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10 Tips to Ease the Effects of Transfer Trauma

Folks with dementia who have to be moved from one environment to another can sometimes experience stress and anxiety, termed “transfer trauma”.  The extent of the transfer trauma can vary among individuals.  For some, it can be brief, mild, or non-existent.  In others, the trauma is extensive and intense.  The more extreme cases usually involve someone with early stages of dementia who is moving from the long-time family home into a new environment. 

Complications can arise if transfer trauma is not identified quickly.  The person with dementia can develop depression and be at risk for isolation.  They are at a higher risk for running away. If they become agitated, accidental falls are more common. Once these additional complications arise, the patient may be further medicated, which entails another host of possible side-effects. 

Moving into a new home can be scary for anyone.  Those suffering from dementia have the added layer of memory issues that can make the process even more daunting.  Follow these valuable tips to help decrease the chance of transfer trauma:

10 Tips to Ease the Effects of Transfer Trauma

  1. Talk to the staff at the new facility to ensure they can recognize transfer trauma. Do they have a protocol in place for new residents?  How often do they check on residents?  Will they contact you if they suspect transfer trauma?
  2. Include the person suffering from dementia in the decision regarding what new facility to choose, if possible. If the new resident has a say in choosing their new home, they will likely feel more comfortable there and may even look forward to the move.  The person suffering from dementia has their own desires and they can best recognize which facility will most promote their individuality. 
  3. If possible, allow the new resident to visit the facility before the big move. Take them to some group activities held at the facility, introduce them to staff, and let them take a tour of the rooms.  It could be quite startling for anyone to move into a new home site unseen! 
  4. Folks suffering from dementia usually have a time of day that they feel best. Make the move during this time. 
  5. Encourage the new resident to make new friends and take advantage of the new facilities. Have a family meal in a common area, get a cup of coffee at the facility café, check the mail, attend community events, etc.   If the new resident is religious, visit the facility church, synagogue, or mosque.  Does the resident like art or knitting?  Find groups that pertain to their hobbies.
  6. Make the living areas of the resident feel more like their old home. Hang family pictures, have a favorite blanket handy, or install an air freshener with a familiar scent.  Make sure things are tidy and organized in a way the resident wants.
  7. If the new facility allows animals, why not get a new pet? A friendly feline can provide companionship and a sense of purpose.  How about a hamster or bird?  Check with the staff to ensure that not only that furry friends welcome, but also that the staff checks on the pets to ensure they are being properly cared for. 
  8. If the new facility doesn’t allow pets, consider a robot companion. Yes, you read that right!  Professor Mahoor and his team at the University of Denver have invented a robot companion who can read facial expressions and respond appropriately, giving companionship and providing help like medication reminders.  You can meet this robot and learn all about this new technology at The Next Frontier: Artificial Intelligence and the New Digital Landscape of Elder Law and the Elder Care Industry event in April. 
  9. Don’t be afraid to get help. If your loved one is suffering from transfer trauma, enlisting the services of a psychiatrist or social worker can be valuable.  They can best assess the situation and provide steps toward healing the transition. 
  10. Visit your loved one often in their new home! Seeing friends and family can bring calmness and happiness to the resident.  Let them know that you are still there for them and a change in environment does not mean a change in your relationship. 

Moving can be a stressful event.  Moving from a long-time family home into a new facility can be overwhelming.  Make sure you can recognize the signs of transfer trauma, which can include sadness, irritability, shutting down, refusing care, poor appetite, or sleeplessness.  The person suffering from dementia may call 911 or make statements regarding being imprisoned or wanting to leave.  Don’t dismiss their concerns – really listen to them.  While they may not have the ability to change their circumstances, it is important that they feel worthy of being understood and given consideration.  And remember – things will get better.  Hopefully any effects of transfer trauma will decrease over time and diminish completely when the new resident feels confident and comfortable in their new surroundings. 

As point #8 touches upon, elder law professionals must be on top of the latest trends in technology that may ease the burdens of aging so many people face. Join us in Denver and for a one-of-a-kind program that will both excite you and equip you to deal with the "new frontier" of elder law and elder care. During the two-day course, you'll receive the chance to interact with experts in their field and network with elder law and elder care business professionals, while at our open bar reception, exhibitor showcase, panelist discussion, and top-quality education sessions, including:

  • The Phone Has Stopped Ringing, Now What
  • Your Clients Are Investing in Cryptocurrency - Are You Prepared to Help Them Plan with It?
  • How to Expand Your Practice and Profits with Existing Technology
  • Marketing Gut Check: An interactive Look at Your Efforts and How to Find the Hidden Wins
  • The Robot Caring for Your Mom: The Future of Elder Care
  • How Would You Like to Die? Important Conversations We Should Be Having but May Be Avoiding
  • Lights, Camera, Client: An Attorney's Guide to Video Marketing

The Next Frontier of Elder Law and Elder Care: Artificial Intelligence and the New Digital Landscape
April 11-12 in Denver, CO or via live webcast
CLE: Up to 2 hours

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