International Psychogeriatrics

Review Article

Moving in: adjustment of people living with dementia going into a nursing home and their families

Laura Surya1a2, Kim Burnsa2a3 and Henry Brodatya1a2a3 c1

a1 School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

a2 Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

a3 Aged Care Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia


Background: Most people with dementia in Western societies will eventually be placed in a nursing home. This can be stressful to those with dementia and to their families. The adjustment to this new caring environment by both residents and their family caregivers and the factors that influence this are the focus of this review.

Methods: A literature search of Embase, Scopus, and Medline databases of articles published in English between 1990 and 2011 using specified search terms was performed to examine this transition. The 174 titles located were screened and reference lists hand searched resulting in the 49 relevant articles included in this review.

Results: This decision and the subsequent adjustment period is a difficult time for people with dementia and their family caregivers. Admission has been linked to increased behavioral symptoms and in particular depression and agitation, decreasing cognition, frailty, and falls in people with dementia. For caregivers, guilt, depression, feelings of failure, and continuing burden but also improvement in quality of life have been variously reported. Research to determine what influences the trajectory of these different outcomes and the prevalence of positive outcomes for people with dementia is lacking. Successful transitions may be assisted by ensuring that the person with dementia has input into decision making, orientation procedures for the person with dementia and family member prior to and on admission, a “buddy” system for new arrivals, and a person-centered approach.

Conclusions: Adjustment to admission to residential care can be difficult for people with dementia and their family caregivers. Longitudinal research examining factors influencing the adjustment can provide a basis for intervention trials to improve this transition.

(Received February 08 2012)

(Reviewed March 19 2012)

(Revised December 21 2012)

(Accepted January 13 2013)

(Online publication February 21 2013)

Key words:

  • nursing home;
  • dementia;
  • carers;
  • residential facilities;
  • quality of life