It's a major life change, but there are ways to ease the transition to assisted living for your parent and for you.
No matter who you are, big changes in life are stressful. That's not necessarily bad. Going to college or starting your dream job are changes that come with tremendous rewards. When those life changes involve a loved one, however, it's natural to be anxious. You want to make the right decisions for you and your parent as they transition to assisted living.
Health and personal assistance needs, among other things, help determine the choice of an assisted living facility. Location, finances, and amenities play a role, as well. Those considerations will help narrow your options, but there are some guidelines that, no matter the circumstances, can help make the move easier.
The transition to assisted living for parents
How can you help a parent transition to assisted living? Talk about it ahead of time. Make a plan and explore possibilities as a team if at all possible. Most importantly, remain patient and understanding. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine what they are going through. They are likely to be more anxious than you are about the transition and many parents will resist.
Talk about the benefits of assisted living. They won't have to worry about shoveling snow, or doing laundry, or whatever you think would be a positive change for them. What else can help make the transition easier?
A big move doesn't mean you need to leave behind the activities that bring joy. Does your parent have a hobby they can take with them, or is there something new they can start doing? Indoor or outdoor gardening is a great hobby they may enjoy at their new home. Most assisted living facilities have a wellness director; talk to them about exercise or music classes. The more you can arrange ahead of time, the easier the transition will be. Find the upcoming activity calendar and go over it with your parent, highlighting activities they might enjoy.
Familiar places or activities
The transition to assisted living can include familiar places and activities, too. Although some people may look forward to living in a new town or new part of the country, your parent may prefer to stay near home. Keeping that Monday night book club or that Saturday morning volunteer shift can help maintain a sense of continuity as a new life stage emerges.
An article in Psychology Today points to the fact that keeping an active social life as we age can improve both mental and physical health. An assisted living facility comes with a built-in social calendar for interested residents. From art classes to a resident choir or tai chi class, your parent is likely to find something of interest.
Bring favorite mementos/photos
One of the difficulties of moving into an assisted living facility is downsizing. We gather any number of possessions over the years, some of which have great sentimental value. A smaller abode may require creative organizing, but don't discount the comfort that a connection to the past brings with it. Mementos are physical symbols of some of our most cherished times. Make room for them.
The transition to assisted living for you
Yes, the move to assisted living presents challenges for your parent, but you may find it stressful, too. Here are a few ways to help you get through the change.
Prepare ahead of time for moving day. Figure out what goes to your parent's new home, what goes to charity, and what gets discarded. Try to do the discarding after they have gone so it doesn't provoke any additional anxiety for your parent. Enlist the help of other family members if you can.
Don't feel guilty
Try not to think of an assisted living situation as shipping your parent off to some unknown fate. There is a reason you and your family made this choice, and most likely, it's for their safety and health. Many people live happily in these dwellings, even finding a new burst of vitality with new friends and a new environment.
Regularly scheduled visits help you and your loved one stay connected. It's good for both of you to include social activities in your week, and it's helpful to keep a schedule.
Yes, be compassionate to your aging parent, but don't leave yourself out. Give yourself some time to relax and settle with the new reality of a parent in assisted living. It's going to be okay. They'll make friends and receive the care they need, and you'll be free to appreciate your time with them instead of worrying about them being alone at home.
As we age, our insurance needs change. Whether it's an update to your life insurance plan or assistance changing a homeowners policy to a renters policy, contact your local Pekin Insurance agent to find out how we can help with your insurance needs through the different stages of life.
Have you helped a parent transition to assisted living? What tips can you share with our readers to make the move easier? Let us know in the comments.