Moving a loved one who has Alzheimer's into a new home or facility is a daunting task. Here's help planning ahead, from exploring options early to adding familiar touches. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Moving from one home to another is never easy. For a person who has Alzheimer's disease, changing the routine and moving into an unfamiliar environment can be especially daunting.

If you're helping a loved one who has Alzheimer's move to a new home or into a care facility, make the transition as comfortable as possible.

If possible, talk to your loved one about preferences for living arrangements while he or she can still make reasonable choices. It might be harder to make guesses later about what your loved one would want.

If your loved one will be moving to a care facility, make frequent visits before the move. Speak with the staff about your loved one's background and any special needs. Provide details on your loved one's medical and mental health history, including a detailed medication list.

Consider carefully whether to include your loved one in these visits. If your loved one is interested, it might make sense to bring him or her with you. If you sense that a visit would only create stress and anxiety, go ahead without your loved one.

Before the move, make your loved one's new room or space look and feel as familiar as possible. Decorate the area with a treasured quilt, a shelf with special items, a favorite chair or other meaningful possessions. Familiar belongings can trigger feelings of connectedness and ownership, as well as boost your loved one's sense of security.

Stock the space with pictures of loved ones and friends, memory books or photo albums. Reminiscing about the past can help a person who has Alzheimer's bring reassuring memories into the present. Label the pictures to help staff members or others identify the people in your loved one's life and encourage conversations about the past.

As you're preparing your loved one's space, be careful with heirlooms and priceless or irreplaceable items. Consider bringing items that can be replaced easily if necessary — such as costume jewelry or copies of old photos.

On the day of the move, follow your loved one's normal routine as much as possible. If you can, handle the move during your loved one's best time of day — whether it's in the morning or the afternoon.

While you're moving, do your best to stay positive. Your attitude can help your loved one feel safe and secure in the new environment.

Once your loved one is settled, trust the staff to help with the next big step — your departure. Rather than making a big deal about your leaving, the staff might engage your loved one in a meaningful activity while you walk away.

Leaving your loved one in the new home or facility might be difficult for you — both on the day of the move and in the weeks and months that follow. Feelings of grief, loss and guilt are normal.

Keep in mind that it might take your loved one a couple of months to become acclimated to his or her new living arrangement. Visit your loved one often during this time, and encourage friends and family to do the same. Extra care and attention can help make your loved one's new place a home.

Aug. 30, 2012