Moving into an assisted living community is a big change for many people, and even those that are looking forward to the many amenities and activities offered by their new home may be uncertain in the face of this change. The move might mean leaving a neighborhood someone has been a part of for decades. It could mean moving away from nearby family or a church where a senior had previously been involved.
And while we at ViewPointe assisted living community in Colorado Springs, CO, believe that moving into an assisted living community can have many positive benefits for older adults, we’re also aware that it takes time to get used to such big changes. Supportive family and friends can make a huge difference in the process for seniors. Here are some ways you can support an older loved one as they consider or make the move into an independent or assisted living community.
While there are times when families must step in to make choices for older adults who can no longer do so on their own, most seniors who move into an independent or assisted living community can be an active participant in this decision. Whether the older adult decides for themselves or comes to the choice out of caring discussions with family members, be open-minded about their preferences and needs.
It’s tempting sometimes to think that you know best what someone needs, but trust that your older relatives have cared for themselves for a very long time and know their own minds and needs in most cases. If they want a quiet, small assisted living community rather than one bustling with activity — or vise versa —they probably have their reasons.
If you think there are benefits of choosing a different community or care level, do some research and present your thoughts to your loved one as just that: Information you gathered for them to consider and some thoughts you would like them to ponder. In the end, though, as long as your loved one is able to make decisions for himself or herself, their home should be their decision.
Once a decision has been made, continue with this type of support. Offer various types of assistance, but don’t take over the process. It can take time for someone to make a decision and act on it, especially when they face selling an existing home and handling the work of downsizing belongings for a move.
Again, it can be tempting to jump in and takeover, handling things faster or in a way you see is more efficient. But this takes the ownership of the move from the older adult and places it on your shoulders. And it can dampen the positive aspects of the move for the senior in question.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help or even pitch in with large aspects of the move. But you should talk to your loved one first and ask how you can help. They may not want to deal with selling the home, for example, and might be willing to delegate that task to you. Perhaps they would enjoy grandchildren helping them sort through items in their home for downsizing, as this offers an ideal opportunity for sharing certain memories.
The process looks different for every family, so embrace that uniqueness and try to find ways to support your loved one to reduce the stress and increase the enjoyment of this phase in life.
Try to gage how your loved one feels about the move and match that energy in an appropriate way. If someone is excited and looking forward to the amenities and activities offered by an assisted living community, be excited for them and talk about these new opportunities in a positive light.
But if someone seems hesitant or is even somewhat negative about the move, you may not want to cheerlead. This can have the effect of pushing the person to dig into their negativity. Instead, be gentle about your positivity, talking occasionally about some of the good things you think the person will most enjoy.
No matter what, when the time comes to actually move someone into an assisted living apartment, try to ensure they have as much ownership of the process as possible. Whether family or professional movers are bringing furniture and other items in, let the older adult direct where everything goes.
Once your loved one is moved into an assisted living community, continue to support them. One fear many people have is that family will forget about them once they move into such a community. Make regular calls, send letters or care packages and visit your relative whenever possible so they know this isn’t true.