How can I make my mother happy in her new retirement home?

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My mother just moved into a retirement home 10 days ago. She used to live in an apartment for 27 years in a suburb an hour away from me. I am the only daughter nearby and wanted her closer to me and felt it was time for her to have more support. She is 95 and has done well up until now but I have seen signs of decline in recent months. She doesn't see it herself. She now is complaining daily that she is unhappy, feels disoriented, feels lost and wants to go back to her old neighborhood. I have noticed that she has become extremely confused - it is like real dementia. I don't know what to do. Should I try and move her into a retirement home in her old neighborhood so she feels amongst more familiar surroundings? I feel awful everyday and am really wondering if I did the right thing. What do I need to do to make her feel better? Will she actually ever feel better or will it be like this for a long time? I feel guilty that I might be making her final years so unhappy. Doria25

Answers 1 to 10 of 13
Ten days isn't long enough for an elderly person to settle into new suroundings, so I think it is much too soon to be looking at another move. I'd give it some more time.

My 91 yo mom gets along fine in her very familiar small apartment. She knows exactly where everything is, how things are done in her building, what time the mail is delivered, what channel her favorite shows are on and even how to use the remote to find them. The hairdresser who comes to the building once a week has been doing mom's henna rinse for more than 20 years. Mother is starting to show a little confusion and memory lapses. These things are worse away from her familiar surroundings, even if she is visiting one of our homes. If she had to move, I think that it would have to be to a nursing home. I think she would need more care and services if she had to adjust to a new environment. That day may come. My sisters and I are monitoring her pretty closely.

I suspect (but I could be very wrong) that it was the familiar apartment itself that helped your mom stability. I'm not sure the neighborhood would be enough. Did she interact with her neighbors a lot? Participate in neighborhood events? Shop at local stores, etc? How important is the neighborhood to her? How much of her attachment is still relevent? (For example, if she no longer shops, it doesn't matter much how familiar or strange the stores are where she lives.)

By the way, what do you mean by a retirement home? Is this assisted living, or independent living?

Try to figure out what changes are most disorienting and perhaps you can help her get used to them. Does she see a hairdresser regularly? Go with her a few times, help her explain to the new person exactly what Mom likes done. Tell her how nice she looks. Are the cable channels different for her? Make sure she knows exactly how to watch her favorite shows. Help her through several repetitions of each new thing.If the retirement community has a bingo night, go with her a few times. One of the advantages of this move is that she gets to see you more often. Without constantly saying it, make her aware of this benefit.

