Moving into senior housing can feel like an intimidating step. If you’ve been caring for your loved one within their own home for a while, this can be an experience that is emotional and frightening for both of you. While it may not be possible to completely avoid the fear and anxious thoughts this transition will cause, there are steps you can take to ease the shock of the transition. In this article, we’ll explore the steps you and your loved one should prepare to take when transitioning them into senior housing.
Getting Prepared: Before the Move
Once you’ve decided to move your loved one into senior housing, you will want to make the transition as seamless as possible. Here are some ideas on steps to take before the move.
Fully Vet the Community
We have an article on how to find suitable residential care for your loved one, so we’ll keep this point brief. It’s important that you find a community that is trustworthy, comfortable, and welcoming to you and your loved one. Once you’ve selected a community, the people you first meet will become friends and important contacts, so ensure the fit feels right first. A proper fit will save a lot of stress and time in the long run.
Pack with Intention
If you have the luxury of time, you and your loved one should take full advantage and pack with care. Create lists: essentials, nice-to-haves, and non-essentials - and start categorizing and organizing. Essentials should include things like toiletries and furniture as well as anything comforting and sentimental.
Tie Up Loose Ends
Whenever someone moves it’s important to have a plan for winding down the old home. Prepare dates for utility shutoffs, any period of vacancy the home will experience, or any cleaning the home will need before your loved one leaves.
Adjusting: During and After the Move
This move is likely to be one of the most emotionally challenging experiences of your loved one’s aging process. Here are some steps for the adjustment process.
Set the Apartment Up for Your Loved One Ahead of Time
If at all possible, try to move everything into the facility before your loved one gets there. By taking the time to arrange furniture, decorate, and make the space feel familiar, your loved one will walk into a home that feels inviting. You can stock the fridge, arrange flowers, fill a fruit bowl, or decorate with plants so the space feels special and personal from the start.
Be Mindful of Any Existing Routines
If your loved one has been using the same mug for his/her coffee each morning or always sleeps on a certain side of the bed, set the home up in a way that honors that. These small details can help the transition to go over smoother.
Prepare the Staff
Put together cheat sheets that help the staff get to know your loved one and become familiar with their routines. If he or she dislikes certain foods, refuses to take medications, or isn’t a morning person, for example, these details can be put into an information packet that the staff will gladly keep in consideration. It’s also in their interest to make this process smooth, so don’t hesitate to help where you can. We have more ideas for staff information in the “Help the Staff Get to Know Your Relative” section of this linked article.
Give Patience and Time
No matter how well you and your loved one prepare for the transition, it may still take an emotional toll on both of you. Allow yourself and your loved one to take the time, space, and patience that this transition needs. One of the best ways to do this is to talk through the experience whether it’s with trusted loved ones, mentors, friends, or a professional.
Ask for Help
Talk to the staff, ask questions, get help and feedback. Talk to a therapist or psychiatrist to work through the emotions you’re experiencing (guilt is a common emotion for caregivers in this transition, for example). There is no shame in asking for help, that’s what they’re there for.
The transition to senior housing, while potentially painful, is for many families the kindest and most loving choice you can make for both your loved one and yourself. As the care needs extend beyond what is safe or responsible for you to manage, it’s perfectly healthy to look for professional help.
If you provide regular care to your loved one, we at CRC Orange County are here for you. We invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here for further reading and resources. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.