How To Help A Loved One Feel At Home In A Long Term Care Community
The first day of school. Heading to college. Landing your first job. Every major step in life has its ups and downs – and moving into a long term care community is no different.
This transition can feel like a massive change for seniors physically, emotionally, and mentally. While aspects of their daily routine get easier (like getting help with everyday activities or receiving skilled nursing care), seniors may feel nervous or apprehensive about other areas of life, including feeling “at-home”.
There is no “wrong” way to process the transition to a nursing home or assisted living facility, and having conflicting feelings about this change is normal. Below are some tips to help you and your loved one adjust to the move and ease into this new lifestyle.
Find the community together.
If possible, involve your loved one in conversations about the type of long term care community they want, the type of activities they are interested in, and the type of care they would like to receive. According to licensed clinical social worker Alexis Hansen, “giving a family member the right to shop around and choose a residence can help foster a sense of independence and control from the beginning of the transition.” Schedule tours together so your loved one feels empowered when it comes to choosing a long term care community that suits their needs (our Care Finder is a great place to start).
Choose decor that feels like home.
When it comes to decorating your loved one’s space in their new community, consider bringing items from their previous home to make their new living situation feel more personalized. From hanging pictures of family to making up the bed with an old bedspread, familiar touches can make a new place feel like home. Check with staff on these items–they can help make sure personal effects do not inadvertently create any issues for your loved one, such as a rug creating a trip hazard.
Encourage your loved one to “get involved.”
According to research, seniors who spend time socializing with a wide range of people are more likely to be physically healthy and have a higher level of emotional well-being.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer a variety of activities and services to help residents stay active and meet new people – so it’s important to encourage your loved one to participate in community events, join clubs, and eat in dining halls to connect with other residents.
Check in with regular visits.
Once your loved one is settled in, continue to visit and check in to maintain their connection to goings-on outside of their community. Often, older adults feel worried about being isolated from their families once they move into long term care communities – help alleviate that stress by keeping in touch frequently.
Make space for emotions – including your own.
As stated above, the transition to a long term care community isn’t always easy – and not just for the resident. If you have been a caregiver for your loved one, you may also have strong emotions about giving the responsibility of caring to someone else or seeing your loved one need extra assistance. If you or your loved one is struggling during this change, there is no shame in reaching out for help – whether it’s seeking resources from your loved one’s community or getting help from a therapist or mental health professional.
Have more questions about transitioning a loved one to long term care? Check out our FAQ.