7 Tips to Help Your Loved one Adjust to Assisted Living7 Tips to Help Your Loved one Adjust to Assisted Living

Like any big change in life, the move to assisted living is a transition that will take some getting used to. For a lot of seniors, it’s a move that feels thrust upon them, rather than something they’re actively choosing. As you’d expect, that makes the transition that much harder.

You probably can’t do anything to make a senior that’s recently moved to assisted living automatically love their new home, but you can help them with the process of starting to get used to it. Know that the first few months will be the hardest. You should expect them to have a difficult time settling in to begin with, but you can also expect a lot of the initial discomfort to be temporary. There will come a day when the assisted living home has become just that – home.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help with the initial process of adjusting to assisted living.

1. Make sure you pick an assisted living home that’s a good fit.

If your loved one is stuck in a home that simply isn’t a good fit, then you have an uphill battle ahead of you. If the home isn’t right for them, their unhappiness may not be temporary – they may never really come to feel comfortable and happy there.

So your first job is to do the work of finding the assisted living home that’s right for them. Do your research. Look for amenities that you know are important to your loved one. Read the reviews to find out what other residents think of the home. Go together to visit the homes that seem best, so they can get a feel for the place and weigh in with what they think of it before a final decision is made.

You may not be able to find an assisted living home that’s perfect in every way that they love right away (okay, you almost certainly won’t), but you should be able to find one that provides the basic features your loved one needs to be happy.

2. Help them make their new room their own.

If the room they live in feels generic, they’ll never really feel like it’s theirs. Make sure to add framed photos of loved ones, any wall art or decorations they loved from their last home, and sheets and drapes in colors they like. Filling the unfamiliar space with meaningful items will quickly transform it into something more familiar and comfortable. The more little touches you can add to make the room feel like home, the easier it will be to start seeing it as their own space. (Read our popular article: 10 Tips for Making Your Assisted Living Home Feel Like Home)

3. Visit often.

Don’t help them move and then disappear. Make sure to be around so they have the most important element of home nearby: the people they love. If there’s any chance of them feeling like they’ve been shuttled off out of sight, where no one has to deal with them, they will never start to see the place as home. If instead, they understand the move as a necessary decision for their health that in no way decreases how often they see friends and family, then they’ll be able to see that the structure they live in matters less than still having those important relationships around.

4. Make sure they have access to the activities they loved.

Their social life and hobbies should not stop because of the move. Make sure they have access to the transportation they need to make it to bridge club, church, the local park – whatever it is that has consistently gotten them out of the house in the past.

In fact, if they didn’t already have activities they participated in, try to help them find something to keep them active after the move. Keeping a social circle and having a reason to leave the assisted living home from time to time will be good for them.

5. Provide them the means to maintain some independence.

If it’s still safe for them to drive, then that helps. If not, then help them figure out alternative options to get around so they don’t feel stuck. If they love cooking or baking, make sure they have access to a kitchen with some frequency to make some meals, or talk to the staff at the assisted living facility about whether they can do some cooking there.

Your loved one has been living as an independent, responsible adult for years. The move to assisted living can feel like they’re reverting away from that independence and are suddenly expected to rely on someone else for everything. Make sure they have a reasonable way to maintain some of their independence so it doesn’t feel like they’re giving all of it up all at once. 

6. Make sure they still have an active life outside of the facility.

Many of the other tips really all amount to this. Moving into an assisted living facility shouldn’t make a person feel like their life has suddenly become confined to this one building. They still have friends. They still have hobbies. They still have the means to get out and go for walks in the park, go to Pilates classes at the gym, make it to church every Sunday – in short, maintain all the habits that make up a life. Make sure they’re able to keep up with those things and live the same life they did before, while simply going home to a different place when done.

7. But encourage them to develop a community and life within the facility as well.

This is also so important! There are people in that facility that could become great friends. Assisted living facilities regularly host activities – crafts, movies, classes, trips – to help keep residents occupied and inspire some camaraderie among them. Encourage your loved one to get involved and start talking to their new neighbors. Some of the greatest friendships of their life could be waiting for them in the facility.

