Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to make this transition smooth and comfortable for everyone. So, let’s talk about the before, during and after of helping an elderly parent to move into a senior care facility. Helping your mom or dad to move into a senior care facility can be a stressful, chaotic process. Not only do you have the usual stress that comes with any move, but, you may also have to deal with your loved one’s emotional reaction to being asked to move to a new home.
Before the Move: Plans, Packing and Parties
When it comes to helping your mom or dad to move to a senior care facility, packing is a two-step process. First, it makes sense to help them prioritize what they actually want to bring. Only when this process is complete should you start to think about how to physically transport your parent’s most treasured possessions.
Keep in mind that moving is a highly emotional process, especially for someone who has lived in one home for a long time. As a result, you may need to gently provide some structure to help your mom or dad choose what to take with them.
Check out the following article if you are looking for specific downsizing tips. In it, I talk about how to get started, decide what to give away, prevent clutter from returning and use time to your advantage.
If your loved one is having trouble letting go emotionally, you may want to show them the video in which I explain why downsizing is really all about saying “Yes!”
As much as possible, help your loved one to feel like they are in control, but, give them the assistance and emotional support that they need to get everything done.
Regardless of how you handle things on moving day, consider having a celebration to help bridge the gap between their old and new lives. At the party, give your loved one a chance to share their favorite memories. You may even ask them to give you a tour of their old home. These gestures help to create a sense of closure.
Be sure to talk about how excited you are about their new home. Talk about all of the fun things that you will do together and make plans to actually make these dreams happen.
During the Move: To Bring or Not to Bring?
In terms of the actual move, your approach should depend on the needs of your loved one. If your mom or dad is stressed out by the move, it may make sense to have someone in the family take them out for a day trip. When they return in the evening, their new place will be set up, complete with their photos and other memory sparking possessions.
As one woman in the community told me, “You know… it’s going to sound crazy, but, I actually asked my son to take his grandma to the zoo, while we set up her new apartment. They had a great day, filled with animals, ice-cream and laughter.
When my mom arrived at her new place, we had everything set up just the way she asked us to. We had to move a few things, but, overall, she was happy. I think it helped her not to see everything in transition. She came in and all of her pictures were there. All of her books were there. If I’m honest, it was much less stressful for us as well.”
On the other hand, if your loved one is excited, why not bring them along for the ride? This way, they can tell you exactly where they want everything to be in their new home. It just all depends on the person.
After the Move: Getting Active, Staying Social
Moving in to a new home can be a lonely experience, especially if you are living by yourself for the first time. As a result, it is important to make the first few weeks as comfortable as possible.
One of the most important steps that families can take to make sure that their loved ones are happy in the first few weeks following a move to a senior care facility is to visit often.
I know families that divided up the first 2 weeks to make sure that some was always available. They gave their loved ones space, but, they made it clear that they were only a phone call away.
Another nice gesture is to fill the fridge with tasty, yet healthy, food. Not only will this save them a trip to the supermarket, but, it will give them a positive first impression of their new home.
Once your loved one’s basic needs are taken care of, it’s time to help them settle in socially. Walk with them around the facility’s grounds and introduce them to their neighbors. Make sure that they feel comfortable with the staff.
The last thing you want is for your mom or dad to feel nervous to leave their home. So, help them to establish some pleasant rituals – having a coffee by the lake in the morning, feeding the birds at lunch, taking a walk in the evening. If you do these things for several days, your loved one will be more likely to stick with them.
One Last Idea: You Can Buy Unconditional Love
Finally, if your parent is going to be living alone for the first time, consider getting them a pet. Of course, this won’t be possible in all cases — some of us just aren’t willing or able to take care of a dog or a cat. But, for some people, having a pet is the best way to get some exercise, stay social and feel a sense of companionship.
Moving an elderly parent into a senior care facility is never easy. But, with a little planning – before, during and after the move – it can be a smooth process for everyone involved.