With a business focused in making every transition easier, we are very mindful of the fact that at the end of the day…change is hard! There are many types of moving transitions, those which occur from marriage, divorce, moving-up and downsizing. Every move has both physical and logistical challenges, as well as emotional and lifestyle considerations. This week, we are addressing a transition which exemplifies these hurdles and then some, as we address the senior progression from independent to assisted living. This shift is not only a vastly different mindset for the senior making the move, but for the families and loved ones who surround him or her as well.
Wondering what makes this life transition so much harder than so many others? In our experience, it’s that this move is often based in what feels like a loss. Moving to assisted living is often the result of a loss of health, of mobility, of freedom and of choice. Whereas downsizing may elicit a feeling of freedom, or moving-up indicates a growth of your family, turning to assisted living is often not a choice arrived at with positive implications.
Is there a way to make this transition easier? Yes! While not every strategy works for every situation, the main components are managing expectations and demonstrating compassion. Here are 4 suggestions to help a senior loved one who is moving into assisted living.
1. Compromise Control. Your parent of grandparent may feel that assisted living is the end of their power of choice. Providing options where you are able, such as what furniture to bring, what room layout to use, whose help would be best on moving day, etc. is a way to instill some sense of empowerment.
2. Listen Unconditionally. You may not agree with grandma that the grounds are poorly kept or that the neighbor in room 8 isn’t very friendly, but make your loved one feel free to express him/herself. You may also hear your senior lament over what had to be left behind, and this too should be met with compassion and an open heart. You cannot always fix it, but you can justify their feelings of sadness. Sometimes it just is what it is.
3. Account For An Adjustment Period. Meeting fellow residents, finding the breakfast hall and even just managing laundry can feel rather intimidating in a new place. Encourage your loved one to take one day at a time, and to expect that it may not feel like ‘home’ right away. Acknowledge that it might take 30-90 days on average to feel at ease, and that attempting to make new friends can lighten the mood, hasten the process and lead to a little enjoyment!
4. Keep In Touch – But Don’t Handhold. Loved ones play a crucial role in the successful transition into assisted living. Helping your parents or grandparents get involved in their new community, checking in with resident staff on medications and activity levels and visiting regularly are important. On the flip side, be sure that you are not visiting solely out of guilt, enabling reliance on you rather than promoting independence and providing space to cope. It is a balance – but avoiding feelings of being ‘dropped off and left behind’ are crucial to emotional well-being.
There are many, many more considerations when creating a safe and effective support system for this life stage transition. These 4 focus points are intended as a mere starting blocks, and by no means address every ‘what-if’ and ‘how-to’. Feel free to contact us for more ideas, resources & support!
All the best,
Helen & Julie
– Helping Elderly Parents Transition to Assisted Living (Click HERE)
– Moving Into An Assisted Living Residence: Making A Successful Transition (Click HERE)
– Six Ways To Help Transition A Loved One To Assisted Living: The Inside Story (Click Here)