It will take time. Don’t be surprised if the first days and months are rough, but your loved one will grow to see the assisted living facility as home. Work with the staff at every point in the juncture. They’ve seen this process before. They know the drill and may be able to help with the transition. As soon as your loved one realizes that they can keep living their life as usual in the new space, but now with extra care, amenities, and activities at their disposal, they’ll come around.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

14 Comments

  1. Sarah Smith June 20, 2016 Reply

    My dad is getting to the point where he can no longer take care of himself. Thanks for the advice about helping them decorate their room so that it feels more like home. Hopefully, we can find a good assisted living place for my dad.

  2. Jade Brunet August 11, 2016 Reply

    We are wondering if it would be beneficial for my grandma to live in an assisted living center. I find that these facilities are worth while because there are lots of things to do there and great opportunities to meet new people. I love the point that was mentioned about visiting often. We would definitely have to do this.

  3. Louise Clark November 18, 2016 Reply

    There are number of senior care options available and we need to find out the right assisted living facility for our seniors. People probably go towards the old homes or senior cares option blindly, which is not good way to assist our seniors. We need to properly investigate which sort of assisted living facility we are in need of. Thanks for sharing such a nice blog post.

  4. Luke Smith December 5, 2016 Reply

    I really love your comment about bringing your loved ones with you to investigate assisted living possibilities. I would imagine that most people would appreciate the ability to have a say in where they would eventually be living. It would make sense to me to see if they have any friends living in such a facility as well, since knowing someone else there could make the transition easier.

  5. Shad Morris December 7, 2016 Reply

    I really like that you say to make sure that they are still doing things outside of the facility. It would be sad to put a loved on in a place to help them, only to find out that they aren’t going out and living their lives. I know that I would want to encourage them to keep doing things they were doing before moving there.

  6. Deedee Lewis December 12, 2016 Reply

    I agree that when it comes to finding the right assisted living situation for your loved one, their favorite social activities and hobbies need to be kept in mind. It’s pretty easy to imagine an elderly individual getting bored in a home if they could no longer have access to the things they loved to do. Honestly, it would probably make anyone bored if that were the case in an assisted living home. I would add that it’s important to make sure that they find something they can participate during their stay in the home, instead of just being left with strangers.

  7. john Mahoney December 13, 2016 Reply

    I agree that when taking your loved ones to assisted living facilities it is important to visit often. I can imagine how not visiting you loved ones can affect their mental health as well as help them adapt to a new environment. If I was taken to assisted living I would like to see my family and be able to talk to them often. I will make sure to do this as soon as I find a good fit for my parents. Thank you for the advice.

  8. Annika Larson January 19, 2017 Reply

    I am looking at moving my mother to an assisted living facility. I think these tips will be extra helpful in helping her to adjust and feel comfortable. Your advice on making sure they have access to the activities they love was especially insightful. I will be sure to apply and use these tips to make everything a positive experience for my mother. Thank you!

  9. Bernard Clyde January 25, 2017 Reply

    I think it could be easy to overlook the fit of the home when considering prices, location, and services. It is important to consider the personality compatibility of our loved ones with these assisted living centers. The best way to do this is to go together and check out the home.

  10. Frank Delaware February 21, 2017 Reply

    My grandma has had a lot of issues with her health lately, and we were thinking about finding her an assisted living facility to help her out. It’s interesting that you say to make sure that they have the option of maintaining some independence. Since she is still a stubborn lady, it would be nice to know that she will be able to take care of herself in some aspects.

  11. Jade Brunet March 31, 2017 Reply

    It is good to know that one should encourage loved ones in assisted living centers to develop a community and life within the facility. It would be great for them to get involved and to get to know their neighbors. I have also heard that one should check to find how many on call nurses are working at a time to ensure your loved one will always have help if they need it.

  12. John April 17, 2017 Reply

    My mother-in-law has been having some health complications recently that may require her to move to an assisted living center. I thought the article gave some really helpful tips on how she can better adjust to her new home. I especially like how it mentions you ought to pick an elderly living home that fits her needs. I think think this could be a great solution for her to get the care she needs.

  13. Chris Winters May 15, 2017 Reply

    Kirsten, I like the idea to personalize your loved one’s private room when putting them in a senior living facility. My grandparents have gotten old and they struggle to care for themselves. I feel like a senior living facility could help them to stay healthy and to socialize with others.

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