10 Tips for Smoothing the Transition into Assisted Living
June 3, 2020
Transitions are for the brave. They require extra strength both physically and emotionally to weather the changes. That is why it is so important to come alongside our loved ones when the time arrives to make a move into Assisted Living. Assisted living, in the long run, can make life easier and more enjoyable for everyone, but there are some specific things we can do to help for a smoother adjustment.
- Surround your loved one with familiarity. Set up the living space and bedroom as much like home as possible, focusing on those things that are used every day. A favorite chair, pictures, a collection or a desk from home all make living in a smaller space feel familiar and like a safe harbor.
- Visit during social events. One of the most difficult parts of adjusting can be establishing new friendships. Just having a loved one at your side during dinner or another gathering in the community can open doors to conversation and foster socialization.
- Check in often. Texting or calling daily can ease the transition and remind loved ones that you have not forgotten them. Visits in person are wonderful, and don’t need to be long to bring joy.
- Don’t be shocked by the high level of care your family member may need. Often, because we are not living full time with someone, it is easy to assume they are doing everything on their own. When they move into an environment that is designed for support, you may find out that there are several things that they are not able to do on their own, such as manage medications, monitor urinary incontinence, bathe safely, do household chores, or they may even have trouble walking to meals and activities because of mobility challenges. The first few months give staff a chance to get to know your loved one and give them the support they need to remain as independent as possible. You may even find that after time, and getting to know their new environment, they are thriving with less assistance.
- Give it time. Feeling at home will take between 3-6 months for most people, so be patient with the time it takes to feel at home. When our mother in law first moved into Assisted Living, one of her tablemates at dinner was a “negative Nellie”. During our visits, she would tell us all about how miserable this woman was making everyone at the table. It was important for us to listen, but to also allow her to handle the situation on her own. To solve the problem, she gathered jokes to share during dinner time. The focus of the conversation quickly became a positive experience for everyone at the table and she made friends in the community in a short time.
- Trust your instincts and communicate well. Whatever the experts tell you, you know your loved one best, and are the best person to speak up when something is not right. Talk frequently with staff, not just when something is wrong, but also to express gratitude for what is right. Strong advocacy requires speaking on behalf or in support of your loved one when they may not be able to for themselves.
- Establish a positive relationship with staff. Making a move can be stressful for the entire family, especially when accompanied by resistance. The staff has been caring for those who are aging for a long time and have a keen understanding of how to help us make the transition better. Talk with the Administrator for advice or the Activity Director to figure out ways to integrate your family member into the community.
- Tell your loved one’s story. Make sure the staff knows the background, likes, dislikes, personality, and personal habits of your family member. Any information helps everyone have a better understanding of how to best come alongside.
- Be a team player. The staff is a major part of your team of caregivers and they count on clear, positive communication from you and your loved one. Work together to help transition through the difficulties. Recruit other family members, and even friends to be a part of the team also. Each person brings a unique perspective and richness to the relationships.
- Kindness and gratitude go a long way. With all humans, kindness and gratitude pave the path for reciprocation. Although everyone is cared for equally and with excellence, a little kindness and gratitude make the transition so much more enjoyable for everyone.
Moving a parent or loved one into Assisted Living, or any other care community is fraught with emotion. There is a measure of loss and grief that accompanies the move from independence and from their home of many years. But there is the security, safety, and social connections that are waiting and ready to bring new joy and purpose to life. Give yourself and your loved one grace to see the fruits of transition over time.
CRISTA Senior Living offers Independent and Assisted Living in Shoreline and Silverdale. The Shoreline campus also offers Skilled Nursing, Memory Care and Rehabilitation. We can help you prepare for transitions. Email or call us today. 206-546-7565.