Tips to help a time of transitionOlder people often have difficulty with change. Accustomed as they are to their living arrangements and daily routines, making a change can throw them into an emotional turmoil of confusion, anxiety, fear and even anger. Moving into an assisted living facility can trigger all these emotions, even when the person in question has participated in the decision-making process, and that can make other family members feel inadequate and uncertain. A few tips can help smooth the transition for both the elder and the family.
Consult the Person Involved
If the person who will be moving has mobility and is reasonably mentally clear, it makes sense for them to visit the assisted living centers being considered for their care. They’ve made decisions for themselves for a lifetime, and while initially they may not be wholly in favor of a move, finding a welcoming, warm senior community could be a mind changing experience. Don’t expect enthusiasm at first, but in seeing a variety of different facilities, they will generally become more engaged and begin to voice opinions. If your loved one has agreed to look at several, it might even make sense to include one that is less inviting, so that your target building is more appealing.
Spend Some Time
Most assisted living communities will allow family members to come along with their loved one for a meal and stay around to connect with residents. If the building has an activities calendar (and it should!), you can time your visit to coincide with an activity your loved one finds enjoyable, whether that’s gentle aerobics or Bingo. Stroll the grounds, play cards or engage in crafts with the residents. Reassure the elder that this is a place where he or she can relax and feel comfortable.
Tears and overt expressions of anxiety can be difficult for all family members. It’s important for the family to maintain a calm and reassuring demeanor and express confidence in your decision, as upset on your part will only confuse your loved one. Likewise, the family should be prepared to offer compassion and support at move time and until your loved one acclimates. Don’t be surprised if you need to repeat your explanation as to why the change is necessary. If your loved one makes angry comments or expresses fear, appeal to reason as much as possible. Humans are notoriously resistant to change under the best of circumstances, so it’s normal to expect high emotions around this transition period that signifies not just a change in residence, but a change in life stage.
Allow the Elder to Choose What to Bring
Once the final decision has been made and paperwork completed, support your loved one in choosing what to bring, which can be a challenging process in reducing a household to one or two rooms. A professional can help your loved one sort things into piles of yes, no and maybe; then you can help go through the yesses and maybes. Even though you or other family members think you know what would be most appropriate items to bring, your loved one may have very different ideas. One caveat: resist the temptation to bring valuables, such as family heirlooms. A resident suffering from dementia might “give them away” or allowed a staffer to “take them home to polish.” On the plus side, it might be fun to choose new bedding or throw pillows to further personalize the new living arrangement.
Explore the Facility with Them Frequently
Many assisted living centers have dining rooms, libraries, lounges, chapels, media rooms and outdoor patios where various activities take place. Once your loved one has moved in, take regular time to explore the facility together, pointing out programs that might be of interest and carefully noting the location of the dining room, central bathrooms and other important areas. If a film is scheduled, stay around to watch part of it, or join your loved one for a meal.
Interact with the Staff
One of the most important concerns of seniors is being among people they know and who will be responsive to their needs. Engage with the facility’s staff when you are visiting. Learn their names and discuss activities, events and services at the facility, so that your loved one knows the staff and feels comfortable making requests.
The transition from living on one’s own to assisted living can be bumpy, but finding the right community and supporting your loved one through the process can help smooth the way. If you’re seeking an assisted living situation in Los Angeles CA for a family member, please contact us to discuss our assisted living options or to arrange a visit.