The change from in-home care to assisted living for a loved one can bring about many feelings of concern or anxiety. Preparing a loved one and yourself for what to expect as you enter this next chapter in your lives and how best to prepare for these changes can alleviate concerns and bring a sense of relief as you proceed through a new phase of life.
We’ve listed 18 steps and strategies for what to expect and how to keep your loved one feeling safe, secure, and at their best, as you all go forward.
1. Start planning early
Planning early about what is important to you and your loved one as well as how to make sure those areas are addressed is handled better early on versus later. This allows you and your loved one to get comfortable with the idea of the transition. If you know what’s coming you can prepare to make it feel less jarring.
2. Schedule a Tour
One of the key steps in positively managing this transition is touring a community. Similar to touring your college campus before you choose a school, you’ll want to tour a senior living residence before the transition for your loved one. Being able to see the area where your loved one will be living and helping them envision themselves there will ease concerns.
3. Understand the Community
Every senior living community is different, and understanding the levels of care that each community offers might be a factor in determining where your loved one lives. Choosing a community that has additional levels of care can minimize changes as your loved one ages. This would mean fewer shifts in location and expectations of care, as well as more effective communication as levels of need change.
4. Get to know the team
Learn who the members of the assisted living team are who will help with the move and to care for your loved one. Begin building relationships with the nurses, care managers, activity coordinators, etc. You’ll likely be given direct contacts throughout stages of the move and to help your loved one get settled. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for help.
5. Start the Moving Process
Once you’ve decided on transitioning out of in-home care and into assisted living, start coordinating with the community about the moving process. The logistics of moving can be a bit challenging, so check with the community about how best to get started on getting your loved one settled and comfortable. Decide what they can bring, if you’ll need help moving, etc.
The New Home Sweet Home
6. Make Space for the Familiar
Often the transition from the family home to assisted living means downsizing. Downsizing doesn’t mean your loved one has to give up everything. Make sure to bring those special touches of home. Photos, quilts, and other special touches can make a new space feel more familiar.
7. Limit New Things
It might feel like a new start and a new home can mean new items. Resist the urge to get a lot of new things. If your loved one is already having to learn new faces, and new spaces it’s ok to wait before you get them that new phone or television.
After the Move to Assisted Living
8. Give a Little Time
The average adjustment period for moving to an assisted living community is 3-6 months. Some loved ones may take to the community as a fish to water. Some might need quite a bit longer to acclimate. Don’t expect your loved one to immediately feel like they’re home. Big transitions can take some adjustment time.
9. Make Contact Often
At the beginning of the adjustment period, it might help your loved one feel less lonely and insecure if you check in on a fairly frequent basis. Daily phone calls, video calls, or visits are not unheard of to make sure the transition is going well.
10. Trust the Professionals
Keeping contact with the assisted living direct care team can help you get updates about how your loved one is adapting in the early weeks of their move. This can give you a clearer picture of how they’re transitioning and help you understand if you need to make more or less contact with your loved one to help.
It can be difficult, especially for someone with cognitive decline to best communicate their needs to their family. Between contact with your loved one and the care team, you’ll gain a better understanding of what is needed overall. This team work can create the best outcome for your loved one overall.
11. Ease Back on Visits
It sounds like the exact opposite of the advice we just provided but it might be a step that you’ll need to consider. If your loved one won’t try to engage with their new surroundings and are calling multiple times a day, it might be worth considering stepping back. Give them a chance to stand on their own to make connections. It will be beneficial for both you and your loved one to get to know and build a team within the community.
12. Establish Boundaries
You want to be present and available to meet needs and care for your loved one. But remember that this isn’t just about their wellbeing. If you are transitioning from in-home care to assisted living, there may be areas in your life that need your attention.
Making yourself available in the early days of transition is reasonable, but remember that there are other parts of your life. Maybe there are children or grandchildren who need more focus. Perhaps there’s a project at work that you’ve had on the backburner until you had more bandwidth. Start thinking about what works well, not just for your loved one but also for you.
Getting Settled with Senior Living
13. Reach Out to Your Network
Your senior is loved and probably by many people. During the transition, don’t expect everything to fall on your shoulders. Invite friends, neighbors, and other family members to check in with your loved one. These are the kinds of interactions that can ease concerns about loneliness or lost connection.
14. Build Your Team
Your loved one already has a network. Take this change as an opportunity to build and grow that network by getting to know the assisted living staff and the team who cares for your loved one. Often we think of “the team” exclusively as medical providers. Also learn staff members’ and other residents’ names who interact with your loved one, when you can.
Just a Touch of Tough Love
15. Expect Setbacks
Just when you think everything has settled, something may come up that makes your loved one uncomfortable or even want to go home. Expect this and listen while reminding them that adjustments can take time. These feelings are normal during a transition to assisted living. Don’t feel as if you have to act on them or that you made the wrong decision.
16. Listen and Acknowledge Feelings
Loved ones may mention missing home but “home” may not be their most recent address. This is probably more of a feeling than a destination. Listening to your loved one and trying to hear their concerns can go a long way.
Don’t ignore your loved one’s feelings of trepidation. Engaging meaningfully with their concerns means that you are more likely to be heard when you try to address those concerns.
Trust Your Gut
17. Be an Advocate
No place is perfect. If you see opportunities to improve your loved one’s experience, it’s ok to say something on their behalf. Bring your suggestions to staff if your loved one has aspects of their daily life that can be improved.
18. Trust Yourself
You know your loved one and what their needs are. If you’re listening and advocating for them you are doing your part.
The move from in-home care to assisted living can feel like a very big step. In many ways it is. It’s important to remember all of the wonderful opportunities that can go along with this step. For many families, it means that their loved one can regain a level of independence. It also means that the time you spend with your loved one is quality time and not filled with errands and chores.
If your caregiving situation is becoming more challenging and you are considering an assisted living community for your senior loved one, we are here to discuss the help that is available.
The Kensington Reston understands that everyone’s story is different, which is why we would like to take the time to listen to yours and assist you in making the best decision for you and your loved one. It can be difficult to make life-changing decisions alone, which is why we are here for you. Contact us today to discuss more.
Recommended Additional Reading:
- COVID-19 Vaccine at Reston: What You Need to Know
- Positive Aging and a Message of Hope for 2021
- Your Loved One Is In The Hospital, What Now?