Change is difficult, so it’s natural that seniors can have difficulty transitioning to assisted living communities. While there are many benefits of assisted living, there’s no getting around the fact that the move involves changes that seniors don’t always like.
Psychologist Dr. Deborah L. Stote said in an interview, “Older adults who are moving from their home into assisted living typically encounter varying degrees of adjustment disorder.” But, there are secrets to easing the transition to assisted living. Learn more about how to help transition your senior loved ones.
The Challenges to Moving to Assisted Living
Some of the difficult aspects of a move to assisted living can include:
- The need to significantly downsize, often from a home to a more moderately sized apartment.
- Having to adjust into a new routine. For example, seniors who like to eat a late dinner may not appreciate living in a community where dinner service ends at 7 p.m.
- Resentment about having to live with those who are more disabled or frail than themselves.
- Feelings of abandonment.
- Frustration surrounding a perceived loss of independence.
Of course, many seniors have no trouble at all adjusting to assisted living and take to it from day one. Often, the seniors that initially find the transition difficult usually adapt quickly, and come to recognize that aspects of assisted living that first bothered them are actually beneficial. For instance, residents find it to be a great relief to downsize and not worry about housekeeping and upkeep. For seniors who moved not altogether willingly, their feelings of abandonment and betrayal often turn into feelings of gratitude based on the recognition that their family members were acting out of love when they arranged the move.
5 Secrets to Easing the Transition to Assisted Living
Seniors will best adjust to their new home with some encouragement and support from family members during the senior’s first days and weeks at the assisted living community. The key, Dr. Stote says, is that seniors who are relocating:
“Need positive reassurance that they are moving into a new chapter of their lives, rather than ending the life they have always known.”
Here are tips about how to help your older parent adjust to a move to assisted living:
1. Take your parent to visit the community as often as possible before the move. After your family has selected a senior living community, take your parent to visit frequently before the move. Attend meals and events that allow your parent to become familiar with the residents, staff, and layout of the community. This will make the community and everyone who lives and works their seem less foreign when your parent eventually does move-in.
2. Bring personal items and duplicate aspects of their old home in their new living space. In a recent post about my own grandmother’s transition to assisted living, I described a tactic that seemed to help her feel more at home in her new apartment: “Her home was practically replicated within her new assisted living apartment. The bedroom in her assisted living apartment was made to look just like her bedroom at home; her reading glasses and a Bible were on the nightstand, all the photos were in just the right places; it was a perfect reconstruction. The living room was similarly cloned.” Make sure your parent has input about keepsakes to bring to the new home.
3. Coax your parent to participate in activities. Even elderly people can have a “too-cool-for-school” attitude and be dismissive of assisted living activities. But your parent is likely to adjust well if she or he gets involved with activities and makes some friends at the community. Assisted living communities tend to have a wide variety of activities, so while not all of them will necessarily be appealing to your loved one, there’s bound to be some that do.
4. Encourage your parent to help out at the community. Many assisted living communities have resident volunteers that take on roles at the community such as answering phones, managing the library or sponsoring a club. When residents feel useful and as though they have a purpose, it can improve their outlook and help immensely with the transition.
5. Allow your parent to be independent. While the tips we outlined above can help your older parent transition, don’t become too protective or feel as though you need to be with them all the time during the transition, as this can be counterproductive. Visiting during often during the first days after the move does help make sure your loved one doesn’t feel abandoned, but refrain from taking this too far, as excessive “handholding” could prevent your parent from successfully adapting to her or his new home.
How did you help your senior loved one adjust to a move to an assisted living community? Do you have any tips or other thoughts? Share them with us in the comments below.