When Is It Time To Move A Loved One To Memory Care?

When Is It Time To Move A Loved One To Memory Care?

This is a heartfelt blog post about the difficult decision of moving a loved one into memory care. Carol contacted me a few months back on advice from a social worker in Los Angeles. She and her husband have had successful careers in the entertainment industry and are blessed with solid retirement finances. She is miserable at home with her husband, who needs constant supervision and can be angry with her. At her wit’s end, she was asking the social worker for advice on memory care facilities and the social worker turned her on to us.

Carol and Tom (not their real names) got married about fifteen years ago, the second marriage for both. It was a true love match. They have been each other’s best friends, helpmates, and partners. They did everything together and felt fortunate to have found a loving relationship in mid-life.

Around four years ago, Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and over time, Lewy Body set in, one of the most troubling forms of dementia. Tom can no longer do anything for himself, for example, he puts his adult diaper on over his clothes. He’ll get up and make coffee at 3:00 AM. And often, he hallucinates, thinking Carol is having a party or seeing children in their swimming pool. Many other more traditional dementia symptoms are exhibited: accusing Carol of having an affair or stealing money, forgetfulness, and sundowning behaviors. He cannot use the simplest of home accessories such as the television remote or toaster.

Carol has developed her own issues. She has constant back pain and needs a hip replacement. Because of the pain, there are days when she cannot drive. Carol is still young, only 71, and still working. Between dealing with her husband and her pain, she rarely sees any of her friends, and her career has been put on hold.

Silverado Beverly Place

Last week, I took Carol to Silverado Beverly Place, an all-memory care community near The Grove in Los Angeles. Silverado is one of the premier providers of Alzheimer’s and memory care residential facilities in America. The Beverly Place location is one of my favorites. The staff is passionate about what they do. The residents are upbeat, busy, and engaged. And, the community’s ten pet dogs have free run of the place, riding the elevators on their own to visit with residents and adding a large dose of merriment to the surroundings.

The tour went great. Carol agreed that the people at Silverado looked like her husband, that it could possibly be beneficial to him and certainly would be a relief to her. And yet, in an email I received the next day Carol expressed guilt and fear about moving Tom.

So, let’s talk about the key drivers preventing Carol from moving forward with memory care.


A spouse is supposed to take care of their loved one “till death do us part,” right? That is what society has raised us to believe. But dementia is different from other conditions that afflict older adults. Carol told us during the Silverado tour “My husband is not my husband anymore. There is no Tom left.” She is worn out from taking care of him. Her day-to-day interactions with Tom now are all tinged with anger and frustration.

And he’s not doing anything but watching TV all day. Because of his Parkinson’s, Tom is unsteady on his feet, and not safe to go for walks or get outside much. The bottom line is that Tom is home-bound with a worn-out wife and little quality of life. He is unhappy. She is unhappy. The formula is not good.

Despite this, there is guilt in taking someone from their home. How do you do it? Will he be mad? All legitimate questions and of concern to any caregiver moving a loved one to a memory care facility. In the case of Tom, or anyone with dementia, there are strategies one employs to accomplish a move. Professionals can help with this. If Tom moved to Silverado, there are experts schooled in helping both residents and family make the transition. I have seen miraculous transformations there, residents who have become busy and engaged, revived by community and a sense of purpose. But of course, it is worrisome, this unknown, which leads to the next major factor:


Carol told me in her email that she has a “general reluctance to believe anything will work out.” It’s true. Fear is the driving force that keeps most of us from making any change. There is a self-help author named Maris Konnikova that I listened to recently on NPR. She is a professional poker player and made a point that really stayed with me. Konnikova was telling the story of a friend who was unhappy at work, had received a job offer from another firm, but was fearful about making a change.

To paraphrase, Konnikova said “What are the odds that you will be unhappy at your current job six months from now? One hundred percent. What are the odds that you will be happy at your new job? Fifty-fifty, that’s much better odds than your current situation.”

In California, all licensed assisted living and memory care facilities operate on a month-to-month basis. There is no long-term lease. We suggested that Carol do a 90-day trial and see how it goes. We know, for sure, that there’s a 100% chance that both Carol and Tom will be unhappy if she does nothing.

Other Family Members

Wives, if you are living with your spouse and are the primary caregiver, this is your decision! Not just with Carol, but with another recent client of mine, the wives were concerned with blowback from their children who wanted their dads to stay at home. It is easy for the kids, who live away from home and may see their parents infrequently, to have opinions but they are not the decision-makers. You are. You are the next of kin. You are the responsible party. You are the one who has had to live 24/7 in the reality of your husband’s situation.

Taking Care of Yourself

Stephanie Brynjolfson, the Family Ambassador at Silverado Beverly Place summed things up nicely. “Tom is on his journey. His bus has left the station and you are running behind trying to keep up. Eventually, you’ll get run over.”

Taking care of a loved one does not mean that you, personally, need to take care of your loved one. Sometimes that means you need to turn to trained professionals. As of this writing, Carol has not decided about her husband. I sincerely hope she will give memory care a try, not for Tom, but for herself so that she can get her life back and return to being his wife.

Assisted Living Locators Los Angeles owner Sarah Ordover is one of LA’s top senior living advisors. Certified in dementia care, Sarah is a trained aging specialist who holds an RCFE assisted living administrators license. Sarah thoughtfully guides families through the senior living decision-making process, helping them find the best solution for their loved ones. Call Sarah at 310-853-8282 for a consultation. Assisted Living Locators is free to clients.