Moving into an assisted living facility involves major changes in an elderly person's life. Once you and your aging parents have decided that moving to an assisted living facility is the best choice for them, it is important to fully understand the changes involved with helping your parent feel comfortable in their new home.

For the transition to be successful, the senior's family and/or caregiver, their doctor and the assisted living staff should work as a team. Peter Hendrickson, executive director at Terracina Grand in Naples, Florida, offered valuable expertise in creating a smooth and successful transition.

Tips for New Residents

When elders move into an assisted living facility, the lack of familiarity with both the environment and the other residents can be quite intimidating. According to Hendrickson, adjustment can take anywhere from 30 to 90 days. It is crucial during this time period that your aging parent takes all possible measures to adjust to their new home. Here are a few things seniors can do.

  • Keep an open mind.
    This is absolutely imperative. Since the move into assisted living requires change and adjustment, seniors are more likely to adapt well if they understand and prepare for this.
  • Socialize. 
    There is nothing worse than for a new resident to be holed up in their apartment all day long. When moving into a new place, making acquaintances and friends can make all the difference in the world; it can help make a new house feel like a home.
  • Ask questions.
    With all of the changes involved, new residents should ask the staff any questions that come to mind. If they are unsure about something, they should ask the staff – that's why they are there!

How Family Can Help a Loved One Adjust

What about the elder's family? What is their role when an elderly parent moves to Assisted Living? The caregiver needs to adjust to this change, too. It is important to keep the things below in mind.

  • Don't feel guilty.
    Very often, family members can feel guilt about placing loved ones into assisted living. Guilt will do no good because the move was ultimately for the best. If a family member feels guilt, they should remember that the move to assisted living will benefit their elderly parent's health and well-being.
  • Keep in touch.
    The caregiver also plays a vital role in their aging parent's successful transition to assisted living. When visiting is not possible, family members can keep in contact with both their parent and the assisted living staff. They should make sure that their parents are socializing and getting involved in the community. When visits are possible, caregivers can even attend activities with their parents to ensure that they are meeting new people.
  • Don't hold their hand.
    Although it is important to visit and/or call to monitor the status of the transition, family members that visit too often can inhibit some of the senior's independence. Spending time with family is important, but if all of the senior's time during the transition period is spent with family, they will not be making new friends and getting involved in the community like they should. As a result, don't hold your parent's hand too much. Give them space to adjust to their new home on their own.
  • Bring personal items.
    In order to make the elder's new residence feel like a home, bringing personal items is necessary. Bring items that have personal meaning, including pictures, knick-knacks, medals, etc.

How ALF Staff Can Help

The assisted living staff plays a very important role in the new resident's adjustment. In many facilities, staff members will have individual meetings with the new resident to explain their particular role in the facility and what that means to the resident. In some facilities, new resident orientations are held to help the resident get acquainted with their new home. They combine staff and long-time resident expertise and provide valuable information to the new resident.

Staff also makes a new building to feel like home to the new resident. Peter Hendrickson stresses the importance of doing so. "I make a conscious effort to have personal encounters with new residents every day. A handshake, a simple ‘how are you' and asking open-ended questions can make all the difference. It can help the new resident feel safe, secure and at home," he says. Although information is important in the transition to assisted living, helping the new resident feel at home is really the only way to ensure a successful adjustment.

Even though the transition into assisted living can be tough, the outlook is positive. Hendrickson notes a 98% success rate at his facility, and many other facilities have similar rates.

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