Easing the Transition to Assisted Living
Change is never easy, and the older a person gets and the more set in their ways, the harder it becomes. One of life’s biggest transitions is going from being independent and living in your own home to moving an assisted living facility. Many seniors view this as the last move of their life, the final chapter, and that knowledge can bring sadness and depression. There are ways, however, that you can help ease this transition for your parent or loved one.
When to Move to Assisted Living
Some seniors are more than capable of managing in their own home with some outside help—either from family and friends or a paid caregiver. But this is not always possible or even feasible. Following are some reasons you might want to consider assisted living for your loved one:
- They can no longer shower or bathe without help or you are concerned about their safety in the tub or shower.
- They are at risk for falls.
- They are forgetting to take medications or are taking them improperly.
- They are no longer cooking nutritious meals for themselves and may be losing weight
- They can no longer drive and are becoming isolated.
- They have recently been hospitalized and you are concerned about their recovering at home.
Breaking the Ice
Moving a parent or loved one to assisted living is stressful for both parties. Adults are accustomed to being self-sufficient and to keeping their own unique schedule. Giving up their home can leave them feeling frustrated, helpless or angry. Conversely, it’s hard to see your loved growing older, and you may be having difficulty accepting the change yourself.
Visit the chosen facility several times and give your loved one a chance to become accustomed to the idea of moving. When you visit, encourage your parent to talk with as many of the residents as possible. Most facilities will allow you to join them for meals. You should also take the time to meet with the administrator and any relevant staff members. Spend some time with your loved one going over any brochures or written material they may have been given. Be sure to get a copy of the activities schedule and point out anything you think might interest your parent.
Ask the facility about respite care. Many offer it, and it's the perfect way for your parent or loved one to try out their new lifestyle without making a total commitment. "Respite stays can last from a few days to more than a month," said Amy Thayer, senior living consultant for Holland Home. "It's not unusual for one of our respite residents to decide to make the move after experiencing everything we offer."
“It’s important to choose a facility that offers the full continuum of care, if possible,” said Thayer. “That way should a move to a higher level of care such as nursing be required, your loved one will only have to change floors as opposed to moving to a whole new facility.”
Making the Move
Make sure you have the dimensions of your new space. If possible, plan out your furniture arrangement in advance. You will want to bring enough with you to make your space feel like “home,” but chances are you will still need to get rid of some furniture. Special pieces can be passed down to family and friends. Knowing your grandchildren will be enjoying your treasured dining room set can make parting with it easier.
Have a plan for arranging your furniture so that you can have the movers set things up in a way that suits your lifestyle and makes you feel more “at home.” Putting some of your knickknacks and pictures in the same or similar places will go a long way toward giving your new space a feeling of familiarity.
After Moving In
One of the best ways to ease the transition to your new way of life is to get to know your neighbors. They’ve already “been there, and done that,” and can help you adapt to the change. One of the best parts about assisted living is that you will no longer be isolated, dependent on visits from family and friends to ease your loneliness. You will be surrounded by your peers and will have access to a full calendar of specially planned events and outings.
Check the activities calendar as soon as you move in and plan on participating in at least a few of the scheduled events. You may find there are clubs to join, musical evenings, movie showings and bus trips. Getting involved will help you meet people and make new friends.
Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings—check out the library, the exercise room if there is one, the laundry facilities. Knowing your way around will make things feel familiar more quickly.
Give yourself time to adjust to your new lifestyle. No matter how much you like it, there will most likely still be days when you feel sad or nostalgic for your old way of life. “If that feeling persists,” said Thayer, “be sure to talk to the staff. Arrangements can be made for you to speak to a counselor who can help you ease into your new way of life.”
Most importantly, try to keep a positive mindset. Focus on the things you like about your new living situation and take advantage of all that it has to offer.