7 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.