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, they could also be moving away from lifelong friends, a home and community that was familiar and comfortable, even if it was not sustainable. A positive attitude and compassion go a long way, especially when your loved one is feeling less than enthusiastic.
Here are some useful tips and reminders that can help ease the process:
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, a new phase of life that will allow them to focus more on what matters, to 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 an array of onsite activities for residents. 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 it’s 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. Finding new friends and connections in senior living is no different than the rest of the world and it may take some time for them to find others they consider friends. However, the more involved your parent is, the more opportunities they will have to establish connections – and start feeling at home in their community.
If you are lucky enough to live nearby, stay involved. 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 housing situation, familiar faces of relatives or close friends can make all the difference. If possible, make a plan to take your parent out for coffee or shopping on a regular basis. If leaving the community with your loved one is difficult, and perhaps this is the reason for the transition, consider bringing their favorite coffee or take-out food to them. Your presence and support during this time will help as they begin to become comfortable with the new faces and get to know the staff and residents around them.
Make it home, but different. Furnishing a new place can be daunting, and chances are your loved one may need (or even wish!) 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, encourage them to see the benefits: chef-prepared meals, no more worrying about snow shoveling or raking, access to activities, care and assistance when they need it and so much more!
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 not only easier but an exciting new phase of life.