Ways To Help Your Parents Move To Assisted Living

Moving a parent into assisted living, or any senior living facility can be very emotional. Your parents may mourn the loss of their younger years, their independence, the home they built. They could be scared about making new friends, finding their way in a new place. Here are some tips to help ease the moving process. 
1. It takes time: Senior living experts say it typically takes between three and six months for someone to adjust to assisted living. Stay focused on the reasons you made the decision (safety, health, security, sanity). Keeping the big picture in mind will help you through the rough patches.
2. Visit often, or not for two weeks: Only you know your parents, so only you can decide what is best to assist them through the early weeks of the move. Many experts will tell you to visit as often as possible. Frequent visits can ease any stress your parents may have. It might be easier for them to meet people at activities or in the dining room if they have a companion with them. But if your parent is calling you several times a day, staying in their room, and waiting for you to show up and keep them company, you may need to give them some space to encourage them to branch out. 
3. Expect setbacks: Just when you think you are over the hump and your parent is settling in, things will change. They will tell you they are lonely. They will decide they don’t like their new dining hall friends. They will ask to go home. These moments are heart-wrenching but knowing that they are normal and that they will pass, can help get you through them.
4. Surround your parents with their personal belongings: Moving to assisted living usually means downsizing, and getting rid of items that will not fit in their new home, but what does fit, are photographs of family and friends, photo albums, favorite books, familiar pieces of artwork. If you need to downsize the bedroom set, you can still bring a familiar blanket and pillows. The kitchen may be new, but you can pack your mother’s favorite teacup. Leaving home shouldn’t mean leaving behind the comforts of that home.
5. Build a team: The staff at assisted living can and should be a part of your team. Talk to them about your concerns and your parent’s concerns and actively enroll them in helping with the transition. Don’t assume they will notice what needs to happen – they are very busy. If your parent tells you they are too shy to go to the dining hall for dinner, or they forget when activities are happening, ask if a staff member can knock on their door and invite them. If the staff members know what you need, they should be willing to help out.
6. Set your boundaries: Yes, you want to be a good daughter/son, but you have needs too. Try to free up as much time as you can in the first few months after the move to help but know that it is okay if you are not always available. Your kids may need you. Your boss and clients may need you. And you need to take care of yourself. Determine what you are able and willing to do and then stick to your boundaries. Other people will tell you what you should do. Ignore them. You are the judge – no one else.


Dondi Ahlers