“Change is a normal part of our lives, but it’s uncomfortable for the vast majority of people because it makes them feel like they’ve lost control.” – Mary JoAsmus
Change is a part of life that every single human on earth must come to terms with. Your body changes as you age, your friends change as you all build your own lives, and the world around you changes as society progresses.
Sometimes it’s easy to accept change. For example, maybe it wouldn’t be too challenging to deal with a change in scenery if you had the chance to move to a different city. You could explore this unfamiliar place and find things to fall in love with and call home.
However, sometimes change is not so easy to accept, especially when dealing with aging family members. As we continue to age, so do our parents, and sometimes this change is hard to accept since they have been a pillar for us to lean on as we grow into adulthood. At a certain point, it becomes necessary to consider moving an aging parent into an assisted living facility, and this change can be immensely challenging for both parent and child.
If you have an aging parent who has recently moved into assisted living or is considering making this change, this article is for you. Here, we provide 13 tips on how to help your aging parent transition into assisted living with care, gentleness, and respect.
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Signs It May Be Time to Move Into Assisted Living
Most people who are considering moving a parent into assisted living homes have not discussed their preferences with their family members. It’s crucial to find out what your loved ones want, but that may require having a difficult talk.
What you consider to be in your loved one’s best interest may actually be causing them distress or even harm. The success of a move to assisted living depends on open communication about everyone’s expectations and concerns, especially with regard to health and safety.
In fact, many people don’t consider assisted living facilities until their family member needs constant care, such as after an accident. But waiting this long could actually hinder their experience in an assisted living facility. Helping a loved one transition into senior housing sooner rather than later can help them maintain their independence and choose how they spend their time.
Alternatively, if you talk to your loved ones about your options, you can make the move to senior housing based on what is in the best interest of your loved ones. Don’t put off looking into senior housing until it’s too late and an emergency has occurred.
Think about the needs you or a loved one may have right now, and spend some time researching the requirements and amenities offered by various communities.
1. Determine a Budget
While weighing the pros and cons of various assisted living options, the price may be a major concern. Evaluate the costs of assisted living on a monthly basis and start exploring options. Maybe your folks have some savings stashed away or long-term care insurance that can help with the bills.
Discuss your family’s financial condition freely with your parents. Your parents will need your help figuring out the financials of assisted care facilities, so it’s important to be upfront and honest with them. Considering the high cost of assisted senior living, it’s important to have all of the facts on the table so you can reduce stress and prepare for any surprises that might occur during the transition.
2. Keep in Touch
Many elderly people put off making the transition to an assisted living facility because they worry about being alone. Don’t leave your elderly parent in the assisted living facility vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Paying them frequent visits is a great way to show them how much you care.
If you happen to share a city, see each other as often as time permits. You could establish a regular schedule for your appointments or take Saturdays off every week to spend with your loved one.
Make the most of modern conveniences to get through your busy workday. Skype and Whatsapp are both efficient ways to keep in touch with friends and family from afar. Help your elderly parent settle in by being there for them during and after the moving process, and then help them get settled in by spending a few days with them during the moving process.
3. Keep Them Involved in Making Decisions
Your parents are adults in their own right and should be treated as such. Allow them to have a say in where they would like to live, especially if they are still highly independent and you are discussing long-term care in the coming years.
While you should take into account any doctor’s orders or unique medical requirements, you should keep talking about the assisted living place your parent prefers if they have expressed an interest in moving there. Pride can increase with age, and this can be an issue for elderly parents who are in need of care. If you listen attentively and keep your parents’ real wants and caring in mind rather than your own, the conversation can go well.
When older children take on the role of primary caregiver for their parents, they may develop an unhealthy preoccupation with power and authority. Perhaps they find it too difficult to talk to their parents or other loved ones and would rather do things on their own instead. Both parties will suffer as a result of this, and the relationship may even be damaged.
Keep your feelings in check and make an objective decision regarding assisted living that will benefit your elderly parent. If this requires a visit to the doctor, by all means, do so, but keep your family apprised and involved.
4. Listen and Encourage
Feelings of abandonment, inadequacy, fear of the unknown, and loss of dignity and independence are common among those who make the transition to an assisted living facility. Understandably, your elderly loved one will experience significant emotional upheaval and feelings of isolation during their initial time in an assisted living facility.
Keep in close contact with your parent throughout this preliminary stage. Listen carefully, even if everything they have to say is negative. Avoid using words like “It’s just a phase,” “It’s not as bad as you are making it look,” or “You are being negative,” to dismiss the seriousness of the problem. Instead, you should give them a listening ear and suggestions for coping with their new circumstances.
You should also encourage them to take part in the facility’s social and recreational programs. Most reputable assisted living communities welcome volunteers to assist with community projects, and many also provide a variety of activities for residents.
5. Be Patient
It takes most people three to six months to settle into an assisted living facility, according to professionals who work with the elderly. Be aware that adjustment periods vary from person to person, and it could take less or more time than that.
