Settling a loved one into a nursing home

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20th June 2019

When a loved one arrives at a nursing home it can be a disorienting time, but as a relative there are steps you can take in order to help them settle into their new home.

Gez Ossai, home manager at Wentworth Court specialist dementia nursing home, is used to supporting spouses and family members during the transition period and has advice and tips to share.

Personalising the relative’s room

The first thing I’d advise is to bring in something that is recognisable to the family member. Whether that’s a piece of furniture, an item of bedding or just something familiar, I suggest they do this prior to their loved one moving in for a smooth transition.

So, if dad is moving in and supports Everton, then why not bring in an Everton quilt cover and pillowcase? Straight away if he is walking down the corridor and feels a bit disorientated and spots the Everton quilt cover though the door, he will know its his room. It could be photographs on the walls, stencils or framed collections. We’ve had relatives that have stencilled significant things on the walls such as dogs or quotations, created displays of family photos or framed stamp collections.

It doesn’t have to be a massive gesture but something that is meaningful to that person.

Sharing life stories

For the team at the home, understanding the new resident’s life story is massively important.

We like to call them life stories as opposed to history. History suggests that we are looking back and their life has finished – it hasn’t.

Their life may have changed but it is still evolving so we capture life stories from the family and the resident if they are able to give an input. We talk about where they met their spouse, where they went to school, their favourite holiday, family and pets, any information that enables us to initiate meaningful conversation.

We then produce what we call Story Clouds which we display in the resident’s bedroom, so any team member could walk in and spark up a conversation.

Avoiding overwhelm

When settling your relative into a new home, I always say take three or four days before visiting, as hard as this may be, as this gives them the best chance to settle.

If you drop them off at the home on a Monday and then turn up on Tuesday and Wednesday, the first thing they are going to expect is that when you leave, they will be leaving with you. It can cause agitation and if you say, ‘Well, I’ll come back tomorrow’, they start to think, why I am left here?

By all means call for an update but leave it a bit longer to enable your loved one to settle in and get used to their surroundings and the team, who are always on hand.

Meal Times

On the first day, we advise the family to come and enjoy a meal together.

Most of our admissions are around mealtimes, maybe 4pm before the evening meal or 12 o’clock just before lunchtime. That way although the loved one with dementia may be eating something slightly different, in a different place, they will be eating the same as you, which is reassuring for them.

For individuals with advanced dementia, it is helpful to be able to mimic, so if they see you eating, they will eat as well.

Sleep routines

Finally, we are careful that we don’t make new residents conform to our norms, as our norms may not be their norms. For example, it could be that for the last 30 years, long before that person had dementia, they always slept in a chair downstairs. So now if you try and make them sleep in bed, it’s really unsettling.

This is why it’s so important that we fully understand life stories, likes and preferences, so if their loved one has always slept in a chair, then we will enable them to sleep in a chair here. It’s important that the change of environment is not detrimental to their health.

Are you considering a nursing home for a loved one? Read more about how to choose the right home for a family member with dementia here.

If you would like to find out more about life at Wentworth Court, give Gez and the team a call on 01242 263334 or pop by the home at Village Road, Cheltenham, GL51 0BG.

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