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Will moving a person with dementia make it worse?

Answered by Karen Garner

May 26, 2016

Will moving a loved one who is experiencing precipitous cognitive declines likely accelerate their decline?​ ​My 79-year-old father has resided at an assisted living facility for four years, and I am considering moving him to a dedicated memory care facility. He was diagnosed with dementia two years ago and has seen intermittent cognitive declines. The past two months, he has experienced precipitous decline: he is unable to operate his cell phone or TV remote, confuses everyday household items, is unable to dress himself, and has become incontinent. Other family members worry that moving him might “push him over the edge”. Thank you for your kind consideration of my question.​

I am so glad you asked this question! Moving a loved one is never an easy decision. Sometimes it is best to follow your gut instinct, but it is also a good idea to talk to the care providers where your father is currently living. They are with him all day and may have some simple suggestions. To answer your question directly, yes, moving someone at this stage of the game can most definitely cause another decline. But, on the other hand, leaving someone who has already declined to the point they are no longer safe or comfortable in their environment can also cause an equally swift decline. Staff in a dedicated memory care facility have been trained to watch for certain cognitive issues and understand specific situations that can and probably will arise. Is the facility your father currently in able to help him more and more? If he is not a risk for wandering it may not be necessary to move him. If they are able to dedicate more staff in helping him with little things like the TV remote and other issues that are coming up, there should be no reason you can’t leave him there. A good, honest conversation with the staff should help you with your decision. Once he settles into a new home he should stabilize again, but there is no way of knowing how he will respond to a new environment ahead of time. I wish you much strength in your decision making and know you are looking to do the best for your father that you can.

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