Moving your parents to an assisted living facility is an extremely emotional affair, even if they are willing to do it. Your parents might miss their youth, their independence, or the home that they made for themself over the years. They might also be afraid of making new friends and aging in an unfamiliar place.
You might be concerned about all of that too. You may also be experiencing other thoughts and feelings, like “are we being too hasty,” “did I overreact,” etc. And you begin to feel guilty.
But just know that feeling some guilt is an inevitable part of the process. All of these feelings are normal and will not last forever. So with that in mind, pay heed to these 9 strategies to successfully transition into assisted living.
Keep The Big Picture in Mind
According to senior living experts, it takes approximately 3 to 6 months for someone to adjust to an assisted living facility. It could take longer, but no matter what, remember the reasons why you made this decision. Keeping the big picture in mind will help relieve any feelings of guilt you experience in the short term.
Ensure Visits for the First Two Weeks
This is a good rule to follow, but you know your parents best, so you can decide how best to help them throughout the early days of the move. If you’re unsure, then visiting them more often is usually a good idea. Experts will usually tell people to see their loved one as often as possible. Frequent visits can reassure your parents that they will not be lonely or abandoned by their loved ones.
However, it may not be possible for you or your siblings to visit initially due to work or other obligations. If that’s the case, then try to get your other relatives to visit your parents in your absence.
Expect Some Resistance
The first week or two has passed. Just when everything seems to be going great, things seem to take a turn for the worse. Your loved one might tell you that they’re lonely or don’t like their new dining hall friends. They might even tell you that they want to go home.
These words can really tug on the heartstrings, but just remember that these moments and situations are normal, and that they will pass. Once again, keeping the big picture in mind, remembering why you helped them move into assisted living, will help you both get through these difficult moments.
Understanding a Parent With Dementia
It can be very difficult to hear your parents tell you that they want to go home. But do understand that if your parent has dementia, then they might not be referring to their previous address. They could be referring to a childhood home. For seniors with dementia, home can often refer to a place or feeling.
So if they mention it, just sit with them and talk about what they miss.
You can’t tell them that things will go back to the way they were, but you can at least be a good listener as they share their feelings. That can be more helpful than anything else.
Listen to Their Concerns
Of course, you want to highlight the positive aspects the most, but remember not to “talk at” your parents about all the wonderful new people, activities, opportunities, and more that they have yet to enjoy.
It’s essential for you to listen to your parent’s concerns and fears and acknowledge them. That way, your parents will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.
Bring Their Most Meaningful Possessions
Most of the time, moving into an assisted living facility means that some downsizing is in order. The extendable living room table just might not fit in the new living space. But not to worry, because some of the most important things are often smaller in size – including photographs of family, favorite books, and important family souvenirs. A good tip is to try and bring all of the most important and meaningful things from each room; that way, your parents have something from each part of the house to remind them of home.
Don’t Overwhelm Them
You might think that it’s a good idea to fill up their new living space with lavish and modern furnishings in hopes of making them love it. But try to keep new additions to a minimum. An assisted living facility is full of new things – new people, new food, and new schedules. Don’t overwhelm your parents with more new things, especially not new phones or other gadgets. The number of new things that they have to learn at this time should be kept to a minimum. You can always add new additions once they get used to everything in their new home.
Talk to the Staff
The staff at an assisted living facility are there to help everyone – residents and their family members included. So, it’s perfectly fine to share your concerns and your parent’s concerns. By doing this, the staff can help in making the transition easier for your parents. Every person is different, and there is no one size fits all approach to assisted living. If a staff member knows what your parent needs, they will be more than willing to help.
Don’t Neglect Your Personal Life
Of course, you want to be a good son or daughter and help make your parent’s transition more manageable. However, you can’t forget to take care of yourself too. The best you can do is free up as much time as possible during the first few months after the move. However, you can’t always be available – your children need you too. Your job might require you. And it would help if you gave yourself some quality time as well.
Decide upfront what you’re able to provide, and then stick to that. You may face pressure from others about how you should be spending your time – ignore them. You decide how best to spend your time and no one else. It’s always good to keep both your senior loved one and your own mental health in mind during these tough transitions.