My mother is in an ALF (4 days now), and is already saying the food is horrible, and I can hear in her voice that the worse is yet to come. I’m expecting any day for her to say, “you’ve got to get me out of this place”. She has early onset dementia, was having constant meltdowns, and is having symptoms of sundowners. Any suggestions on what to say to her when this happens?

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It's the LAW to complain about ALF food. In fact, if it weren't for complaining in general, our mother's would have nothing at all to say. My mother is now in the Memory Care section of the ALF she's been living at for 5 years now. She hates it and calls the other residents CRAZY and NUTS to their faces. She has moderate dementia herself, but THEY are the crazy ones. I tell her that she had a choice of staying in the nursing home she was at for rehab after recently being hospitalized, or going to the memory care. I chose memory care because I felt it to be a much better overall environment, mother. Not perfect, but better. The nursing home is more expensive and you'd have a roommate. She hates women, so that generally ends the discussion till next time.

OId folks aren't happy, as a rule. They're not happy in ALFs with 3 meals a day served to them and lots of activities, outings and entertainment, and they're not happy at home with nothing to do, no entertainment and no activities. So we've chosen option number 1 which provides unhappiness but SAFETY, vs. Option 2 which provides unhappiness and DANGER. I'm sorry its come down to this, mother, but advanced old age is no day in the park.
Best of luck!
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Prayforpatience Aug 2019
Thank you so much for your response. I failed to mention that my dad is also in a different ALF (they’re divorced), and complains about something every day. It’s actually become comical to see which one of them can complain the most. You are so right that they wouldn’t be happy in any situation, and I need to keep that in mind. I have also found that they seem to do better when I don’t visit as often. It helps to know that others have the same experiences. Thank you again.
I really don't have an answer for you but can share my experience with my mom in a nursing home. When we walk in - each time, she looks at us desperately saying, "You must get me out of here, they're all crazy!" And you know what? A lot of them are. All I can do is what I've been doing, I take her on day trips, 2-4 hours at a time. After a massive stroke, she's left-side paralyzed and wheelchair bound so I've learned how to do one-person transfers and get her in the car, then we usually go to a park and walk/roll around. Lately, I've taken her to the Meijer where they have a power wheelchair and she zooms around and hits all the clothes racks - it's awesome! She's like a kid for a little bit, so when she goes back, she has the memories for a while to relish and hopefully look forward to for the next time when we take her on her next crazy outing. Hey, I'm making this up as I go, as I'm sure most of you are too!
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Stay away for awhile. Give her several weeks. Some ALFs recommend this. GIve her simple but the same answers such as the doctor will have to say when you are safe. If she continues to be agitated, she will soon display the same behavior if brought back home. Can you make an appointment with a geriatric psychologist? They sometimes take a few months to set up. Meanwhile if she starts to calm down you can simply cancel.
You are doing the right thing. Just release some of the guilt.
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Yes, soon this page will be filled with comments about how her unhappiness is normal, is real and is no reason to remove her (unless you see evidence that her care is compromised). Acclimation takes a while but there is no formula for how long. When my MIL went into a very nice LTCF she refused to get out of bed for even meals and was pouty and plied us with guilt-inducing discussions. That lasted for 1-1/2 yrs until we recently moved her to a closer, even nicer, facility. She started doing the same thing (as change is difficult the older we get). Her new healthcare manager suggested a change in her anti-depressant meds and the difference has been dramatic. She not only gets out of bed for PT and meals, she also participates in social stuff. There is hope for your mom but you will need to be patient and not read too much into her complaints for now.
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She needs time to acclimate. Four days isn't near long enough and of course she'll voice dislike. Don't worry about "get me out of this place" until she says it.
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First sentence is "I am so sorry, but I can't do that". Then you tell her that you are so sorry that she is unhappy there. Because she is. And likely she will be so forever. It isn't a happy thing. The end of life is about loss after loss, and there is no way to make it OK. You are not responsible for this. You cannot fix this. It is extremely likely that she will not be "happy" no matter how much you attempt to fulfill her wishes.
So accept that this cannot be a happy time. And tell her you are sorry it is hard for her. Tell her that there are no options for her leaving. Tell her you hope that things will change and she will be easier with where she is staying.

You will be having to hear these complaints. In all truth, you just aren't a good senior if you don't complain about the food in AL. It is a pre requisite.
No she is not happy. No she will not BE happy. That is the norm to work from. You don't have to be happy about the fact she isn't happy, either. It is painful to see. But it is a fact that cannot be changed. So the sooner that both of you come to acceptance that happy isn't here right now, the better. As long as she sees you waffling and uncomfortable she will ramp it up, because it might work.
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meditation123 Aug 2019
Thank you for this. Fantastic answer.
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