Any major life change takes patience, planning and a helping hand from those around you — and transitioning your loved one into an assisted living community is no different. Friends and family are the support system that will get your loved one through to the next stage of their life, and they can make it even easier for everyone involved by understanding the process and educating yourself.
Discuss the Finances
After choosing an assisted living community that is right for your loved one, the next step should be coming up with a financial plan for their elder years. If you have chosen an assisted living community, you have most likely figured out a plan for payment. The new challenges that you will encounter due to the complication of paying for assisted living could add stress to you and your senior loved one.
Make sure the payment plan is clear and workable in the short and long term. Coming up with the financial plan does not just include assisted living expenses, either: medical expenses and any other recurring bills may add up. Reducing financial stress starts with everyone involved being on the same page. Look to an accountant or professional financial advisor for assistance.
Make Their New Space Feel Like Home
When you move your loved one into their new home at the assisted living community, make it feel as much like their old home as possible. Bring pictures of children and grandchildren along with you and decorate the place with items that evoke warm memories. Plan a layout that is comforting and inviting. Consult the assisted living staff, as they will be more than happy to help you design and decorate a comfortable, welcoming space.
Make a Plan to Visit Regularly
Feelings of abandonment can be common without direct encouragement and support, so plan to visit your loved one in assisted living on a regular basis, especially when they first move in. Create a rotating schedule that involves other relatives and friends, making sure that your senior loved one has enough company. Visits from people they know will help your senior loved one feel that their new space is truly their home.
Visiting your loved one in an assisted living community does not stop at popping by to say hello — assisted living communities often offer a number of activities which family and loved ones are more than welcome to join. Discuss the options with the assisted living activities organizer and find an activity in which you can take part. Enjoying the assisted living community, not just your senior loved one’s living space, will help the adjustment process and help your loved one enjoy all aspects of their new environment.
Plan Mini Excursions
Part of helping your senior loved one feel like their assisted living community is home is by making sure they do not feel as though they are trapped or forced to stay there. Assisted living communities will allow you the time you need to take your loved one away for a day trip. These excursions can include trips to a sports game, museum, or even the local park for a picnic. If possible, keep holiday traditions the same. If you have always gone to one particular relative’s house for Thanksgiving, continue to do so. If that is no longer possible due to health or other circumstances, bring holiday traditions to them at the assisted living facility.
While visiting is very important, the ability for your senior loved one to exist without you is just as important. Assisted living communities encourage socialization among its residents, and you should too: encourage your loved one to participate in social activities and be friendly with others who live in the community. They may find that they have a lot in common with those who live around them, making new friends and finding their independence.
Get to Know the Staff
Getting to know the staff of the assisted living community is just as important for you as it is for your senior loved one. Update the staff on everything they may need to know regarding the care of your senior loved one, especially when it comes to medical care — they should have phone numbers and be aware of any appointments to ensure they can coordinate transportation.
Assisted living communities will have medical staff on hand at all times, but making sure they are on the same page as your regular doctor will go a long way for their care. Get the contact phone numbers of the staff for your personal benefit as well. The assisted living community should know what medication your loved one is taking, as well as a detailed medical history. Check in on any recent changes to medication, and ask how your loved one is reacting to them.
Let the Staff Get to Know Your Loved One
Equally important for assisted living transition is letting them know about your loved one’s personal interests. Tell the staff what his or her favorite sports teams, music or movies are to help start a conversation. Mention some favorite activities your loved one likes to partake in, and the staff may even plan events centered on them. If other residents of the community share interests, staff can help spark conversations and, ultimately, friendships.
Find Professional Assistance
The process of moving your senior loved one into an assisted living community can be stressful for them and for you, so seek out professional assistance. Healthcare specialists, such as an occupational therapist, can help assess your loved one’s home to see what they may need to bring with them to their new home. Experts can help with downsizing and packing for the move as well.
Professional help can save some unwanted headaches, but the help from personal friends and family can be soothing for your loved one. The transition should be as much of a group process as possible — bring in other loved ones and friends to divide the workload and ease the process. It is in the best interest of everyone who loves your senior to see that their transition is handled as smoothly as possible.
Let your loved one know that you will be there for them in their transition to an assisted living facility by helping them every step of the way, so that they can peacefully adjust to their new home.