Change is hard, and moving to an assisted living community is a significant change. Much of the frustration and anxiety associated with a move of this proportion can be mitigated with planning and honest communication. After all, assisted living should be a welcomed change to everyone involved. To make the transition as smooth as possible, follow these tips:
1. Re-enforce the Positives
There's a reason people move to assisted living communities, and the main one is ease. At a certain point, it becomes too difficult to single-handedly maintain not only a house and property but also one's own health or the health of a loved one. Safety becomes a growing concern, and assisted living provides the support and reassurance that everyone needs. While there will be changes that are new and uncomfortable at first, make sure to re-enforce the positives: no more yard work or expenses for house maintenance, the constantly updated menu of social activities, on-demand help with medications and housekeeping, and transportation to wherever you need to go. You can minimize stress by reminding everyone that moving to an assisted living community is specifically meant to minimize stress!
2. A Family Affair
Memories are made when moving. Packing up personal belongings can be a very emotional experience, but it doesn't have to be only about jogging old memories. Moving can be its own memory, a time to laugh, to be together, and to reminisce. This will not only make packing more fun, but it can bring the family together, both physically and emotionally. Schedule a packing party with lunch, refreshments, and music. This time together may be the memory that lasts the longest.
3. Communication is Key
This is a high-stress time for both you and your loved one. When you visit, validate their fears and concerns. Resist the urge to offer advice without being asked. Be an active listener and let them vent. If they want your opinion, they will ask for it.
4. Visit Several Times Before Moving In
Become familiar with the lay of the land. Have a meal or two in the dining room, locate the activity centers, explore the common rooms and introduce yourselves to the staff.
5. Make it a Home
The reluctance many people feel when considering a move from the family home centers on familiarity. We all want to feel comfortable, to have a place that feels like our own. That's why it's so important to be conservative about purging personal belongings during a move. It's hard enough moving to a different area, a new neighborhood, unknown neighbors and unfamiliar people. The walls can literally feel differently at first. Mitigate that by keeping the photos, art, and knickknacks that give that homey feel. And don't forget about the electronics!
6. Space Matters
Study the floor plan of the apartment. Decide how much furniture will comfortably fit into the new space. Leaving behind a lifetime's worth of possessions is hard. This is something that you and your loved one can do together. On the first go around, sort through each room, quickly, and decide what items go, which ones should be given away(to family members or charity), and what should simply be thrown away. Final decisions don't have to be made immediately. If your living situation allows, select those "must haves" now, then after she/he has been in their new home for a while, revisit the issue. Ease into things if you possibly can.
Whether it's the TV and phone, alarm clock and radio, or iPad and computer, prioritize connectivity. We've all experienced the helplessness of tangled cords, wireless connections, and new cable programming. Get the staff to help set up stands, mounts, and speakers. For many, the evening news is a must. For most, boasting to friends about the new digs is equally important.
7. A Day in the New Life
Having the room just right and the kitchen unpacked doesn't do much to calm the nerves in the new place. It helps to get acclimated of your new daily routine. You can start by waking up and putting on slippers, picking the day's outfit, locking up and going to breakfast, etc. This type of normal routine will ease the fear of the unknowns of being in a new home. But don't stop at the door. Visit the staff, get their names and find out who works what shifts, who can answer your questions.
8. Schedule Visits & Outings
At all stages of life, we need to have something to look forward to. Kids thrive on this. Adults get professionally and personally stagnant without it and seniors are no different. There's nothing better to take the mind off the change right now than a plan for dinner, ice cream outing, or shopping trip tomorrow. Ideally, encourage the family to set a schedule to visit together as well as individually, thus giving your loved ones something to look forward all the time.
When your parent (s) begin to exhibit the signs of aging that are compromising health, safety, and happiness, investigate some of the resources available for helping you both deal with this new phase of life.