Tips for Transitioning a Loved One to Assisted Living
When picturing your golden years, it’s likely you see yourself spending them in your own home, where you feel most comfortable. It’s what you know, and you have an idea of what to expect in your daily pursuits. But for many older adults, a more responsible strategy involves moving to an assisted living or memory care facility, where needs can be met more effectively.
By Lucy Morris
The process may not be comfortable at first, but learning to manage expectations and prepare for this new chapter can help make the move easier on everyone involved. Here, Alisha Landes, executive director at The Lantern at Morning Pointe, shares tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
Knowing When It’s Time
When it comes to transitioning a loved one to an assisted living facility, starting the planning process early is key. Just like preparing for college, moving to assisted living is a significant life transition that should be considered ahead of time. Landes explains, “In my experience, the planning should start sooner than later. The worst situation to be in is something happening, like an injury or incident, and not being prepared to handle it.”
While it can be a tricky subject to broach with your loved one, it’s helpful to include them in the process early and ease any discomfort. “Let them know you will be right alongside them during this journey and that you have their best interests in mind,” says Landes. “Honesty is most often the best policy – our loved ones can see through us better than we think.”
Once you’ve included them in the conversation and softened their fears, you can begin researching places online, followed by visiting the locations that appear to be a good fit. “Virtual tours are available, but when possible, I encourage folks to walk through communities to get a feel for it,” says Landes. “Every community has a different atmosphere. By visiting them, you can visualize your loved one there, and they can see what to expect themselves.”
Once you’ve researched, visited, and identified the best course of action, timing is the next hurdle. At what point does it make sense to make the move? As Landes explains, the decision isn’t easy, and many families often wonder if they’re making the right decision. “At the end of the day, the decision comes down to what is the best thing for your loved one. Where are they safest? Where are they going to be actively participating in programming? Where will they get more socialization? When you choose to look at this decision strictly as what’s best for them, it makes it easier to move forward.”
Easing the Transition
Once the decision has been made, and everyone is (more or less) on board, the real work begins! To ease the transition to assisted living, there are numerous steps you can take. You should:
First and foremost, it’s important to remember what a big change this will be for your loved one. They’ve been living independently and taking care of others their whole adult lives, so the transition can feel like a loss of independence. Reassure them that things will remain the same, and that they are still an integral part of the family.
Help sort and organize.
When moving to an assisted living facility, it’s likely your loved one will be downsizing, and sometimes quite a bit. Help them prepare by organizing their belongings. Some items will move with them, while others might be donated or thrown away. Keep a collection of sentimental keepsakes and pay respect to the process, as many items will also hold memories.
Enlist family members.
The actual process of moving can be quite difficult both physically and emotionally. Getting help from members of the family can help ease the labor while providing a supportive and encouraging environment.
Keep in touch.
Stay in touch with your loved one and the staff at the assisted living facility. It’s important to know if they are socializing and getting involved in the community. When visits are possible, you can attend events with them or simply spend some time with them alone in their room.
Give them space.
While visiting and staying in touch to make sure the transition is going smoothly are important, it’s equally important that you avoid hovering. Visiting too often can inhibit your loved one’s independence and hinder their ability to meet new people and get enmeshed in their community. Give them space to adjust to their new normal on their own.
Bring personal items.
Items that have personal or sentimental value can help make your loved one’s residence feel like home. Landes recommends bringing a lot of things to the new room that your loved one will recognize. “Pictures of family, their favorite chair, a familiar quilt – these are all things that your loved one will see, and even if they can’t fully process what’s happening, they will trust their surroundings a little more.”
Ultimately, while transitioning your loved one to an assisted living facility is difficult, preparation, understanding, and a whole lot of love can help. “I see families struggle with guilt, grief, and many other emotions during this process,” says Landes. “Remember, all of these emotions are normal and part of the process, and every decision you’re making is to provide a safe, stable environment for years to come.” HS