Moving a Parent to Assisted Living or Memory Care

7 expert tips from Flagstaff Executive Director Leslie Blum

Moving a Parent to Assisted Living or Memory Care

Stress is a normal part of the moving process for anyone, so imagine what it is like moving an aging loved one into assisted living or memory care when they’ve lived where they currently are for quite some time.

Even if your parent or family member is well-versed in the benefits of senior living and has come to the decision to make the transition themselves, moving is fraught with emotion — it signifies an ending in one place and a beginning in another. 

For some, moving into a senior living community might represent the opportunity to make new friends, redefine aging, and find their way in the next chapter of life. But others may fear the unknown. The move is likely emotional for you, too. 

That’s why senior living expert Leslie Blum’s No. 1 tip for moving a parent into assisted living or memory care is to plan ahead. “Give yourself time,” says the executive director of Highgate at Flagstaff. Time to find the right community. Time to get to know the team members and care partners ahead of the move-in. Time to downsize and pack with intention. 

There’s a lot that needs to happen before your parents move into a senior living community, and how long it will take isn’t as much about weeks, months, or years as it is about taking the time you need to make sure you feel confident as you make the transition. (A note on guilt: You will feel guilt — it is normal and inevitable — but it won’t last forever.)

Although the move from one’s home to a new home at a senior living community is a life-changing one, it does not have to be fraught with stress and anxiety. Here are seven tips from Blum, who has worked in senior living for nearly 20 years, on easing the transition.

1. Move Sooner Rather Than Later

It may never feel like the “right” time to move to senior living. If you walk into Highgate at Flagstaff, you’re just as likely to see a 72-year-old as you are a 102-year-old.

But moving to senior living when you have no other choice left can leave you feeling like you’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities.  That’s why it’s better to move — or at least research your options — while your loved one is healthy and can play an active role in where they will live.

2. Give the Community Time to Get to Know Your Loved One

Like any major life change, moving to a new home takes some adjustment. Although many seniors will feel relief at not being alone and not having to maintain a large house, others may feel withdrawn and hesitant about making new friends. 

It helps ease the transition if you give the community time to get to know your loved one, their routines, and their moods. At Highgate at Flagstaff, which offers a person-centered approach to care, everything depends on personal preferences, values, personality traits, and the individual’s life story.

“If you provide the community with as much information as you can about your loved one, it can be a huge help in ensuring a smooth transition,” Blum says. 

For example, Frank was a professional musician and played at all of the local and regional clubs. Because he played late-night gigs, he was used to staying up late each night as well as sleeping late each morning. When Frank’s care needs became too much for his wife, she looked for a memory care community that would support his lifelong schedule. In his new home at Highgate, Frank stays up late in his room, oftentimes listening to old records. Care partners let him wake on his own each morning and include that information in his care plan. 

So visit. Come in for lunch and an activity. Get to know the team. Remember, this should be relational, not transactional. 

3. Build a Move-in Timeline

Once your family decides on the right senior community, the team members will work with you to establish a moving timeline and complete the necessary assessments and paperwork before move-in day. For example, at least three things need to happen before anyone can move into Highgate Senior Living:

  1. The Resident Care Director needs to perform a clinical assessment, which informs each resident’s personalized care plan and determines whether they will live in assisted living or memory care.
  2. The incoming resident’s primary care provider needs to be notified, and their medical records need to be sent to the assisted living care partners. 
  3. A month-to-month contract needs to be signed.

This paperwork can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks to complete. In the meantime, use the senior living community’s team members as a resource throughout the move-in process and the transition weeks that follow.

4. Make a Packing List

Many older adults who are preparing to move to assisted living are also faced with the overwhelming task of organizing, cleaning, discarding, and packing up decades of family history and memories.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to declutter and trying to tackle their whole home all at once, help your parent come up with a realistic downsizing timeline.

Plan on decluttering one room or area at a time. If your loved one is moving to an assisted living community, consider starting with the garage and kitchen. Assisted living communities handle the maintenance of outdoor spaces, so your parent won’t need a lawnmower or rake anymore. And even if your mom loves to cook, she probably won’t need five frying pans. Here is a list of items to possibly bring with your parent to assisted living.

Highgate at Flagstaff often connects families with a downsizing company, Caring Transitions, which can help with downsizing, estate sales, and senior relocation. 

5.  Rely on Help From Others

Many assisted living communities have team members who can help you or your loved one hang pictures, shelves, or wall-mounted items like a television. You will want to find out what assistance the community offers before you arrive on moving day.

For example, at Highgate at Flagstaff, Community Relations Coordinators Josh Bryant and Angela Kaufmann work with each resident and their family to help facilitate the move-in process, answering questions, providing tours of the community, and facilitating necessary paperwork. Healthcare Director Brittany Sandos and Care Coordinator Michelle Kissinger work with physicians and create care plans specific to each resident’s needs. Life Enhancement Coordinator Abbigaile Urioste works with each resident to complete a Purposeful Living Interview and create programming that meets each resident’s current interests.

The Life Story Interview helps team members better understand the history of each of the residents and share their story with other residents. The Purposeful Living Interview helps team members understand what brings meaning to each resident’s day and elicit ideas and information that allows them to plan programming for the residents so they can continue to live a life of purpose.

6. Set Up the Apartment in Advance on the Move-in

If you’re able to, set up the apartment in advance of your loved one’s move-in day. It typically creates a smoother experience if all of the furniture has been delivered and placed, the bed is made, and the pictures are hung. Try to recreate the look and feel of what they enjoy with their beloved pictures, decor, and books and by placing items in the room where they are used to seeing them. That way, when you show your loved one their home for the first time, it looks welcoming and inviting.

Plan to send out a note to close friends and extended family with their change of address and an invitation to come visit!

7. Help Your Loved One Adjust

Here are some things you can do to help your loved one adjust:

  • Recognize that moving to a new home represents a major change.
  • Remember that the move to assisted living will benefit your loved one’s health and well-being.
  • Call and visit often during the first few weeks.
  • Give them space to adjust to their new home on their own.
  • Be positive.
  • Make it easy to restart a hobby or continue an old routine.
  • Make sure they have access to the activities they love.
  • Provide them with the means to maintain some independence.
  • Send flowers or special deliveries every so often.
  • Encourage them to develop a community and life within the community.

In addition to following the tips in this post, make sure to speak with your community to see if they have any other recommendations.

Ready to get to know the Highgate at Flagstaff community? Schedule a tour today!

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