“Oh no. My dad would never want to share his suite with a roommate!”
Concerns like this are often voiced during tours of memory care communities. The family members are often reluctant to consider roommates in memory care communities for their loved ones. And it’s understandable, given that most individuals, prior to moving into a community, have either been living alone or have had contact with only close family members. Why would they want to share a room with a total stranger?
For individuals with Alzheimer’s, socialization is more important than ever.
Anne Ellett is a respected dementia care expert and the founder of MemoryCareSupport.com, a website which provides information and examines care issues for individuals with dementia. Anne knows what many, who have dedicated their lives to memory care know. That is, companionship, especially in the form of sharing space, can go a long way towards promoting emotional health in memory care residents. By “sharing space,” Anne is referring to anything ranging from sharing a reading area, to sharing a dinner table, to sharing a suite with a roommate.
“My mom’s a very private person. She won’t want to share her room with anyone.”
Many families are reluctant to put their “unsociable” loved one in a room with a stranger on day one of their admittance into memory care. Yet, once the move is made, caregivers often report dramatic improvements when individuals with dementia have someone else sharing their suite.
Here are two key benefits of having roommates in memory care:
- Human interaction: Even at a very minimal level, the act of interaction with others can be comforting to an individual. At night, having the sense that they are “not alone” is calming and reassuring.
- Assisting each other: Typically, according to Anne, one individual may be stronger in a given area and vice versa. “So one person may be better at adjusting the lights, or more steady on his or her feet. Another may be able to assist with choosing clothes for the day. They are balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Two heads can be better than one.”
But privacy is still important.
Sharing a room, however, doesn’t mean the individual loses his or her rights to privacy. They need to have privacy for grooming and bathing. They also have the right to an undisturbed good night’s sleep. That’s why, according to Anne, it’s important for the community care provider to make sure that roommates are compatible and respectful of one another.
The biggest obstacles to roommates are us, not our parents.
But the bottom line is that it’s hard for us, as adult children, to imagine our mom or dad living with a roommate. It conjures up negative images of hospital rooms where only a thin curtain separates a loved one from a complete stranger. After all, our parents are adults; they are used to having privacy.
Anne understands this concern. “Even when they grow dependent, we still continue to think of our parents as the heads of the household,” says Anne. “They made all the decisions. They were in charge. And, when they went into their bedroom, they closed the door. Privacy was taken for granted.”
For those reasons, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your memory care provider. “Ideally, an individual can start off in a single room,” says Anne. “That gives the memory care provider time to assess his or her personality and temperament before attempting to match them with potential roommates.”