A quick note before we get started: we offer a variety of care and services here at Waunakee Manor. This post will focus mainly on the move to Assisted Living. We fully understand that things like having an open dialogue and letting your loved one take control may not be possible in your situation.
Moving your loved one into an Assisted Living or senior care community can have a bit of a stigma in our society. This transition can indeed come with stressful times and create even more pressure for those involved. However, it doesn’t always have to be that way.
It can be an exciting time – a chance to meet new people and engage with life in a new way. Really, your loved one is making this move for their health. What is more important than that? So while there is always anxiety around moving, this is a chance for your loved one to really embrace their life in a new and hopefully more enriching way.
However, when you decide to make the move, much goes into that process. It can all be very overwhelming. To help with this, I would like to share some insights and a few tips for preparing to move to a senior care community.
I hope you can use these tips as a template and modify them to fit your specific situation. Even if your loved one is experiencing memory loss and you must do most of the process yourself, it can be helpful to work with them. Giving them as much control as possible and communicating, no matter how difficult, are essential.
My tips can be broken down into four major areas:
- Helping your loved one physically get ready for the move;
- Preparing your loved one mentally for the transition;
- Readying yourself for this emotional process. Yes, you are also part of this. So many people forget that; and
- What to do in the community during and after your move.
How to Physically Get Ready:
- Be sure to prepare appropriately – This process can take many days, a few weeks even, and will definitely be challenging.
- Set a timeline. You don’t need to be super strict about it, but at least have a game plan.
- Give yourself enough time to get everything done.
- Be as organized as you can – use lists, to-do apps, calendars, and anything that helps you stay on track.
- Remember, it’s a move. Get boxes, packing materials, any special equipment, and be ready for a lot of lifting!
- Get on the same page! – Make sure everyone involved knows what’s going on. A great way to do that is to share the system you are using to stay organized. If everyone is looking at the same plan, it is easier to keep in sync.
- Involve the family if you want – This is a critical time, and family can be an essential part of it.
- Get necessary paperwork in order –
- Identification documents (birth certificates, ID cards, passports)
- Legal documents
- Medical benefits and documentation
- Real estate and property documents
- Tie up loose ends and close accounts –
- Legal matters
- Outstanding financial debts and accounts
- Monthly bills and utilities
- Consolidate accounts as much as possible
- Clean up! – Don’t bring a mess with you. Now is a great time to do some downsizing, organization, and cleaning. Excess items or even things that should have been thrown out will bring stress with them to the new home.
How to Mentally Prepare Your Loved One:
- Involve your loved one – Make sure that they feel like a part of this process. This is a major life change. In your loved one’s mind, it may be one that deprives them of a significant amount of perceived autonomy. Respect this and be sympathetic.
- Talk with them about what they want from this move and the new community. Do this before you get started.
- Reassure them of the benefits of their new home and that communities are designed with the community members’ independence and happiness as a top priority.
- As you go through the process, continue to check with them before making big decisions.
- Communicate about how everyone is feeling – It is so important to talk before the move begins. There will be many emotions involved in this process, and the more open you can be with your loved one, the better.
- Listen to what they are saying and what they are not saying. You know your loved one best. Even if they can sometimes be elusive, pay attention to their mood, habits, and temper. Are they acting different or strange? Be aware of how this substantial life change affects them, and be sure to give them as much attention as you can.
- Asking questions is just as essential as listening. Keep checking in with them and asking meaningful questions like, “Is the move going well?” and “Are you getting everything they need?”
- Let them guide the process as much as possible – Involving your loved one is different than ensuring they feel in control. At the end of the day, control can be calming when going through such a dramatic change.
How to Emotionally Prepare Yourself:
- Get yourself ready – Be realistic about how difficult this time will be for you. A transition this large is a challenge for everyone involved. Don’t overload yourself or create an overly-ambitious plan. If you leave no room for extra time or errors, you will soon get overwhelmed.
- Be flexible – Any move will be unpredictable. Even under the best circumstances, there is always something unexpected (that includes emotions).
- Don’t do it alone – Talk with your family, a close friend, or even a support group. Create a trusted network for when you need emotional support.
- Also, get help from an expert or professional –
- Movers: If you can afford professional movers, this can eliminate much of the stress around moving.
- Therapists/Counselors: You may think you can handle these emotions on your own, but talking with someone who knows about stress and transitions offers a new perspective. This can make a huge difference.
- People who have done this before: Reach out to friends or relatives who have been through a move like this before, either themselves or with their loved ones.
- Support groups: These are also a great option. Even finding a Facebook group might be an excellent place to start.
- Self-care is a must! – Part of being a supportive caregiver is taking care of yourself. Make sure to practice self-care during this process. If you are run down, you won’t have the energy to give your loved one the attention they need and deserve. Be sure you:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat well (or as well as you usually do).
- Take breaks to rest and regenerate.
- Practice mindfulness with yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
It can be tough to know when to prioritize yourself over your loved one. But you are starting in a good place by being aware that you need as much attention as they do.
During and After the Move in Your New Community:
What you do while moving with your loved one and right after moving in is also very important. These feelings and challenges don’t just go away after you’ve packed all the boxes, even if you follow all of our steps. To help your loved one adjust to their new home and make the transition a little easier, considering doing some of these things in their new community:
- Bring familiar items – Make sure, if your loved one wants, they take some comforting things with them. It doesn’t need to be a clean break, and often people like to bring elements from their last home. On the other hand, if they want a fresh start, make sure to help with that.
- Make yourself at home – Along with bringing familiar items, it can be beneficial to recreate some part of your loved one’s previous residence in their new home. These can be small details or larger ones, but what is essential is that they are significant and give your loved one a sense of continuity when moving into their new home.
- Help your loved one cope with moving – Many older adults, and all people, for that matter, often experience feelings of loss when leaving their home, especially if this is their first move in a long time. In additions to some of our suggestions above, sometimes it can be helpful to do the following:
- Talk about memories in their old home or walk around the house and say goodbye to sentimental items that aren’t making the move; this brings a nice sense of closure.
- Take final photos and videos of the house.
Ensuring your loved one feels in control can greatly reduce these feelings of loss and can help them move through the grieving period with more confidence and stability.
- Celebrate your move! – Have a little party with a treat or a drink. It doesn’t have to be big, just something to commemorate the occasion.
- Hold card showers/”housewarming” – Have friends and family send cards and open them at a little housewarming party with your loved one.
- Share a meal at the dining room – Once you move in, check out the dining room with your loved one and share a celebratory meal. This can be a great way to meet new friends and finish your move with style.
- Meet the staff – Go with your loved one to meet members of the staff and care team. This is especially good if they are feeling nervous. Having someone you trust with you when adjusting to new surroundings can be very helpful.
Hopefully, these suggestions come in handy. In my experience, these steps can make a huge difference when preparing a loved one for a move to a senior care community. If you have questions about this process or just need some more advice, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are always here to support you and your loved one.
We are also always here to help fit this advice to your unique needs and circumstances. We have a lot of experience preparing folks for this significant transition. We know it’s hard, but remember that it can be something special. Reach out to us anytime for help with moving or merely finding a new place to call home.