October 16, 2018
Moving a parent to assisted living can be an emotionally difficult experience for everyone involved. Your parent might be apprehensive about leaving their home filled with memories. They could also be nervous about getting older, meeting new friends, and adapting to life in a new space.
You and your family might be nervous about the transition to assisted living, too. It’s natural to feel a sense of guilt about the decision and wonder if your parent will be happy in their new home. Fortunately, there are ways to make moving to assisted living stress-free for everyone involved. Here are a few strategies to help ease the transition to assisted living:
Ask for help
Downsizing is no small task. In fact, it can be one of the most stressful and overwhelming aspects of moving a parent to assisted living. It can take months to sort through a lifetime of possessions and decide what to keep, donate, or give away. If you’re tasked with downsizing your parent’s entire home, don’t try to go it alone. Ask family, friends, and neighbors to help you tackle the downsizing process, or hire professional movers to assist.
Make their new space feel like home
One way to help ease the move to assisted living is by surrounding your parent with belongings that remind them of their previous home. For example, decorate the walls of their new space with framed photographs of family and friends or their favorite piece of artwork. If you have to purchase new furniture to fit in a smaller apartment, you can still use familiar throw blankets or pillows to bring a sense of warmth and comfort to their new space.
Prepare for an adjustment period
The first few weeks in an assisted living community can be the most challenging as your parent settles in and adjust to their new surroundings. Some older adults may take more time than others to feel comfortable in their new home and warm up to their neighbors. After your parent moves to assisted living, you might experience a period of adjustment as well, especially if you’re used to being their primary caregiver. Be patient with yourself and your loved one as you adapt to this new way of life. “Home” isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity. Before you know it, your parent’s home in assisted living will feel just like that – home.
Visit often, but leave some space
Frequent visits can help ease any feelings of loneliness or abandonment your parent may have as they transition to assisted living. However, too much “hand-holding” can prevent your parent from branching out and making friends or trying new activities within the community. If you notice that your parent is isolating themselves from the rest of the community to call you or visit with you, consider giving them a little space and encouraging them to get involved. You can even participate in the community’s events and activities alongside your parent to help them break the ice and meet new people.
Maintain their normal routine
Most older adults like to stick to a consistent daily routine. Without the structure and stability of a routine, your parent may feel stressed and worry about what’s coming next. For example, maybe your dad always drink his coffee while reading the newspaper at the kitchen table. Or perhaps your mother likes to watch her favorite television program after dinner. Speak with the staff in the assisted living community to see how they can help your parent schedule their day. Following their normal routine will give your parent a sense of security and comfort and make the transition to assisted living easier.
Remember to be sensitive to your parent’s feelings as they move to their new home in assisted living. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go as smoothly as you expected at first; everyone needs some time to adjust to a new environment. Communicate, visit often, and show your support. Before long, your parent may see that assisted living gives them more chances to meet new people, explore new activities, and live life to the fullest.