You want what is best for your parents at this stage in their life – to be safe and happy. However, helping your family adjust to their new home in a senior living community will require change, and change can be difficult. It should come as no surprise that individuals often feel hesitant when it comes to moving into a senior living community. While they may readily admit they can see the benefits gained from such a move, it’s still difficult to leave the place they call home and the life they’ve become accustomed to.
Begin by knowing that the move will require an adjustment period – for you and for them. For those who feel the move has been forced upon them, the transition can be especially difficult and take much longer.
It’s important to note some emotions they might feel as they try to cope with a move:
- Frustration due to a perceived loss of independence
- Frustration and powerlessness because they must now live with routines that are set for them, such as mealtimes, shuttle schedules, etc.
- Resentment because they must now live around others who are more frail or disabled than them
- Frustration at having to downsize and being forced to give up prized possessions
Be aware of these feelings and let them know it’s okay to experience them. Give them permission to have these feelings by being there for them, even when they vent about them. It’s a process, and in some ways, it can be a grieving process.
There may not be a lot you can do to make them immediately love their new home, but you can encourage them as they begin the process of getting used to it. The first few months are typically the hardest- yes, it can take months of transition. Much of their initial discomfort will pass and they’ll begin to experience and enjoy their new life. Gradually, they will begin to view their new apartment as home. Until that time, let’s look at some things you can do to help them adjust to life in a senior living community.
Select a senior living community that’s a good fit … for them.
Give your parents, or elderly family member, the opportunity to select the community they feel is right for them. If they feel like they have no say, or they feel that the community isn’t a good fit, they may never feel comfortable there. Along with not being happy about the move, they may also become resentful.
So, work with your parents to find a senior living community that’s right for them. Find a community that offers amenities and services that appeal to them and are important to them. Sure, this may require a little bit of research and effort, but in the long run, it will be worth it.
Go together to visit various communities. This will give them the opportunity to tell you what they think before any final decisions are made. Although it’s unlikely you’ll find a community that is perfect in every way, you should find one with all the basic features that will lay a successful foundation for their happiness.
Help them to personalize their new home.
Take time to help them fill their new living space with things that make it feel like home – their home. Fill each room with things they love, including items that have meaning to them, to transform their new living space into something comfortable and familiar.
Add framed photos of family and friends. Let them pick decorations and pictures to move from their old home to the new. Allow them to decide how they want to decorate, from colors to the drapes to knickknacks. The more ways they can make the apartment their own, the sooner they’ll feel like it’s truly home.
Here’s a great article that will give you lots of tips and pointers concerning this topic, 10 Ways You Can Add Personal Style to Your Assisted Living Home.
Visit them frequently.
Don’t move them into the community and then disappear from their lives. The people they love and the people who love them are another component of what makes a place, home.
If they feel like they’ve been dumped there because they are unwanted or forced to move so no one must deal with them, then it’s unlikely their new living arrangement will ever truly feel like home. Talk to them. If they understand the move was necessary for their safety and health, it’ll be an easier pill to swallow. Visit them frequently and encourage others who are important to them to do so as well.
Send them little surprises.
Who doesn’t like to receive a little package filled with love every now and then? Send them a flower or cookie bouquet, the latest release from their favorite author or new pictures of the family. These little packages let them know that you are thinking of them and that you care. They don’t replace visits but instead are a meaningful way to say, “I love you, and I’m thinking of you,” in between well-timed visits.
Allow them to be independent.
Although you should visit them frequently, don’t be too protective and feel like you must be with them all the time. Visiting frequently during the first days after the move can be helpful and will make sure they don’t feel abandoned, but if time spent with them is taken too far, it can prevent them from successfully adapting to their new surroundings.
Give them time to explore the community on their own and to make new friends within the community. This gives them something to share with you on your next visit and they might even be able to “brag” about what they’ve been able to accomplish. You understand the dynamics within your family and can determine the best way to go about encouraging their independence.
Provide a means for them to maintain some independence.
Speaking of independence. Your family member has lived independently for years and they need to continue to do so as much as they’re able. If they can still drive, this is easier. However, if they cannot, help them figure out alternative means of transportation that they can use to maintain their independence. If they enjoy cooking and baking, encourage them to continue to do so in their own apartment. What does your family member view as important for independence and what can you do to help them continue to take part in that activity?
Make sure they still have access to activities they love outside the senior living community.
They shouldn’t have to forego the hobbies and a social life they love just because they’ve moved into a senior living community. Make sure they still have access to these activities. If they can still drive, this isn’t a problem; however, if they don’t and require transportation assistance, make sure they have it. Getting away from the senior living community and maintaining past connections are both healthy and encouraged. If they have a church they are involved in, they should continue to do so. If they have hobbies or a bridge club they enjoy, they need to continue to have access to those activities.
- The first few months may be hard. It’s important you take time to let them know they’re still important to you.
- Make sure they are surrounded by the things that mean “home” to them.
- Visit regularly and encourage others to do the same. This lets them know you care and gives them something to look forward to.
- Make sure they have their own phone, making it easier for them to keep up with family and friends.
- Send flowers and “love” packages to remind them that they are valued.
- Make sure they can continue doing things they love.
- Encourage them to develop new hobbies and friends.
Senior Living at Lake Park
Some older adults will have no problem adjusting to their new life in a senior living community like Lake Park. Some may take a little longer but soon learn to love the newfound freedom they experience because they have fewer chores they must attend to. Others learn to love it because of all the amenities and services that make their life so much richer. Still, others find it to be a great relief to downsize and not have to worry about the maintenance and upkeep of a larger home. Any feelings of abandonment and betrayal they may have experienced often turn into feelings of gratitude knowing their family cared enough to help them find the best possible solution for where they are in their life.
Lake Park, located in Oakland, California, is a continuing care retirement community. This means that even as your care needs change, you’ll always have a home with us. From independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing care, we’re prepared to meet all your needs. Contact us to learn more. It’s important to us that you and your family member find the best possible place to call home. We’ll even help make the move easier. Lake Park has partnered with Gentle Transitions to help with all aspects of moving, providing 40 hours of move-in assistance, absolutely free of charge.