WHAT IS “TRANSFER TRAUMA”

As has been stated in previous blogs, moving can be an extremely stressful time. This is

true more so for an elderly person who has dementia. Actually, it is such a fact, that a phrase has been coined it. It is known as “transfer trauma (also known as “Relocation Stress Syndrome” or RSS).



Coupled with “transfer trauma” is the factor of change. Change is a difficult thing for

many people, but especially for someone with dementia. If you are relocating an elderly person with dementia from their lifelong home, this change can be devastating. If you are moving an elderly loved one from their lifelong home, it is most likely for a health and safety reason.


However, due to the nature of their disability, they may be unable to comprehend this.

This type of trauma can be explained quite simply. Your loved one is feeling a loss of

control and at odds because their familiar lifestyle has been uprooted. A person with dementia may retain long-term memory, especially in the early stages. However, they mostly have difficulty with short-termed memory or experiencing and learning new things. Thus, the change associated with a move results in trauma.


One needs to be aware that transfer trauma is not isolated to the move itself, but can

encompass the period before, during and after the move. The trauma will surface in a myriad of expressions such as anger, depression, sadness and anxiety, to name a few. These emotional feelings can also result in behavioral issues, such as crying, excessive complaining, physical aggression or even refusal to take medications. Additionally, evidence of transfer trauma may be displayed in physiological symptoms such as sleeplessness, poor appetite and rapid heartbeat.


Helping a person with dementia to become familiar with their new surroundings prior to

the move is one of the keys to a successful transition. By doing such things as allowing your

loved one to be a part of the decision making process, you can reduce the risk of trauma. This

can include visiting the new location prior to the move which might involve meals and engaging in activities with other members of that community. In such a way, they can begin to cultivate a relationship with both the staff and the other residents. The transition process might take extra time, but it will assuredly create a friendly and familiar atmosphere for them. Thus, transfer trauma can be minimized or even prevented.


In a previous blog, Tips for Moving and Dementia, we gave several suggestions for

successfully moving a dementia patient. Besides the factor of including the patient including the patient in decision makingas stated above, we also suggested that prior preparationof the new location and timing were important. Please refer to this article for more suggestions and tips.


Call Missy Donaghy with Interiors for Seniors for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.


Interiors for Seniors is proud to have been chosen as one of the top 100 moving blogs on the Internet.

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