Last Updated: September 27, 2018
Change is difficult, so it’s natural that seniors can have difficulty transitioning to an assisted living community. 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 tips to easing the transition to assisted living. Learn more about how to help transition your senior loved ones.
The Challenges of Moving to Assisted Living
Some of the difficult aspects of a move to assisted living can include:
- Feelings of abandonment.
- Frustration surrounding a perceived loss of independence.
- Having to adjust to 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.
- The need to significantly downsize, often from a home to a more moderately sized apartment.
Of course, many seniors have no trouble at all adjusting to assisted living and take to it from day one. Often, seniors 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 some tips about how to help your parent or senior loved one adjust to a move to assisted living:
1. 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 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 or senior loved one from successfully adapting to their new home.
2. Bring personal items from their home into their new living space.
In 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 older adults 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 in 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 in 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. 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 layout, residents and staff 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.
How did you help your senior loved one transition to assisted living? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.