A move to assisted living can cause feelings of trepidation. It’s an adjustment for everyone, but for some seniors, it can be more difficult than others. Your support during this process is important to reduce feelings of abandonment, anxiety and loneliness and help ease your parent’s overall adjustment.
It’s important to encourage your senior loved one to keep up the hobbies and lifestyle that they enjoy, so they don’t experience a drop in their activity levels or quality of life after a move to assisted living. Your support can also help reduce feelings of depression after the move.
How to Help Your Parent Adjust After a Move to Assisted Living
Here are 10 tips to help you be the support your parent will need through this transition:
1. Arrange for transportation.
In assisted living, it’s critical to consider how your parent will get around. Does the community offer transportation? Do they have bus trips? Does your parent know how to call a taxi or Uber from their new home? Will you rely on a driving service or the help of other family members?
Have these transportation options written out for your parents and hang it on the wall in their room by their phone so it remains top of mind and they know that they’re still free to go about their day-to-day life.
2. Bring friends over.
Your parents may stop having their friends over out of fear of judgment. However, there’s nothing to fear! Your parent’s friends have probably considered and visited assisted living communities before.
So, ask to drive their friends to your parent’s new home to help maintain these important social connections.
3. Connect with staff.
Staff are a great resource for you and your parent. They will understand how your loved one is feeling and will have tips to help make the transition more comfortable.
Raise your concerns with staff members — they may have unique solutions for you. Also, make sure your parent is comfortable asking the staff for whatever they might need.
4. Encourage new activities.
Your parent has a whole new social network to enjoy and their new home will offer activities to help foster relationships and keep people engaged. Often, new residents are reluctant to engage in these activities because they feel out of place, are hesitant to try something new, or are worried about fitting in.
Gently encourage your parent to try new activities that pique their interest. If they have unique hobbies (like painting or Tai Chi) that aren’t offered in the activities calendar, ask the staff if it’s possible to fit it in.
5. Get them to their favorite activities.
Even though your parent knows about their transportation options, they may be skipping their favorite activities. Check in on them and make sure they’re arriving to church, to their friend’s home or wherever they would normally go.
This will help prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness that sometimes accompany the move to assisted living.
6. Give it time.
Don’t expect that your parent will be adjusted to their new home in a few days or even a few weeks. Experts suggest it takes between three and six months for someone to adjust to assisted living.
After all, it’s not just a move, it’s a lifestyle change. If you remain patient and positive, your parent will have the best transition possible.
7. Make their room comfortable.
Waking up in a strange room is hard for most people, but especially for those with dementia. Placing a few personal items around the room will help your parent orient themselves in the morning. It will also help the room feel more comfortable and familiar at any time of the day.
Remember to put up pictures of your parent and their loved ones. Bring in their favorite décor items and have sentimental items within view. Talk to staff about how to securely incorporate valuable items like jewelry in an area that’s easily monitored by security, or perhaps keep such items at your home and bring them during your visits.
8. Make your first visit count.
During your first visit, you have the chance to get your parent familiar with their new home and the people in it. Having you at their side will offer them security, so they may be willing to get out of their shell a bit more than they would without you. On your first few visits introduce them to the building and the other residents.
Walk the grounds and be sure your parent can find spots that they may not visit often, like activity rooms, exercise rooms or gardens. While you’re walking around, try to engage your parent in conversation with the other residents.
9. Respond with compassion when they ask about home.
In the first few months, your parent may ask about going home. If they have dementia, they may keep asking to go home even years after they have made the transition to assisted living. These questions are hard but remember to respond with compassion.
Instead of explaining why your parent is in assisted living, try asking them what they miss about home. Maybe there is something you can do to fill that need and make them more comfortable.
10. Visit some more.
Opinions differ on how often you should visit your parents in the first few weeks after their move. While too many visits may stop them from developing relationships in their new home, too few may cause them to feel abandoned.
So just be honest with your parent about how much you’ll visit and start a regular visiting schedule that you can maintain well into the future. If your parent will have other visitors, it’s smart to try to stagger them in the first few months so your parent has company consistently, instead of all at once.
Do you have any other tips to help a loved one adjust after a move to assisted living? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.