Moving is difficult at any age. It can be a mentally and physically exhausting time. For older adults, however, making a move can be even more challenging because of what they may be giving up. Many seniors have lived in their homes for many decades. They have memories of raising a family there, and a home full of treasured belongings they may not be willing to leave behind.
So what can families do to help an aging loved one make a smooth transition to assisted living?
1. Bring their personal treasures from home. Plan to bring whatever makes home feel like home to them. That may include furniture, photos, knick-knacks, dishes and bedding. The idea is to quickly create an environment that is familiar to them. Make sure possessions that couldn’t make the move find a new home with children, grandchildren or other family members. That will help give your loved one peace of mind.
2. Work with the staff before the move. One of the keys to a smooth transition to an assisted living community is for your loved one and the staff to get to know one another. You can help make this happen more quickly by sharing your loved one’s preferences and interests before the move. Do they like to eat dinner early? Is attending a fellowship service of some kind important to them each week? Do they enjoy playing cards in the evening with friends? These are the kinds of details that can help the staff support your loved one’s transition.
3. Have a family plan. While you don’t want your loved one to feel as if you moved them and then abandoned them, you also don’t want to hold their hand too much. That may prevent them from becoming involved in their new community and making new friends. Set up a schedule indicating when family and friends will visit the first few weeks. Share that with your loved one. Then encourage them to join in on the events and activities that take place every day in an assisted living community.
4. Get to know the staff. These are the people who will see and care for your loved one every day. Get to know them by name. Ask about their families. The closer the bond you build with them, the more comfortable you will feel leaving your loved one in their hands.
5. Prepare for a few bumps. Your loved one may initially be a bit melancholy about all they had to give up to make this move. From their perspective, it probably feels like they gave up everything. Most have given up their memory-filled home and many of their cherished possessions. So prepare for teary times and try to stay positive. If you’ve researched your options and feel confident in your choice, the transition will get better each week. Before long, they may be too busy to fit you into their schedule!