Do you have a senior loved one who needs more resources, time, and care with daily activities than you alone can provide? Are you considering moving them to an assisted living community? These are designed to provide care and assistance with daily activities, while ensuring their residents some level of independence.
However, moving to an assisted living community (ALC) can be intimidating. Try to understand that it is one of the biggest adjustments a person will make in their older years. Here are some tips to help ease the transition for both you and your loved one.
Getting Prepared: Before the Move
Choosing the Right Community : To get a sense of the choices, start by researching and touring multiple ALCs in the area. Start researching early, before there is an immediate need to move, as this will allow you and your loved one time to carefully examine the options. Consider the following: is the place close enough to visit? Is it located near shopping centers, parks, or other activities?
Tour the community to assess the environment and read their online reviews. Involve your loved one in selecting their new home to give them ownership over the decision. They should go on tours and ask the staff and administration any questions they have. Watch staff behavior and try to gauge how happy current residents are. Also watch for any signs of neglect and abuse, or lack of efficiency. When in doubt, trust your intuition.
Once you and your loved one have decided upon a community, explore the property, chat with current residents about their experience in the community, take part in a community social event, or sample a meal in the dining room.
The #1 thing not to do: don’t settle on just any community! Make sure it’s the right fit for your loved one. After all, it’s their new home.
Figuring Out Costs : ALCs have different pricing models, so be clear on each community’s practice – ask questions! Some of them offer all-inclusive pricing, which is a single monthly fee that covers everything. Others offer “levels of care pricing,” which is a tier-based program with costs that vary depending on what your loved one needs. If a community offers all-inclusive pricing, find out if the rate can change based on how much care the resident needs.
The Move: Downsizing, Packing and Moving
Contact the community about their packing, moving and unpacking services. Availability of these services will help smooth the transition to assisted living.
- Downsize before packing as the new community may not be as spacious as their home to accommodate a lifetime of belongings.
- Create lists prioritizing the most important items. Start with essential items like medications, clothing, toiletries, bedding, and furniture. After the big things, move onto smaller items that may still be important but are stored away in the attic or garage.
- Plan to cancel ongoing services like internet, cable, and utilities that are going to be provided at your loved one’s new community. Contact the postal service about forwarding mail, and update addresses on bank accounts, credit cards, magazines, and anywhere else it might be listed.
- Remember to keep a record of all moving expenses as they are tax deductible!
Despite being mentally prepared, your loved one may have fears and apprehensions. Approach packing one step at a time, without rushing it, to make it less overwhelming.
Help them talk through their fears in their social circles such as friends, family, spiritual guides, online groups or elsewhere. Be patient, everyone has a different timeline for their emotional transition, and that’s normal.
After the Move?
- Getting Acclimated: Make the new living space feel like home by displaying sentimental items like family photos, travel souvenirs, trophies, etc. prominently, to lend familiarity to the new surroundings. Create a personalized living space that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
- Meet the Neighbors: Your loved one will likely be living in an apartment with several neighbors. Be the icebreaker, introducing your loved one to as many residents and staff as possible. Since they have all gone through the same transition, there will be a lot of empathy, support, and things to talk about.
- Meet the Staff: In the initial days, your loved one will get acquainted with the staff at the community: caregivers, nurses, social directors, fitness personnel, dining staff, and others. If your loved one has an Aging Life Care Manager®, they should be involved as well. The community staff is committed to helping their residents feel comfortable, so questions are encouraged!
- Figure out transportation: Make sure your loved one understands the modes of transportation that are available and how to use them. Some communities provide transportation as an added convenience for their residents.
- Visit Often: Visit your loved one regularly, or as often as you can, especially during their initial weeks at the community. Make sure they do not feel abandoned. If you set up a consistent schedule, they will look forward to your visits. Share a meal together to check out the quality of food they are served and how they’re socializing.
- Support Involvement: Social programming at ALCs is great to maintain your loved one’s quality of life. Ensure that they have a copy of the community’s social calendar and know where activities are located. Encourage them to discuss their favorite hobbies and interests with other residents. There are typically special groups for specific hobbies or interests, such as gardening club, gin rummy group, Bible study, or resident council. Attending social events in the early days is a great way to meet people. The dining room is usually the center of socialization in an ALC. Encourage your loved one to join new neighbors and members of the staff for meals.
- Stay Active: It is very important that your loved one stays physically active. Most communities offer recreational activities for residents. Staying active is good for physical health and mental health.
- Go Out and About: Even after joining an ALC, your loved one should stay connected to their life outside the community. Many communities offer transportation to the grocery store, doctor, and other common outings. For trips that aren’t included, arrange transportation through a home care, or ride sharing service.
Moving your loved one into an assisted living community is a big decision. If you need help determining what community is best for your loved one – or even if it is the right move – consider working with Aging Life Care Manager® as they offer professional, unbiased views and do not receive any commissions or kickbacks from the communities.
Incorporating an Aging Life Care Manager into your care plan also provides another person to check-in on your loved one or serve as an emergency contact in your absence or if you live at a distance. To locate an Aging Life Care Manager nearest you, visit aginglifecare.org to search for a directory of professionals.
About the Author: John Francis is a Health Consultant at Thorncliffe Place where he writes about wellness, aging, and post-retirement life.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.