When your aging parent needs more support, you might feel as though the process of transitioning to assisted living is the equivalent of bouncing along a hilly roller coaster ride — or maybe more accurately, trying to balance a teeter-totter with a couple of rambunctious 8-year-old boys on either end.
Although most families ultimately find the move to an assisted living community was the right choice (and many wish they’d made the decision sooner), getting to that point isn’t always a smooth ride. It’s a major change for everyone involved, and emotions tend to run high when people are faced with the unknown.
Your parent may be worried about losing their sense of independence and privacy. They might bristle at necessities like downsizing and fret over the details like eating their favorite meals or watching their daily shows.
Adult children who have been a parent’s caregiver are often hesitant about turning the reins over to someone new. You may experience alternating moments of relief about the peace of mind you’ll soon have, and feelings of guilt for not continuing to carry the responsibility yourself.
These — and many, many more — are normal reactions to the circumstances. Giving yourselves a little grace and treading with good care and good intentions will help you all adjust as your loved one is transitioning to assisted living.
Build Positive Anticipation Together
Eliminating unknowns can go a long way toward a smoother transition. That may mean visiting the new community together before moving day to scope out the layout and get familiar with important destinations, like the dining room and any amenities your parent will enjoy using. You can also work together to plan where furniture and other belongings will go, and you may even consider making a special purchase or two for your parent to look forward to using, such as a comfy recliner, cozy throw or some new crafting supplies.
Play an Active Role on Moving Day
When moving day arrives, you may all be feeling a little overwhelmed, but your parent is especially likely to be feeling anxious about transitioning to assisted living. Your presence can be reassuring, especially since your parent is likely to feel more comfortable voicing concerns to you than to strangers — even if it’s simple things like getting pictures arranged on a shelf just right.
As you help unpack, talk your parent through what you’re doing and where their things are going (more than once, if it helps ease their mind). You know your parent’s likes and dislikes, so try to anticipate what they’ll need to feel at home. Should the remote be near the couch or the recliner? Which favorite glasses need to be in easiest reach? Do what you can to help your parent feel as confidently autonomous as possible.
Give Extra Attention on the First Night
You can help ensure your loved one gets a good start in their new home by making sure all the essentials are covered for the first night. Lay out some familiar pajamas and a fresh change of comfortable clothing for the morning. Make the bed using soft, inviting bedding and arrange the nightstand with anything your parent may want or need, including a drink, book or tablet, remote if there’s a TV in the bedroom, and other comfort items. Check in with the care team before you leave for the night so you can report how your parent is feeling about the move and verify your contact information is readily available.
Plan Visits with Care
You may wonder how often you should visit your parent in their new home. Unfortunately, the best answer is: It depends. Finding the right balance may require assessing a combination of what you know and sense about your parent’s needs, what they communicate directly, and what the care team at the community observes and recommends.
In some cases, frequent visits can be instrumental in making sure a new resident who is transitioning to assisted living understands they haven’t been abandoned and they’re still very much loved and supported by family. In other cases, spending too much time visiting can keep your parent from acclimating to their new home, getting involved in activities and making new friends.
Looking for an Assist with Your Loved One’s Transition to Assisted Living?
At Westbridge Assisted Living, we recognize the important role families play in their loved ones’ lives. We offer support to family caregivers and other family members so transitioning to assisted living is a gentle experience for the entire family. We think of it as the first step in welcoming your loved one into our supportive and caring community. Reach out to us with your questions and we’ll be happy to help.