Whether she’s excited, apprehensive or is having a tough time, your mom’s move to assisted living is a big one both physically and emotionally. Here are five ways to make her new apartment feel like home faster.
1. Set a Positive Attitude
You’ve probably heard the saying that attitude affects the outcome. That’s especially true when it comes to a life-changing event like your mom’s move to assisted living. Your positive approach sets the stage for a smoother transition. Mom’s emotions might bounce around during this time. It’s helpful to remind her what she’ll gain and the things she’ll get to leave behind, like worrying about house upkeep.
That said, it's important to acknowledge where she’s at. She may look at the move as “the beginning of the end." She may be afraid that since she'll be cared for by staff, family may abandon her. She’ll need your understanding and support throughout the move.
2. Bring What Has Meaning
Mom's house is full of mementos and memories. While she can't take them all, she can and should take those that have the most meaning – from photos and grandkids’ artwork to furniture. Ask her what she wants to take. Don’t assume that you know what she wants.
Your mom may surprise you. The move may be just the opportunity to replace – without guilt – that perfectly functioning but ugly lamps she’s used for years.
Whatever she decides, help her bring the things that will make it feel like home for her.
3. Make Her Apartment Fit Her Lifestyle
You mom’s current home is set up for what she likes to do whether that’s reading, knitting, quilting or something else. There may be a particular place, seating, lighting and storage set up just for that activity. Talk with her about where she’ll read, knit or quilt in her new apartment. Will she need special lighting, a place to store supplies, a different chair? Setting up this space right away will allow her to do what she enjoys, making it feel more like home.
When possible, don’t rush the move-in. “If you can, move everything in a few days early so mom doesn’t walk in to all the boxes,” says Kathleen Williams, Executive Director, Highgate at Temecula (an assisted living and memory care community located in Temecula, California). “When mom arrives, it’s home already.”
4. Include Lots of Light
Lighting has a huge impact on whether a space feels welcoming. The light in your mom’s apartment might be very different due to the direction it faces, the number and size of windows and more. Make sure she has plenty of light during the day and the evening so that her apartment feels warm and inviting.
Good lighting can also help prevent bumps and falls as your mom gets used to her new space. (Make sure to put out nightlights so she can easily find her way in the night.)
5. Getting to Know The Neighborhood
Team members can be a big help as you acclimate your mom to her new community. “We follow them for the first week or so to make sure that they don’t feel alone,” says Williams. “We all take turns. ‘Who is going to see Mrs. Jones today and invite her to activities?’” Not just any activities, however. They get to know what makes each person tick, so they can introduce them to the activities and people they’ll enjoy.
Resident ambassadors at Highgate also welcome new members to the community by introducing them to others and inviting them to activities and events.
To ease the transition, Williams encourages families to come and have a meal with their mom for the first couple of days after the move. “She can show off her new neighborhood and families can help her settle in.”
Sometimes after your mom moves, you may need a break. “It’s OK to take a break. It’s OK to take a deep breath. I’ll hear, ‘We’re going on a week’s vacation. You’ve got this, right?’” Families feel good about us taking over that role as caregiver.”
“We’ll keep her engaged so she doesn’t quite realize her son or daughter has gone on vacation for a week, Williams says. “We can tell her, ‘They’re on vacation but they’ll be back on this day.’” She won’t feel abandoned the and family will get a needed break.”
Your mom’s location may have changed, but she’s still mom. With team members to help with caregiving, you can go back to enjoying your time together as a son or daughter. Making memories.