I've just moved my husband into what seems to be a really fine assisted living community, totally dedicated to those with dementia. About how long does it take for new residents to get used to being there (and not be angry every time they see you)? How often should I visit? I suspect he does better when I'm not there but I'm not sure.

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Hi, great questions! Honestly, it really depends on the person, but I can tell you from experience it takes people on average a week or two to adjust. (Some people are fine after 3 days!) I once had a family member call me angrily because “I had had her mom for three days and she still asked about going home”. I tried to explain to her that her mom would probably ALWAYS ask about going home when she saw her. The same goes for you, really: your husband sees you, he’s reminded of home, and he’s probably going to ask when you’re taking him back with you. It can be hard, but steel yourself for this to continue. My residents rarely ask ME about going home and seem happily engaged, but then when a loved one shows up, they are asking them about returning home. The best answer here is something like, “really soon, the doctor wants you here until your —- (hip, foot, etc, anything) heals.” No mention of dementia. In terms of visiting, you can visit as much as you would like. That is entirely up to you and your relationship with your husband. There’s no right or wrong amount of visiting time, as long as you feel like he can adjust accordingly without you being there.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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