Change can be difficult for anyone, but as seniors age, change can feel even more threatening and cause more stress than it needs to. When it comes time to talk about moving into a long-term care community, many seniors are reluctant. Whether your loved one is fearful of change and loss of independence or is unwilling to move, there are some things you can do to help them make a positive transition to long-term care before, during and after the move.
According to Peggy O’Neill, Director of Sales and Marketing at Lions Gate, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Voorhees, New Jersey, it’s common for seniors to be apprehensive about moving to long-term care. “Seniors become attached to the places they have lived and the people they have spent most of their time around,” says Peggy. “They cling to possessions, comfort and everything that is familiar, and when it becomes time to move to long-term care, leaving that all behind can be very emotional.”
Families are also greatly impacted by moving their loved one into a long-term care community. They may feel guilty about not being able to care for their loved one as well as they should or may be afraid their loved one will not adapt well to community life. Families may also be unsure if they are making the right decision; however, with time and patience, both you and your loved one may find that making the move was one of the best things you could have done for all involved.
If you and your loved one are just in the beginning stages of planning for long-term care, it can seem overwhelming. In order to help make the future transition easier for both of you, plan as far ahead as you can. It can help to think about:
When you should begin the conversation. Try to have the conversation about long-term care as soon as possible. This can help your loved one to open up to the idea and not feel pressured or bombarded. This may be a conversation that you will have more than once, as your loved one may not want to talk about it at first.
What your loved one may be feeling. Be understanding when your loved one doesn’t want to consider transitioning to long-term care. Consider how you would feel and try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to approach the subject with compassion.
Where your loved one may fit the best. Tour a few long-term care communities with your loved one in order to gauge their interest and find one that they truly like. This can help them to make the transition with a more positive mindset.
How much long-term care will cost. Be sure to consider all options and ask how much long-term care is going to cost. You will want to be sure your loved one can afford the community they love.
Once your loved one finds a long-term care community that they love, it’s important to make the transition to the community as easy as possible. In order to make this a positive experience, keep the following in mind:
They may want to make their room look familiar. In order to make your loved one’s transition easier, try to bring as many items from home as you can or make an effort to make their new room look like home.
Helping them move may make them more comfortable. The day your loved one moves into their long-term care community can be scary and stressful for anyone, but for your loved one it can take even more of an emotional toll. Be there to help them transition and get settled in. Reassure them that everything will be okay and that you are there for them.
Your loved one may not jump right into their new lifestyle. It make take some time for your loved one to get comfortable enough to join programs and activities. Don’t push them into it, but try to encourage them to join a club if there’s something particular they might like.
It might take time for them to make friends. At first, your loved one may not be extremely social and could be shy. If they are outgoing, making friends can be easy, but if not, it may take some time. Once they join some programs, meet others with the same interests or become more acquainted with the community, it will become easier.
Once your loved one has moved into their long-term care community, you may think the transition is complete, but it may take a little more time to get your loved one fully comfortable and acquainted with their new community. It’s important to keep in touch with your loved one and their care team in order to ensure they are happy and comfortable.
Keep in touch with your loved one. After they move, make an effort to visit and check in with them. Ask them how they are doing, if they are getting involved with programs and if they are making any friends.
Talk to their care team. Your loved one’s long-term care team can provide insight into how your loved one is feeling and if they are adapting well. They will be there to support you and your loved one in making this transition as positive and easy as possible.
Send them little gifts. Let your loved one know you are thinking of them by visiting or sending little gifts. Cards, little presents and unexpected visits can help your loved one to know you care and can boost their mood in the beginning of their new journey.