Change is difficult for a lot of people. It is especially difficult for seniors who have been living a certain way for decades but who can no longer independently sustain their current lifestyle because of health and other reasons that come with aging.
If you have an elderly parent, perhaps your family is facing that situation. Maybe you have considered the possibility of assisting living for your parent but don’t know how to bring up this topic.
This will be a major life adjustment for your parent and for the family, and no doubt there will be worries about the move. However, there are ways to ease into the transition so anxiety will be minimized.
Here are some helpful tips on making this move as smooth as possible.
Starting the Conversation About Assisted Living
The first step is to figure out what to say to a person moving to assisted living. This is a tough conversation because the first impression that your parent might get is that he will lose his independence.
However, seniors living in an assisted living community report that they enjoy more independence and have a good social life with the secure feeling that someone is always there to help them with any daily activities.
The strategy here is to start talking about it with your parent before your parent actually needs it. This can allow you to pick a good time to bring this up.
Talk about what your parent can gain from assisted living. Do some research on reputable facilities and gather the information that you can show to your parent. Review the admission criteria for various assisted living communities.
Plan to have this conversation when your parent is in a good mood. Avoid talking about it if your parent has just gone through some emotional challenges like a friend’s death. Take your parent out to lunch, spend a nice day with him, and then bring up the subject.
Your parent might not want to talk about this initially, but that is okay. If you start the conversation early, you can always come back to it.
At least by introducing the topic, you will plant the seed in your parent’s mind, and he can think about it in their own time. Bring up the subject again every now and then.
Prepare the Way: Steps to Take Before Moving
If your parent agrees to a senior living facility when the time comes, the next thing to do is to help your parent identify an assisted living community that he likes.
Some of the things that you and your parent want to consider may include the following:
- Is the facility licensed and accredited?
- How far is it from family members? The closer it is, the easier it is for family members to visit.
- What kind of daily support would your parent need?
- What other services and amenities are available?
- What are the types of daily activities and events hosted by the facility?
- How big is the facility, and what is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- What are the costs, and how will it be financed?
- Is there skilled nursing care if needed?
- Can you bring your own car?
Look over some of the information that you have gathered. If one or two places appeal to your parent, make an appointment and tour the facility.
If a facility is identified and plans have been made to move, here are things that you can help your parent with in preparation for the move.
- Have your parent get a physical exam from his primary care doctor.
- Organize the medications, get refills, or have the primary care doctor write prescriptions for new refills.
- If the facility is out of the area, you will have to help your parent find new healthcare providers.
- Help your parent identify what he should bring – and not bring – to his new assisted living home with him. Help him place priority on the things most important to him. If moving furniture, label the pieces that will go with him. If there are valuables and heirlooms, consider a safe place where they can be stored.
- Compare the size of the bedroom to their current bed. You may need a different size bed for their assisted living room.
- If professional movers are needed, arrange for that ahead of time.
- Set up mail-forwarding at the post office.
- Make plans to cancel utilities.
- Let family and friends know of the move and provide the new address. Your parent will probably attend several going away parties hosted by friends and family.
- Confirm with the facility that all paperwork is in order and when the move-in date is.
Moving Day: How to Make It As Smooth As Possible
Moving a parent to an assisted living will make for an emotional day. So, let your family members and your parent’s close friends know what date that is so they will have a chance to see him off.
Have a farewell breakfast and ease into the morning. It is important that your parent sees this as a positive move, so keep things upbeat.
Your parent’s belongings should be already packed the night before and ready to go onto the moving van. Double-check your checklist. If using professional movers, supervise the truck loading.
Ask the facility what typically happens on “move-in day” over there. They might have their own procedures, so knowing their procedures ahead of time will avoid any surprises. Find out the time frame of when your parent should arrive.
After the Move: Settling In and Making Adjustments
When you arrive, the facility personnel should be expecting you. After the furniture and boxes are moved in, help your parent with the unpacking. You want to ensure that your parent is comfortable with his new home and that his belongings are where he wants them to be.
The facility manager will probably have a move-in kit prepared for your parent. This should have information on whom to contact for various services. If your parent has specific health needs that were previously discussed, make sure that the support is in place.
If your parent intends to prepare his own meals sometimes, it is a good idea to do some grocery shopping with your parent so his pantry and refrigerator are well stocked for the next week or so.
When all essential and basic needs are addressed, it is a good time to help your parent acclimate to the new environment. Take a walk with him around the grounds. Visit the activity centers. You will probably meet other residents in the process.
The facility manager probably has an orientation and welcoming planned for your parent. It is a good idea to stay with your parent for most of the day to see how he is on his first day there.
Over the next couple of weeks, check in with your parent often. Visit him often, if possible, during this time of adjustment, so he can tell you how he has been spending his time. He might introduce you to a friend or two that he has made. Your visits will soften the separation anxiety if any.
How to Help Your Loved One Deal With the Emotional Aspects of the Move
Moving away can be an emotional experience for anyone. Your parent has built decades of memories in his home environment, and it is hard for him to leave that behind. Even if the new place is attractive and the staff is friendly, your parent can still feel a sense of loss.
It is important that you recognize and validate the emotions felt by your parent. Be a good listener to your parent when he expresses his feelings or concerns. Have other family members and friends visit often, so your parent will not feel like he is forgotten.
Surround his living space with family photos and familiar things that bring him comfort. You can never say “I love you” too often and that his family cares about him.
Let the facility’s team know if your parent is having difficulty adjusting. If your parent is shy and has challenges forming new friendships, inform the facility manager so they can arrange for other residents to reach out to your parent.
It can take months for the emotional adjustment, so give it time.
What If Your Loved One Refuses to Move?
It is common for a senior to refuse to move. If that is the case, talk with other members of your immediate family to ensure that you are all on the same page.
Do not make your parent feel like you are ganging up on him, but always listen to his feelings with empathy. Validate his reason for not wanting to go so he can feel heard.
Reiterate the benefits of assisted living, that it does not mean giving up independence. Provide examples of how he can enjoy life more fully with the safety net of 24-hour support.
Point out the disadvantages of remaining in his current home, like the amount of housework or chores that he can no longer do. Mention how the family cannot be there all the time to make sure that he is safe.
Sometimes when an older parent senses that he can become a burden to his adult children, it can motivate them to accept the move.
Have your parent figure out how to address these issues so he can feel like he is still in control and that he is not just being told what to do. Give him some choices and always include him in the decision-making.
The most important thing is always to keep your relationship with your parent-centered on love, trust, and respect.
How Can You Help If You Live a Long Distance Away?
If you live far away, see if the facility can arrange for frequent video calls.
Your family might not be able to take an active role or visit in person, but if your parent can see you and his grandchildren frequently via video conference, it can make all the difference in the world. Have your children make art projects for their grandparents and send that to them.
Transitioning to assisted living can be hard for the senior and the family. However, with careful planning and conversations centered on love, the transition can be a smooth one.