10 people suffering from dementia will wander out of their homes. What will happen if mom leaves the home in the middle of the night?

Providing yourself with  peace of mind is as important as providing mom with the best care.

Home care can become expensive (in average  if you are paying for 7 hours or more of in home care, you could have mom in an assisted living with all the care provided and supervision 24/7), and it doesn’t provide the interaction and stimulation a retirement community could provide.

Short term stays are a great way for seniors to “try” a community and realize that in today’s era, a senior community is more like a cruise ship rather than the old style nursing homes.

Reason #3: Mom can’t afford it.

There are several ways to pay for assisted living and memory care communities: was your parent in the military and may she/he qualify for a VA Aid and Attendance Benefit of up to $1,600 per month? Does she/he have a Long Term Care Insurance? A few communities may also offer to convert to Medicaid but be careful when this promise is made.

Recently I heard a family had been promised to convert to Medicaid if their mom did a private pay stay at their community for a minimum of 2 years. The senior has been there over a year and now the community was sold to a different ownership group who has no intention to convert to Medicaid. Not only this type of promise must be in writing but you must also investigate the stability of the group you are choosing to provide care for your loved one.

Reason 4: Mom will hate me if I do this to her.

Although a move is not an easy transition, it is better to do it when you have a choice rather than being forced to do it (like if mom goes to the E.R. and they will only discharge her to a community).

A senior will take any time between 4-8 weeks to fully transition and feel comfortable in a new environment. Transitions are definitely harder when a senior is more progressed in dementia, and a sudden change at this stage may start behaviors that some senior living communities may not accept, therefore your options may be more limited.

A senior housing provider who has training in memory care can help you with the transition, from sending you email updates as needed or letting you know what time of the day your parent is in a better mood for a visit.


Recognizing that your parent needs a change to remain safe or healthy can be traumatic – on both of you.  The best time to talk to your parent is way before it is actually necessary.  It is important not to rush the decision and to recognize that seniors want to hang onto their independence for as long as possible even though that may not be what is best for them.  The good news is that there are options out there to help your parent get the care needed.  And there are people to help you with the process.  Your parent needs you whether they admit it or not.  Continually reassure them that you are there for them and always will be.  Throughout the process, keep your sense of humor and keep the communications lines open.  To help you through this process, you can talk to a support group (Aegis Lodge in Kirkland holds one free of charge on the Third Thursday of each month at 3:00 p.m.) or  attend a Laughter Yoga class (held the Second Wednesday of each month at 1:00 p.m. also at Aegis Lodge).

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