For many, there comes a time in their loved one’s life where they need to make the difficult decision to move them into an assisted living facility. This can be a hard transition, even if they are ready and willing to go. Moving to assisted living means giving up their home, and for many, it feels like giving up their independence. While it will be a difficult new time, knowing the things you can do to prepare for a move to assisted living can make the process easier for everyone involved.
Research Assisted Living Facilities
The biggest way to make sure your loved one has a good experience in assisted living is by picking the right fit for their needs. Start by looking into assisted living facilities in your area. Ask around to see if anyone has had any personal experience and has any recommendations. You should also look into the online reviews for the facilities to see what their residents and families are saying about their experiences. If there is a negative review, take note of how the facility responded to it. How management responds to feedback is a big indicator of what kind of place you will be dealing with.
Remember that not all assisted living facilities are the same. If your loved one shows signs of dementia or has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, look for a facility that specializes in memory care. For a loved one who needs less specialized care, look for somewhere that caters more toward independent living. There’s somewhere for everyone, so take the time to look for the right fit for your loved one.
Once you narrow down your choices, it’s important to check them out in person to really get a feel for them. Bring your loved one with you, as it is equally important that they see the place as a good fit. This gives them a chance to see themselves in the various facilities and have a say of where they stay.
Start Downsizing Early
Once you’ve made the decision to move your loved one into assisted living, start downsizing their belongings. A home that has been lived in for many years easily collects a lot of items. Follow these downsizing tips for seniors to effectively get rid of unnecessary items. Of course, you shouldn’t get rid of everything, especially if it has sentimental value. Getting a small storage unit to store important items is a great way to keep items you aren’t ready to get rid of.
Keep the Old, Don’t Bring in the New
The best way to make your loved one’s assisted living space feel like home is to bring items from their old home into their new one. Things like photos, coffee mugs, blankets, and even décor can make their new space feel more familiar and help them settle in. You may be tempted to use this opportunity to get rid of all of their old stuff and replace it with new items. Remember that you are already asking them to get used to a lot of new things in a short period of time. Adding a new appliance or unfamiliar items can be overwhelming.
Experts say it takes around three to six months for seniors to adjust to their assisted living. Understand that everyone is different and for some it may take more or less than this time window. The most important thing is to have open communication with your loved one. Try not to continuously push all the positives like activities, new friends, etc. at them. Allow them to share their frustrations and fears with you. Sometimes, all it takes is talking it out to help them feel better about the situation. By giving them an open channel for communication, you can work together with them to get through their hardships.
Expect Rough Patches
The truth of the matter is that this is not going to be easy. Your loved one may struggle to adjust to their new life in assisted living. They may seem to be doing great and then a few months in let you know they are lonely. Knowing these rough patches will come allows you to address them. Talk with your loved one to understand what about their situation they do not like. While you may not be able to promise that you can change it, you may be able to work together to come up with ways to help. It’s going to be tough, but be steadfast. Remind yourself of the reasons you made the decision to move your loved one into assisted living.
Before moving them into assisted living, make there’s a plan in place for your loved one to stay connected to friends and family. Assisted living is a great opportunity for your loved one to make new friends, but there is generally a fear that they will no longer see their old friends and family as much. Make a promise you can commit to, like visiting every other Wednesday.
Be Intentional With Your Visits
The amount of time your loved one spends with you in the first few weeks may play a role in how they adjust to their new home. During the first few months, be intentional with your visits to help them settle in. Visits from friends and family can help them feel less lonely in their new space. If they aren’t the type to jump right into activities or strike up conversations, having you there with them may help them find new interests and meet new people. While it’s important to be there for them, you should also give them ample space to adjust by themselves. It may be tough, but giving them their independence forces your loved one to branch out on their own.
Reach Out to Friends and Family
It’s important to remember that you have a life as well, and you can’t put the whole transition process on yourself. Reach out to friends and family to let them know the new address or phone number and encourage them to call or visit. If you want to be super organized, you can even set up a Google Calendar so everyone can see the schedule and decide on a good time to pay them a visit.
Get to Know the Staff
Take the time to get to know the people taking care of your loved one. Having a good rapport with the staff opens up a positive channel of communication. You are an advocate for your loved one and may know things that the staff do not. If you are able to actively communicate any issues or ideas with them, they will be able to help.
The experience of moving a loved one into an assisted living facility will be different for everyone. Whatever your situation, we hope these tips help ease the stress of the process. Remember to communicate, listen, and follow what you feel is best. For more tips for navigating life transitions, sign up for our once-monthly blog newsletter.