Moving your parent or loved one into a senior living community can feel like a monumental transition. In addition to adjusting to new living accommodations, perhaps they are moving away from lifelong friends and a home and community that was familiar and comfortable. A positive attitude and compassion go a long way, especially when your loved one feels less than enthusiastic.
Independence is Key
Rather than focusing on all they are leaving behind, be it a family home, a town they loved, or a lifestyle they feel represents them, encourage your loved one to think of this next step as a new chapter. This new phase of life will allow them to focus more on what matters, participate in the hobbies they love, and worry less about the daily stresses that make life difficult. Encourage them to think of the transition as a way to get back to the best version of themselves and to do the things they enjoy again. They will, in a way, regain their independence because the everyday burdens of daily life will no longer get in the way.
Just Say Yes
Many senior living communities offer residents an array of onsite activities, from themed lectures and professional cooking demonstrations to painting workshops. Encourage your parent to “just say yes” to participating, even if the topic or activity is new or unfamiliar to them. Now is the time to try new things! There are also many organized outings, whether to an art museum, a popular restaurant, or just the neighborhood coffee shop. These activities give residents a change of scenery and an opportunity to participate in everyday life. The more involved your parent is, the more chances they will have to establish connections and start feeling at home in their community.
Research shows us that family communication is one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction, regardless of where you live. When a loved one is adjusting to a new living situation, the familiar faces of relatives or close friends can make all the difference. If possible, plan to take your parent out for coffee or shopping regularly. If leaving the community with your loved one is difficult, consider bringing their favorite coffee or take-out food. Your presence and support during this time will help as they become comfortable with the new faces and get to know the staff and residents around them.
Make it Home
Furnishing a new place can be daunting, and chances are your loved one may need to scale back on the amount of furniture or possessions they bring to their new space. While familiar photos, throw pillows, and art will help to warm up the new space and make it “theirs, encourage your parent to “reinvent themselves a little.” Rather than trying to retrofit their old life and belongings into this new space and community, help them to see the benefits: onsite dining, no more worrying about snow shoveling or raking, access to activities, and care and assistance when they need it!
Transitions aren’t easy for anyone, especially when it feels like your parent is giving up an independent lifestyle. However, with the right mindset, the transition to senior living can be an exciting new phase of life.