Changing Environments & Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Loved One Cope with the Challenges
For those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, people and places that were once familiar and comfortable can become strange and confusing as the disease progresses. Changes to their environment, such as receiving houseguests, traveling, going to the doctor or moving to a new home can trigger difficult emotions and challenging behaviors.
Ruth Cantillon, Director of Sales and Marketing at Osprey Lodge in Tavares, FL, helps memory care residents and families caring for a loved one at home cope with the stress of a change in setting. “Changes or disruptions to their environment can cause someone with Alzheimer’s to become anxious, agitated, confused or aggressive,” says Cantillon. “Changes in their routine or surroundings can be uncomfortable and distressing. While love ones may react to change with a variety of behaviors, at the core of most reactions is their fear and frustration of trying to make sense of a world in which they no longer feel at home.”
How to Reduce Your Loved One’s Anxiety
When a loved one’s environment changes, or new people enter their comfort zone, the cognitive decline caused by their disease makes it hard for them to rationally understand the change. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about this as caregivers. However, there are many ways to reduce the anxiety they experience. The Alzheimer’s Association’s webpage “Anxiety and Agitation” explains how caregivers can handle the challenging behaviors caused by environmental triggers.
If your loved one with Alzheimer’s experiences confusion or distress when their environment changes, you can help care for them by creating a calm environment and sense of security. It’s also important to remain calm yourself. In addition, experts suggest the following techniques:
- Plan outings and visits at the time of day your loved one is at their best. If your loved one is more alert and lucid in the afternoon, schedule doctors visits after lunch.
- Remove any stressors from the environment. Try to determine the cause or your loved one’s distress. If they live on a busy street and get upset when they hear people’s voices outside, try to eliminate this stressor by playing music during the day to distract from the other noises.
- Allow your loved one some privacy to rest or calm down whenever they need it.
- Simplify tasks and routines to keep your loved one from becoming frustrated or upset. For example, keep frequently used dishes on the countertop if they get upset trying to find them in the cabinet.
- Monitor their comfort. Check to see if they are in pain, if the temperature of the room is too warm or cold or if they are experiencing sensitivity to noise or light.
- Avoid excessive noise, glare or distractions, such as a TV in the background, that can disturb your loved one’s peace.
- Find ways to help your loved one release some energy. Go for a walk, garden or play some music.
- Educate guests on the best ways to communicate with your loved one when they visit. Help them to make the visit a pleasant one.
How to Avoid the Dangers of Wandering
One of the more serious behaviors a changing environment can cause is wandering. When in a new, unfamiliar place – or a dramatic change happens inside the home (e.g., family coming over for Thanksgiving) – confusion can bring about fear or anxiety. Your loved one may feel the need to “go home” or somewhere they feel more comfortable. Wandering can be extremely dangerous to your loved one’s safety, so it’s important to take measures to prevent it.
- Assure your loved one that they are safe in their environment.
- Avoid crowded places, like the supermarket or shopping malls, that could cause your loved one to become disoriented.
- At home, camouflage doors by painting them the same color as the walls so your loved one is less likely to walk out if they become distressed.
- Keep items they wouldn’t leave the house without (car keys, purse, etc.) out of sight, either in a drawer or under a bench or table.
- Establish a daily routine for your loved one to follow, helping them to stay focused on a task and create a feeling of familiarity each day.
If your loved one is prone to wandering, it’s important to make an action plan for what to do if they leave the house alone. The Alzheimer’s Association offers helpful advice on Wandering and Getting Lost.
How to Ease the Transition to a New Home
In addition to the changes that could occur inside your loved one’s familiar environment, taking them outside of their comfort zone and introducing them into a new place can cause just as much, if not more, stress. If your loved one needs to move to a professional memory care community as their Alzheimer’s progresses, be aware of the anxiety this change may cause.
In an article titled “Alzheimer’s: Smoothing the Transition on Moving Day,” experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that family caregivers do as much as they can to make the new community feel like home. They suggest adding familiar touches to your loved one’s room before they move in, speaking with the care staff in advance to acquaint them with your loved one’s needs and habits and trying to keep their daily routine as normal as possible.
Support Through Every Change
“At Osprey Lodge, we understand the challenges that occur when a loved one with memory loss moves into our memory care community,” says Cantillon. “During this period of change, we do all we can to ease their anxiety, starting by designing a comprehensive and completely personalized care plan with the help of their families. From the very start, we know so much about our residents, from what causes them to get upset to what we can do to make them feel more at home.
“Our community is designed to meet the needs of our memory care residents, including secure surroundings where they can wander freely. Osprey Lodge also helps family members enjoy peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are safe and surrounded by caring professionals while they adjust to the changes of moving to a new home.”
Osprey Lodge is proud to support families caring for loved ones with memory loss. We provide educational and supportive events to help you along your journey, led by the professionals within our community and local experts in the field of memory care. If you’d like to learn more about how Osprey Lodge can help you care for your loved one, contact us today!
Come Flourish at Osprey Lodge!
Located on the banks of Lake Frances, Osprey Lodge offers Assisted Living and Memory Care services within the rustic warmth of a Colorado lodge in the rolling hills of central Florida. We provide an environment of socialization and volunteerism, as well as dependable health care services that promote independence, self-direction, social connections and daily purpose.
The Lodge lifestyle is a unique approach to senior living. While aging does come with challenges, our culture of connections creates an environment for residents to find daily purpose and joy. Here, residents don’t lose their independence. Instead, they receive countless avenues for which to connect with others through social activities or volunteer opportunities. We believe that everyone has something to contribute to their community, and we consider it our mission to help residents find what they can give – their skills, talents, company and enthusiasm.
Residents in our Assisted Living community and Memory Care program experience personalized, comprehensive healthcare services from dedicated, experienced professionals and staff. Each resident works with us to create their own Personal Care Plan, designed specifically for them to enjoy optimal independence while receiving the quality care they require.
We invite you to learn more about the fulfilling lifestyle and serves available at Osprey Lodge. Contact us today!