Entering assisted living is a life-changing decision that can cause a lot of stress and emotion that rivals other big events. Here are some tips to make the process a little easier.
1. Plan Ahead
Gather the family together and decide who will handle what. Make a list of the necessary things that need to be done, decide who will do them, and when. If possible, include the senior in these discussions as much as possible. This will help ease the anxiety they will be feeling. Planning can also involve encouraging them to maintain a productive frame of mind and remain flexible.
2. Stay Positive
What you’re doing is difficult, but remember that it’s the right thing. It’s natural to feel some guilt, but try to let it go. Take care of yourself, ask for help if you need it, and manage your own stress. Keep in mind that this process takes a toll on caregivers too, sometimes even when it goes well. You may be surprised to find that you are the one feeling forgotten if your loved one makes new friends quickly and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with you.
3. Communicate Clearly About Tough Decisions
Make sure everyone knows who will be doing what and who will be making decisions about financial and medical matters. Is it necessary for a family member to have Power of Attorney? Is a Living Will in place? It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your loved one’s lawyer and doctor about your options. These discussions may or may not seem necessary when entering assisted living, but having the conversation in advance can cut down on confusion during a future medical crisis.
4. Make Assisted Living Feel Like Home
Personalizing the space can go a long way towards making it feel comfortable. Hang curtains, put decorations on the walls, and use a familiar quilt or bedspread. Beyond decorating, encourage your senior to become active and make friends in their new community. It’s the people who make a home.
5. Listen to Your Loved One
Don’t forget what a difficult time this is. It can be extremely hard for seniors to give up some of the control they’ve had for all their adult lives. Honor their desires as much as you can and take their concerns seriously. Reassure them that you will be there if they need help and that they’re not being abandoned. It would be a good idea to set aside some of your time to be in their lives a little more during this period. At the same time, give them the space they need to adjust on their own – they can’t become fully comfortable with their new lives if you’re always there. Also understand that at this time, emotions over seemingly small issues can really be driven by something much larger. Sadness over a pair of socks that were lost in the wash could really be sadness about giving up a home and independence.
Expect the adjustment to take a few months, and don’t try to rush the process. New homes take time to get used to.