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Moving Into an Assisted Living Community
Helping Parents Make a Move

Moving a loved one into an assisted living facility is usually initiated by a family's concern about a need for care and supervision. All lifestyle transitions are tough, and a move requires time for adjustment from a supportive family.

As a parent changes, be aware of noticeable emotional stress symptoms like withdrawal and isolation, negative attitudes, stomach aches, diminished appetite, and amplified sleep disturbances. Don't be alarmed, these symptoms are common. Think what it's like to move from a house of multiple rooms to a small apartment in a shared community with strangers. And it's worse for a loved one because they're losing independence and their prized possessions. Is it any wonder why they withdraw?

How Family and Friends can Help

A move at this stage of life is very emotional; it's important to prepare the new home to match familiar routines as quickly as possible. If the relative enjoys playing games online, make sure the computer is up with the Internet connection. If watching a DVD movie is her preference, arrange to turn on utilities before moving and the TV and DVD player set. Remember to set out treasured items and photographs too, the familiar objects serve as transitional objects and bring the home they left into their new environment.

Help Seniors Move
Help Seniors Move

Quickly integrate personal items into the new living quarters to aid the transition. When packing for the new home, encourage your loved one to select special mementos and personal items like family photos, pieces of furniture, and family treasures to bring along.

Upon arrival, help them place the prized possessions into the new living space. It enhances the feeling of control and decreases helplessness.

Consistent stopovers and social visits by family and friends promote positive adjustment. Consider calling your parent often and plan for regular outings to local restaurants, the park, the theater, and the market. These types of activities and planned excursions will ease their distress.

Tip: Remind the loved one that they are starting a new chapter in life. So instead of talking about the past too much, focus on the activities and new friends they are making at the assisted living community.

Get to Know the Staff

Assisted Living Staff
Assisted Living Staff

Get to know the staff, especially the ones who work directly with your loved one. Occasionally, join your mom in a fitness class or a group hobby session, having you there will help her feel more comfortable and open up to other residents.

Ask the staff what you can do to help them do their jobs well. For example, if they clean her room on a Wednesday, take your mom out to lunch that day. Housekeeping will enjoy getting the room cleaned more quickly.

If you cannot be there as often as you wish, hire a companion who has the time to make sure that your mom gets the attention and care she deserves.

Moving into an assisted living community takes time for adjustment. While these tips make an easier transition, remember patience is key as your loved one adjusts to the new life. In time, she'll feel like its home sweet home.

The New Normal

A move is exhausting for the both of you. It's important to save some energy to help your relative adjust to his new life. If you can keep activities close to the same as before, the quicker he'll feel at home. It's easier on him if you're available for him after the move.

Tips for Adjusting

  • Make preferences known to the staff: daily routines, fitness regime, and time of meals and snacks.
  • Keep a supply of favorite snacks and drinks in the room.
  • Give the staff a list of favorite tunes and movies. If your relative has a CD and DVD player in the room, offer movies and music CDs.
  • Ask the staff to create activities she loves to do: cooking, allow her to spend time helping in the kitchen. Or if gardening is a favorite hobby, find out if she plants flowers or vegetables in the community's garden
  • Check her wardrobe and shoes for fit and sizing.
  • Make a schedule of the times you'll visit or call.
  • Ask the staff to arrange Skype sessions between the two of you.

It's important for an aging person to depend on friends and family. The first few months after a move are crucial--in setting up the services and supports, and in addressing the underlying emotional aspects.

10 Tips for Living in a Small Space

Whether you're transitioning into assisted living or just downsizing to an apartment, odds are you're going to have to cut back on all that stuff you've been hanging onto for years. Maybe you've already asked the kids to take their boxes from the attic. Maybe you've offered them a few keepsakes and heirlooms. Maybe you even had a gigantic yard sale and sent boxes and boxes to Goodwill, but you still have more than you can with you. Don't worry! There are still several more things you can do to help you downsize and stay organized in your new space.

