Moving your parent into an assisted living facility is bound to be bittersweet, whether it’s a welcomed decision or not. Change is always difficult even in the best of circumstances, but when moving to an assisted living community, your loved one is leaving their home, and their independence, behind them.
There will be many emotions to sort through, for both you and your parents. They will most likely be mourning the loss of their younger years, nervous about the future, and grieving over the life they are leaving behind. You will inevitably feel guilt at making this decision. Sometimes wondering if you acted too quickly or if there was more you could do to help them stay in their home longer. Try not to worry, there are many ways you can help ease the transition into an assisted living community.
1. Make sure to pick an assisted living home that’s a good fit.
Most people find that assisted living becomes a necessity when their senior needs help with at least three daily living activities. Like eating, bathing, and dressing, for example. There are many priorities to consider when choosing the best senior living facility. Location is one of the biggest considerations that should be taken into account. Should you find one that’s close to where they are currently living? Or can they relocate somewhere closer to friends and family? It’s very helpful to have your parent nearby so you can support them with frequent visits, engage with staff members and take care of your loved ones day to day needs.
Quality of life is another thing to evaluate. What is the food and dining situation like? Do they have the types of social happenings Mom or Dad like to participate in? Investigate how they handle housekeeping services and medical assistance. Don’t underestimate transportation and parking either. You will probably be visiting frequently and you don’t want to waste time or money searching (or paying!) for parking.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for recommendations from family members, agencies that advocate for the elderly, or your local church community. These can be valuable resources as you search for the perfect place.
2. Help them make their new room their own.
The first few months of living at an assisted living facility are often made better by placing familiar items in their new environment. You obviously won’t be able to bring everything. But bringing along family photographs, their favorite books, and wall decorations can make the transition easier. You may even be able to take a favorite easy chair or dresser. Assisted living facilities want your family member to feel comfortable. They’ll encourage you to help your loved one set up their room just the way they like it.
3. Visit often and be an advocate.
Most experts agree that it’s best to visit your parent as much as possible. However, in the beginning, as your parents begin to adjust to assisted living, you will have to gauge how often you should visit. Frequent visits may help your senior feel at home and give them the confidence to take advantage of the benefits that come with their new home. But if you find that your loved one is coming to depend on your visits too much and not getting involved in their new community, it might be better to give them time to adjust on their own.
At the same time, it’s important to be an advocate for any new resident. They may feel hesitant to speak up for things that they want. The staff is almost always open to things that are outside the norm as long as it doesn’t interfere with the resident’s health or safety. Never be afraid to ask for special considerations or raise concerns on behalf of your parent.
4. Make sure they have access to the activities they loved.
Being able to still do the things they have always loved is important to helping a loved one with adjusting to assisted living. If your senior loves to read, make sure they have plenty of books at their disposal. If they have an obsession with movies, a TV and a DVD player may be in order. If they never missed their weekly bingo game, see if their new home has a regular game. Assisted living facilities have many activities for seniors to enjoy. So help your family member get involved in the ones they find the most interesting.
5. Provide them the means to maintain some independence.
In other words, try not to be overprotective. Of course you want to make sure Mom or Dad is taken care of. But our seniors had lives of their own before making this transition, and they will be happier if they feel like they are still in charge of their own lives to some extent.
If they are tech-savvy, give them a smartphone as a way to stay connected to the outside world, and a way to call you if they need something. Set them up with their own television and pay for cable so they can watch their favorite TV shows without having to do so in a common room. Many seniors live full and interesting lives inside assisted living, so be a part of it but don’t hover.
6. Encourage them to develop a community and life within the facility.
Don’t be afraid to leave a new resident alone to experience and socialize with their new community. Adjusting to assisted living will take some time. Once residents adjust to their new home, they will usually develop a whole new social circle filled with new friends, adventures, gossip, and drama. You want to be a part of their new life, you don’t want it to revolve around you. Encouraging them to be involved in their new surroundings really goes a long way to the long-term health and happiness of all residents.
7. Connect with the staff.
This may be one of the most important tips you get when moving your parent into a new facility. The staff are the ones that are responsible for taking care of all the residents. They will be interacting with them day in an day out, and will be the first to notice any change that should be brought to your attention. Developing a good connection with the staff will naturally create a better environment for your loved one. Involve them in discussions about how your loved one is adjusting to the transition. Talk to them about who your parent is, what they love to do and any personality traits they might want to be on the lookout for. Going the extra mile to show the staff that they are appreciated does wonders for everyone involved.
Bonus Tip – Be a Good Listener
Good senior care starts with being a good listener. When you move someone into an assisted living facility, it’s a difficult transition. Listen and be empathetic to your parent as they adjust to their new surrounding. Pay attention to the things they need, and bring them on your next visit. Listen to what the staff says about behavior they see, or changes that need to be dealt with. Listen to family members if they report back to you after seeing your loved one if you can’t be there. With patience and a lot of love, making the move into assisted living will be a great decision for everyone involved.