• Katie Boer

Dementia Diaries -- Questions to ask before moving your loved one with dementia into a shared room

Before I moved my mom from her private room in memory care to a shared one with another resident I asked a lot of questions--at the top of the list: DOES SHE HAVE TO?

Regardless, I've spent the last two days thinking about asking the right questions to make sure she's receiving the best care possible. I also reached out to Amy Troy, a TV Broadcast friend of mine in Portland, who's mother also has Lewy Body Dementia (but is farther along). She had some excellent suggestions. I highly suggest reading blogs or asking others about "What to ask" before making any move. Here's the list Amy and I created.


1. Does she absolutely have to move? Is this because she's now on Medicaid?

If she didn't have to move my family's preference was to CONTINUE keeping her in the same environment she's been in the past year and a half.

2. How do they pair prospective roommates?

3. Will she be paired with another woman? Does the other woman have the same type of dementia?

4. Is the room large enough for two people?

Be sure to inspect the room first. There are multiple shared rooms at the facility where my mom lives. Some of them are MUCH larger than others.

5. What is the other current resident like?

It was really important to me that if she has to move in with someone else, it wasn't going to be a resident who would clash with my mom. Which is why it may be important to also ask...

6. What's the current care level/care plan of the resident already living in the room?

They may not be able to go into detail, but for instance I don't think my mom would do well paired with someone on hospice. If the roommate ends up on hospice later--that's one thing--but I would be worried about my loved one moving in with someone already at a very different level of care from the getgo.

7. Is the current resident on any medication (like Risperidone, Lamotrigine, Citalopram, Memantine) or something to prevent anxiety or outbursts that could happen in the middle of the night?

They legally won't be able to tell you specifics, but the answer can give you an idea as to a potential for outbursts that could occur.

8. Why did her previous roommate move out? Were there any issues? If they passed away, was the room cleaned and sanitized appropriately?

9. What if my mom and her new roommate don't get along? Then what?

10. What is the current resident's behaviors? Do they yell or scream regularly? Do they have a routine during the day? Do they sleep at night? Or maybe they actually sleep during the day and are awake at night?? Do they have to have a nightlight on? Do they prefer the door open or shut? (My mom has always preferred her door shut.) Do they have any religious background or practices that will be noticed or disagreed with by my loved one? Are they the same gender as my loved one?

5. Is the current person destructive? Do they hoard? Hide food? Do they rip up pictures? Or hide belongings?

My mom loves to hoard objects and hide tissues or candy or cookies. This resident she's moving in with loves to have M&M's on hand. With that combo I was happy to hear that the current resident already received extra housekeeping.

6. What if her roommate hits her? Or my mom hits the roommate and no staff sees it? If one of them reports the abuse will they be believed? Will they look into it?

7. What happen's if my mom doesn't respond well to the move? Or get along with the resident? Then what? Is there another resident she could move in with? Would my loved one be forced to move out of the facility if the behavior that got her kicked out was triggered by this move into a shared room?

8. Does the resident have regular family that visits? Will I still be able to assist my mom in her shared room with things like dressing her or getting her ready for bed? What if my mom is not comfortable changing in front of this new roommate?

9. How do you keep clothes separate or prevent the resident from wearing my mom's clothing?


I really like the memory care coordinator for my mom's current facility. She took the time to answer every one of my questions and encouraged me to reach out if I EVER had any other questions. Oh... believe me... I will. ;)

I think it's worth noting that my mom could just as easy be the one who ends up "disturbing the peace". There are no rules with dementia. Sometimes certain behaviors don't manifest until later down the road. Because of that and because other residents CAN and WILL wander into their room I highly recommend NOT having original photos in your loved one's room. Your loved one could start destroying them or their roommate may not recognize them and ruin the pictures. Have a cherished antique family lamp? That's probably not something you want to keep in the room.

The same is true for really ANY belonging in their room. The care staff tries really hard to find items my mom loses or are removed by other residents--but any items in the room could be destroyed at any time. Plus sometimes communicating with staff (English is not the first language for many of them) can be difficult. Especially when describing lost items. I recommend keeping an inventory and pictures of any important item or clothing so that you can refer to those if something is ever lost.

Am I forgetting anything? Anything else you asked? Drop a comment below! We're all in this together.

Starting to move my mom's belongings into her side of the shared room

My mom's empty old private memory care room

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