  • Make a Scrapbook: One of the hardest things to do is let go of the keepsakes that mean so much to you. Before you hand them down to your children or grandchildren, you can take pictures of favorite items and keep scraps of material from a favorite dress or quilt in an album. Remember that downsizing doesn't mean you have to throw your memories away!
  • Go for multi-purpose furniture: Large trunks or coffee tables and storage units. Fulton serves as a couch and a guest bed.
  • Think Small: If you can furnish your new residence yourself, make the switch from large, over-sized living room and bedroom sets to smaller ones. Find a love seat or a chair and a half sleeper instead of a full-sized couch.
  • Maximize Storage Space: Utilize any hidden but unused spaces. Keep out-of-season clothing and holiday items in storage units under the bed. You can even hide items you don't currently use in plain sight by purchasing decorative storage boxes and stacking them for use as an end table or nightstand.
  • Use Vertical Space: Add extra shelving in closets and make use of floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Keep things you use less frequently on the highest shelves and keep a step stool or extended reach tool handy for easy access.
  • Simplify: Don't keep extra kitchen gadgets that are not used. Buy only one small set of dishes, and use pots and pans that are multi-functional and high-quality. Chances are you won't cook for Cox's army anymore. Ask yourself if you really need that 25-quart stock pot.
  • Don't Buy New Things: (That is, unless you really need them.) Make sure you have a place for everything you own, and get rid of an old item every time you add a new one.
  • Don't Buy Bulk: Resist the urge to shop at superstores. If you can, try shopping more frequently and buying fewer groceries.
  • Minimize Bathroom Clutter: Use multi-purpose cleaners that will work on tiles, tubs, sinks and counter tops. Keep only two sets of linens and towels, and wash them immediately so you always have a set ready to use. Keep toiletries from overrunning your space by keeping on hand only what fits in a basket or tote.
  • Organize Twice a Year: Take stock of your wardrobe and closets in the spring and fall. Donate everything that's useful and pitch the rest.

12 Tips for a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

Activities Help the Transition
Activities Help the Transition

When our loved ones moved into assisted care, it's not a decision made lightly. Life changes drastically for new residents and family members, but everyone can work to make it easier. Here are some tips for making the move a better experience:

  • Find the right community. If the residents and staff are friendly, this will go a long way in making an assisted living facility feel like home. Browse all licensed assisted living options in your area and research those that look attractive.
  • Stay close. When family and friends are close, they visit more frequently. Visits are good, and make everyone feel a little better.
  • Highlight the good stuff. Is the floor plan perfect? Is there a yoga class twice a week? Will the resident get help with difficult chores like laundry?
  • Don't take over. Assisted living residents should maintain a sense of independence. Their opinions matter, and they still have a lot of control over choices that concern them.
  • Don't ignore negative emotions. Being sad is normal, and moving is a traumatic event no matter where you go or what you leave behind. Always listen to concerns.
  • Throw a small home warming party. You can bring cherished items or new items and decorate, but it always helps when you can find a reason to celebrate.
  • Keep an eye on your loved one's health. Don't assume that someone else is taking care of everything. When you are actively involved, everyone benefits.
  • Find resident activities. Don't wait to join the walking club or the book club or the bingo game every Thursday evening. Residents who get involved in activities early make friends more quickly and have a less difficult time becoming acclimated to their new surroundings.
  • Eat together. Eating together a couple of times a week is a great way to keep in touch and maintain that family bond. Plus, residents may socialize more when there is someone new to introduce.
  • Don't make promises you can't keep. Dealing with disappointments like missed lunch dates or special visits is always difficult. Follow through with your promises.
  • Help with packing. It really is a chore to pack and sort a lifetime's worth of belongings. Offering to help lessens the burden.
  • Talk to a counselor. Sometimes the transition is difficult despite our best efforts to make it as easy and painless. Don't be afraid to seek comfort from a listening ear.
Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.