Moving to a new place where you don’t know a soul is intimidating, regardless of how old you are. In fact, it’s one of the toughest transitions a person faces in life. For seniors, the move to a long-term care facility often represents a loss of independence, magnifying the emotions involved.
Of course there is an initial adjustment period following move-in day. Depending on the individual, it usually takes two to four weeks before a resident starts to settle in and feel comfortable in their new home.
Maria Plaskin, director of sales at HarborChase, an assisted living community in Naples, Florida, says the transition to a senior community is similar to switching to a new high school. Seniors feel the same anxiety over finding their way around an unfamiliar environment, trying to fit into established social groups and figuring out the routine.
To address these challenges, many senior living communities have come up with creative programs to ease this transition for new residents.
Ambassadors Provide Guidance and Friendship
HarborChase assigns an “ambassador” to each new resident. Ambassadors are current residents who become an instant friend to new arrivals. They will show your parent around, accompany them to dinner and activities, and introduce them to others. The staff makes an effort to match residents and ambassadors with similar interests or personalities to ensure a lasting connection.
One-on-One Time with Staff Eases Transitions
Another way communities ease the transition is by arranging individual meetings between staff members and new residents. Employees have the opportunity to introduce themselves and explain their roles in the community. In many facilities, orientations are held to help residents get acquainted with their new home and neighbors.
Welcome Parties Celebrate Newcomers to Senior Living
At Heritage at Framingham, an independent and assisted living community in Massachusetts, the employees plan a monthly welcome party for all new residents. It’s a chance to mingle with current residents and bond with other newcomers who are experiencing the same adjustment. Heritage also offers guest meal passes so new residents can invite friends and family to dine with them for free during the first few weeks. Similarly, Schervier Nursing Care Center in New York City holds Sunday socials for new residents and their families complete with entertainment and refreshments.
Fostering Peace of Mind Before the Move
Before a resident moves in, Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community in San Diego, California, provides a list of reliable movers/packers and tips for downsizing. Helping new residents with the logistical details of the move minimizes their stress and ensures a smooth transition. Newcomers also receive a community handbook, information about the surrounding area and gift certificates to nearby restaurants.
Ask About Transition Programs When Selecting a Senior Living Community
No matter what orientation strategy is used, a senior living community should strive to personalize residents’ experiences and offer programs that foster comfort, friendship and fun. When touring prospective facilities, be sure to inquire about how they help recent move-ins acclimate, meet their neighbors and get acquainted with their new surroundings.