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  • Writer's pictureKatie Boer

Dementia Diaries: Moving into a Shared Room

Dementia Diaries: 03/19/19

I knew when we moved her into Assisted Living (before she was even in Memory Care at the same facility) that living in a shared room could be a possibility. But when we first signed up we were told it would be "very unlikely" and much farther "down the road".

Unfortunately that day is here.

My mom qualified for Medicaid officially in February--and it's been one month. Now that she's officially on Medicaid means she doesn't have to pay nearly the excruciatingly high cost for room and board (and often what I've believed to be sub-par and sometimes negligent care). Instead she's on a fixed rate (approved by Medicaid/DSHS) that pulls a much smaller amount from her social security.

*Not all Memory Care facilities accept Medicaid. Some only except a certain number of residents on Medicaid at one time. It's really important to find out those specifics BEFORE picking an Assisted Living or Memory Care facility for your loved one.*

So basically the corporate company who manages her facility started making WAY LESS money on her room. A room that another resident could potentially move into and they could charge a much higher rate. That's business. They have to make money. I get it. Still--it's frustrating.

I'm worried about how she'll handle this change.

My mom has lived by herself for YEARS. She's been divorced since I was a kid (which I swear contributed to her early diagnosis. I truly believe a lack of social interaction can have devastating neurological consequences). When my brother and I moved out of the house she lived alone. She's been doing life solo for TWENTY YEARS.

She's also very set in her ways. And relatively scared of people. Not all people... but when the dementia started it really triggered an onset of irrational fears--most associated with people.

Regardless. We didn't have a choice about the move. I got an email last week stating:

"There are some room changes that need to be done in MC to better serve our population, as stated in the signed contract. We will be needing to move your mom in to a shared room down the hallway from her current room. We would like to give you the opportunity to move her belongings but if that is not possible in a timely manner, we will be moving her belongings. Please let me know if you would like first opportunity to move her belongings and we will go from there."

So here are my concerns. I'm worried that this move in with another resident is going to trigger behaviors that weren't occurring previously and increase stress and anxiety. She's not going to want another resident messing with her belongings. The resident seemed very sweet, but also watches TV loudly and leaves the door open. We've worked on locking her door regularly because belongings are often removed by other residents.

I'm also worried because routine is KEY. Messing up someone's cycle, daily routine or lifestyle can have significant impact of people with dementia. Her bathrooms are also now in different places -- does this mean we're suddenly going to have more of a struggle with incontinence?

I guess time will tell. I will say though that the memory care coordinator was very kind to talk all of my questions... and I had lots! She also thought about the arrangement and figured this other resident would be a good fit for my mom and not cause a lot of extra stress. I appreciate that she took the time to invest some thought into the decision. Also when it came to actually moving belongings, one of their regular caretakers stopped what he was doing to help me move all of the items from her room into her new shared space. Which was sweet. So... we'll see how this all goes. Maybe I'm the one who's more stressed then she is.

Here's what I did:

  1. I HAD A SLEW OF QUESTIONS. Regardless of whether this is a mandatory move of not I'm a journalist. It's my job to ask the memory care coordinator questions and when she first moved in we were promised they would take care of her and her well-being. I list all the questions I asked here.

  2. MEET THE ROOMMATE FIRST. Without your loved one. Ask them about behaviors of the resident, special care needs, sleeping patterns, etc., because they're lifestyle is going to have a direct relation to my mom's way of living.

  3. TAKE PICTURES. You may be liable for the room conditions in the room you're moving your loved one into or out of. Just like moving in and out of an apartment--review the room. Note any damage--even if they don't require it.

  4. MAKE THE MOVE WITHOUT THEM. I didn't tell her that I was coming. I didn't want her to be following me around and asking questions--when I was trying to figure out the change myself. The memory care coordinator found her sitting at the end of the hallway down a corridor and made sure she stayed there while I switched her belongings into the new room.

  5. KEEP FAMILIAR BELONGINGS. When I moved her from Assisted Living to memory care we had to get rid of a LOT of her furniture and stuff. Material stuff and excess furniture can not only cause stress--but quite literally created problems for my mom when she would sleep on her bench instead of her bed. That said, make sure if she does move into a shared room that their are familiar belongings to make a new space more familiar.

  6. DON'T DIMINISH THE MOVE. I don't like the idea. In fact, I hate it. But making her feel like moving into a shared room is a bad thing is only going to make matters worse. So I gave it a positive spin. After moving her belongings I told her I had a surprise for her. That I was able to procure a "better" room for her, with more windows and a friend--who will also live in the same room.

She's been more and more confused lately. So I don't know that she totally grasped the move. I introduced her to her new roommate. She was familiar with the woman. Then got distracted by someone walking by. We'll see how it goes tonight and if she sleeps. Memory Care put her on extra watch to make sure she goes to sleep in her new room and doesn't have any issues.

Here's my mom on her side of her new room:

I took her out to the beach after the move, just for a short while. I didn't want to give throw more confusion on her then absolutely necessary and she had already lost her glasses today. So she's not seeing great AND I'm moving her. *I'm so sorry mom. I wish I could change this for you.*

Here's our Facebook live video driving to the beach and walking around Edmonds.

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