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Harmony in Transition to Senior Living

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By Nori Patnode, Certified Concierge Care Advisor

Moving to an Assisted Living Facility or an Adult Family Home is a major transition for a senior.  Change can be intimidating for anyone, but especially for someone who has lived their life independently and for the most part has felt in charge of their destiny. Staying open to discussion and being there to listen to your parents hopes and fears regarding an upcoming move is most important. It will be tempting for adult children to want to make their parents feel better by listing the obvious reasons their parents must move. In the end, you will likely need to reiterate the reasons that it is important to make the move. But first, do your best to take the time to listen to all your loved one has to say.

Give your parent or loved one a sense of power over the situation by allowing them to be as involved in the process as possible. Likely they will need to down-size and they may feel better about this process if they can be at their home making choices about what stays and what goes. If it is affordable and your loved one wants to hold onto things that cannot realistically fit in their new space, then maybe a small storage unit to hold onto important items will be a good solution. Giving sentimental items to people they love may also help them let go and even feel good about down-sizing.

When setting up their new room or apartment, make it look and feel as close to home as possible. This can be accomplished by bringing their favorite items from home; their favorite pieces of furniture, books and decorative items that are important to them, or their favorite wall hangings or wall art and family pictures. If they can help set up the room and want to, again, this will help empower them during the transition.

If they are unable to help, and suffer from memory loss or confusion, it is important to set up their room before you bring them to their new home. If your loved one suffers from Dementia or Alzheimer’s, depending on the stage, keeping their stress level down is more important than having them help with the process. Packing enough clothes and their favorite toiletries is a must. Keep walkways clear to assist with ambulation. Be sure there is plenty of room if they use a walker or a wheelchair. Label drawers and cabinets if needed to make it easier for your loved ones to find things. It will take some time for a senior to settle into their new surroundings. But the good news is they will likely be happier and have a better quality of life in the long run.

Seniors who stay in their home longer than it is safe often become isolated and depressed. They may not want to admit they can no longer do certain things for themselves. Once they are in a safe living situation and are getting their care needs met, they usually blossom. Assisted Living Facilities have wonderful dining experiences and your parent or loved one will likely meet friends while they are dining. These friends will talk them into coming to various activities and a whole new life will emerge that they likely didn’t even realize they were missing.

Adult Family Homes provide a more home like experience. Residents in Adult Family Homes also share their meals together in the dining room. If your loved one has previously been isolated in their own home, the dining experience is where they will get to know their housemates and begin to share their lives and make friends. Isolation causes depression for many seniors when they live in their own home and are unable to easily take trips to the store or other activities they used to enjoy. They may not recognize that being isolated is detrimental to them.

In closure, it is very important to visit often. Even if your parent or loved one is not willing to share their feelings, they are likely scared of being abandoned. Reassure them you are going to be there and do your best to follow through. Take them on outings as often as possible. A car ride, fresh air, and time with you is more important than you know.

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