Regardless, never lose sight of the motivations that led you to this choice (safety, health, security, sanity). You can get through the tough times if you remember the larger picture.
6. Prepare for Tough Conversations
At some point, your parent may tell you that they want to leave their new assisted living facility and return home. Keep in mind that your parent may not mean their most recent residence when they say they wish to go home.
Facing the reality that your parent wants to return home can be a devastating experience. But keep in mind that, especially if they suffer from dementia, they may not actually be referring to their current residence but rather a previous one from their youth.
The concept of home encompasses both physical and emotional aspects. Be there with them while they process the pain of that admission and talk about what they’re missing. You can’t promise to make things better, but listening to them will help comfort them during this transitional time.
7. Shift Your Perspective
You can learn a lot just by paying attention to what your loved ones have to say. If they refuse to move into a retirement community even though you think they should, try to contain any anger you may feel until you have more information. Their perspectives on these matters may not be the same as yours. Remember that you are not living in their world.
Be understanding, sympathetic, and patient while you converse with them. As they are elderly, this discourse is already humbling for them; therefore, it is essential to listen before speaking. Seniors often resist moving into senior housing or assisted living because they view these facilities as permanent homes for the elderly, despite the importance of family transition planning.
Even though this is the case, your attitude and your ability to help a loved one see the bright side of the situation are what really matter — imagine yourself in their shoes. Knowing and accepting that you are in your twilight years is challenging, whether or not your health is declining.
8. Consider Storage Spaces
Whatever items your parents can’t take with them during the move should be stored, so you may consider renting or finding a storage place for them. It’s distressing for everyone involved, but especially for your parents when they have to move into an assisted living facility. All of the tension will be magnified if they have to go through their possessions before moving in.
They can more easily move into their new home and take their time deciding what to keep by renting a storage unit. You can also help your aging parent get rid of unused possessions as they settle into their new home. They can relax a little bit easier knowing that their belongings are taken care of before they move into assisted living.
9. Help Them Make Their New Space Their Own
Another surefire approach to ease your elderly parent’s transition to an assisted living facility is to furnish their new apartment with familiar belongings and keepsakes. You could try to replicate familiar elements in your parent’s new home, such as the placement of a Bible, books, music CDs, and a family photo next to their bed.
Let your elderly loved one make selections about apartment furnishings and layout, and encourage them to share their ideas with you.
Ask for their opinions on where to place the furniture and how to best display the photos and mementos. Include children in room preparations, but don’t let safety concerns derail their participation. If their new home resembles their old one in some way, they will feel more at ease.
10. Befriend the Staff
Reputable assisted living facilities go to great lengths to ensure their elderly clients feel welcome and important. They will go out of their way to meet their unique requirements for food, recreation, and medical care.
Your senior parent may still be getting used to their new environment, so it’s important to introduce yourself to the caregivers and address any special requirements your parent may have. This will make sure that your parents have everything they need to live a pleasant life.
If you want to know how your parent is settling in, you should talk to the employees every time you visit. You can then collaborate with the facility to ensure your family member’s specific needs are met there.
11. Maintain Open Communication
The transition to assisted living will be easier if you and your parent can talk honestly about it. Make sure they are included in every decision you make so they don’t feel left out. You should also be honest about the reasons why certain things can’t continue as they have been or must be altered.
Keeping information about the relocation a secret can only increase stress levels. The more they know about the migration and its circumstances, the more invested they will feel. Acknowledge their worries and meet their needs as best you can. The change will be less stressful if there is open communication and mutual understanding on both sides.
12. Try Not to Over-Protect
Independence, especially for the elderly, is important to preserve since it fosters a feeling of purpose and accomplishment. They feel better about themselves and emotionally as a result of this. In fact, assisted living institutions advocate for just such a way of life. They provide individualized care for your elderly loved one without compromising their autonomy or privacy.
Despite your worries about them, try not to hover too closely. Give them the care and attention they need, but avoid grasping their hand. If you don’t, your parent’s reliance on you will grow, and they won’t be able to adjust to their new home.
13. Prioritize Their Comfort
You should always keep in mind that your primary role is to be an advocate for your family. Take the time to hear out their concerns and offer any solace you can. Be enthusiastic about their new interests and friendships.
Show your parents you support them by taking their side. Even though it may take some time to adjust, you should listen to your gut if you’re worried about the new environment or don’t think the facility will meet your needs. Also, if you or your parent have any worries, discuss them with the facility’s personnel to see if anything can be done to improve their quality of life.
Finding a place where everyone can relax and feel at home is the first and most important step in transitioning into assisted living.
Make It a Great Transition
Your parent has supported you through the good moments as well as the difficult ones. It is now up to you to make the transition into assisted living as smooth as possible for them when they make the shift.
The first few days that you spend at the assisted living community are going to be difficult, there is no doubt about that. Help your older parent adjust to their new house and have a life that is full of joy and good health by following the advice that is offered in this piece.
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