Good luck!
When my father-in-law got sick, my mother-in-law was in total denial as to how bad he was. We were a little shocked at how fast he declined after the initial hospital trip too. Well the shock of him dying suddenly (to her at least) threw her into dementia full blast I'm afraid. She was on the border before he died, so it only took a good shock to send her over the edge. My point I guess is, I hope the shock of moving out of her apartment after so many years hasn't done something similar to your mom. Now this doesn't mean that you didn't do the right thing, but that's just how tenuous an old person's brain is I'm afraid. Better have her checked to make sure I'm totally off the wall on this one.
Thanks very much for your answers. They are very helpful. My mother is in Independent Living but with a few extra services like all dinners, housekeeping once a week, linen and towels supplied and washed, medical support on site. So they call this Assisted independent living - but it doesn't go as far as full Assisted Living. I really like the point about distinguishing between neighborhood familiarity and the comfort of the old apartment. I need to establish a few new routines and build on ones she had before. Good points and helpful advice. I will try to identify the things and work on a few at a time. It seems overwhelming at first. Thanks for the suggestions. Doria25
Doria, you may also want to consider whether she needs a more structured environment than independent living that would allow her to feel safer and less lost. It's still early in her placement so it may just be a matter of her getting used to her new environment, but it is not uncommon when our parents make a life transition like that to ask to go back home. It happens even after some have been in nursing homes for years. It is a hard question for an caregiver to deal with for a long time, but if need be, you may eventually get used to hearing the request and knowing that it is not possible. You may either re-direct her attention, or just respond by saying that you know that getting used to the change has been hard for her, but you want to be close to her so that you can visit her more often. Whatever you do, it is still a rough road that we travel as caregivers in our parents' life end-of-life transitions.
Bring her a picnic. Do her nails. Read to her or bring her music. Treasure every minute and try to entertainer. I lost my Mom two months ago and I miss her so. I am so sorry you feel guilty. If you had no choice, I understand. Show Mom photos and talk about old times. Surround her with familiar blankets, trinkets. Ask neighbors or friends to visit. Bring her favorite ice cream or dessert. Fuss over her. It is difficult. So sorry.
A very short time isn't long enough. I have a good friend that placed his mom in a nursing home and she called him every night and told him how much she hated it, hated him and wanted out. As time when by, she began to see (in fairly good health) that it wasn't quite so bad as eh thought, not wonderful, but no horrible. The calls began to cease after a few months. She had adapted. Give her some time if she is able to get involved with actiivities. Sooner or later, she will want to provided her health is good enough...like a child they watn to be a part of the group after they see what is going on and are feeling left out. She may just become a leader.......U r feeling guilt yourself.....don't known if it is from her or bringing it on yourself......give youself a breather and break....If u r doing all u can, and can in the end, say I did all I could for mom, and have no regrets or very little, then that is wonderful...At this point, make sure she has something with her that is special to her life before nursing home. She wont' admit it, but it will be a comfort... If u have kids, take them with you to see her. They need to see grandma. They also need to see the harder side of life to a degree. If not they will be overwhelmed later........Have them draw pics for her, if they are young enough.....If u can, do something just for you....no guilt. If God could speak to you, He would say u take care of youself and your needs, and you will be able to take care of your mother in the best way u can......God Bless
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She needs to be near you. We all get to a transition point in our lives, leaving home, college, marriage, kids, empty nesting, getting mature and the end. We are all frightened, also. She has been separated from what and whom she knows....like going to Kindergarten....If she was in her old surrounds, and had no family to see her, she would go down hill much faster. She is not at a point to realize this.... U r. If something happened and they had to call you, you would definitely feel guilty for not being right near her........Don't feel guilty, u have now taken over the parent part, and she is the child. I did this also......my father passed 4 months ago, he was/is my hero always will be......We were so close.
I did all I could for him in the last weeks.....I stayed with him when he was dying and talked to him pal to pal, going through our years together from my birth til now....telling him I could not have asked for a better mother (deceased) or better dad. I also could not ask God to keep him here, as i could not help. He was waiting for me to give him my blessing to be with mom.....I did.......Sometimes u have to do things u do not want to so for the better. U may not see this now, but in time, u will, God has the ultimate Plain..........
Ten days is not enought time. My sister and myself placed my mother in an ALF which she hated for the first couple of months. We felt so bad and quilty everday and was trying to figure out what else we could do. Luckily we were told to give it more time and we did. After a couple of months she finally started to settle in. Now it has been a little over a year and she has completely accepted the fact that this is her home and she is happy now.
Moving her to a place near her old neighborhood isn't going to help. It's not like she's going to take a stroll around the old neighborhood, right? You definitely made the right decision by moving her close to you. We had to move our in-laws from their house to a place further away and the extra time it takes to go there, take them out for activities, bring them back, and to go back home is extremely time consuming. We're only 20 min from their assisted living, so just imagine you having to take an hour drive to do that.

One thing we did to help with the transition is to move whatever furniture we could to the facility. We also made an effort to see them more to help them adapt.

You're on the right track. I've talked to many others who have encountered the same resistance and after a few months the person really comes to enjoy it.
At 95 she certainly is lost and confused after only 10 days. Give her time to meet people. Be supportive and help her meet others in the community. Try to get her involved in the community activities and social events. Just remember at 95 most of us aren't as social as we once were.

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