Think back to the last time you experienced a major life change, such as a new job or purchasing a home. Did you feel like you were in an entirely different world at first? Was it difficult to get used to your new surroundings?
Moving to an assisted living community is a HUGE transition for your loved one. Don’t misunderstand – this should be a wonderful change. But it will require some adjustments.
While transitioning, your loved one will likely rely on his or her support system. The most important thing you can do to help is simply be there when he or she needs you.
But you don’t have to wait for your loved one to reach out. Instead, you can be proactive by anticipating his or her needs. Here are a few practical ways to help ease the transition to an assisted living community:
Call and visit regularly.
Many seniors fear they will be forgotten by family and friends once they move into an assisted living community. Assure your loved one you will stay in contact after the move. But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Make a habit of having a dependable visiting schedule.
Do not visit so often that your loved one is too busy entertaining to enjoy favorite hobbies or community activities.
If you cannot visit due to distance or other obligations, try to call regularly. You may call at a set time each day or week to make sure your loved one is doing well and ask if he or she needs anything. If he or she does not have time for a long chat, do not be offended. Assisted living communities often have packed schedules with activities for residents.
Join forces with other family members and friends.
Between work, volunteering, caring for children, attending community functions and a host of other obligations, you may not have time to visit every week. Your children and siblings may face the same dilemma.
Help each other out by coordinating when to visit. For instance, instead of everyone showing up Saturday afternoon, create a tentative schedule:
- Mark will visit Tuesday evening.
- Jim will stop by Thursday at lunch.
- Patty and Greg are taking Mom out for dinner on Friday.
- Mom’s friend Betty is stopping by sometime Saturday.
- Alice is picking Mom up for church on Sunday morning.
A shared Google calendar can help you coordinate visits. With open communication, your loved one can have a fairly steady stream of visitors without being overwhelmed all at once. Each visit will consist of more quality time and one-on-one conversation.
Keep your loved one connected with his or her old neighborhood.
The hardest part of adjusting may not be living in a new place but leaving behind friends and neighbors. This sometimes results in loneliness during the first few months spent at an assisted living community, particularly if a resident can no longer drive.
If your loved one misses his or her old neighborhood, make sure he or she stays connected with the area.
- Treat him or her to lunch at a favorite restaurant.
- Stroll through a neighborhood park together.
- Take a drive down familiar streets.
- Create a scrapbook or digital album of favorite places if he or she cannot travel.
Simply seeing the area from time to time can bring back beloved memories and make your loved one feel more at home.
Help staff members get to know your loved one.
It’s easy to forget that others may not understand your loved one as well as you do. For instance, you know Dad prefers orange juice over coffee, but an assisted living community’s dining staff may not.
Before your loved one moves in, give staff members insight into his or her
- likes – If he or she enjoys John Wayne movies, perhaps the activity director can plan a John Wayne night.
- dislikes – If he or she cannot stand bananas, let dining services know.
- habits – If he or she takes early morning walks, let the staff know so they are not concerned if they see him or her out and about.
- hobbies – If he or she paints, staff members may be able to connect him or her with other residents who have similar interests.
The more staff members understand your loved one’s preferences and personality, the more they can make him or her feel welcome. This goes a long way in easing the transition to an assisted living community.
Personalize your loved one’s apartment.
If Mom has some of her favorite items in her new apartment, she is likely to be more comfortable. Familiar items include
- furniture and décor from a home, such as a favorite recliner, lamp or plant
- family photos
- favorite snacks and beverages
Even under the best of circumstances, moving is a transition. Do not be alarmed when there are a few bumps in the road – it’s normal.
To see how assisted living can enhance your loved one’s life, schedule a visit to our community.