One fear older adults have about moving to assisted living is that their family won’t visit. As a caregiver, you might even worry that your loved one won’t need you anymore.
More often than not, what happens is that caregiving doesn’t end once your loved one moves into a senior living community — it just changes.
With so many age-related changes happening on a daily basis, it makes sense that you and your loved one might have some questions and concerns about what other changes lie ahead: What is your role as a caregiver? How often should you visit? How can you best help your loved one adjust to their new living environment? How do you cope with your feelings about the move?
Indeed, moving can be a big transition for your aging loved one and your family. Just like walking the fine line between caring and controlling is challenging, so is striking a careful balance between involvement and interference in their new living situation.
Here are five tips to help you navigate your parent’s move to assisted living.
Remind Them It’s Easy for Families to Visit
Assisted living communities make it easy for family members to visit. You’ll be able to visit your loved one in their personal apartment.
Your parent can also leave with family to attend reunions and family get-togethers or these events can be scheduled at the community in a private community or dining areas.
Get to Know the Staff
Create a relationship with team members who take care of your loved one. Greet them by name.
The team members at assisted living communities work hard to ensure residents live their best lives. These jobs can be emotionally and physically taxing. A few words of sincere gratitude when you visit the community can make a big difference in a team member’s day.
Understand that the care staff might not do things exactly the way you do. They will do things differently, but you can provide some of the hands-on care if you want.
Be clear about your care expectations and be willing to share with the staff what has been successful for you in the past.
Tell the Staff About Your Loved One’s Life
Assisted living staff play a critical role in your loved one’s adjustment to their new home and community. You can help them by offering information about any of your parent’s interests, special preferences, or habits.
Does your dad have a cup of coffee first thing every morning? Does your mom enjoy listening to classical music in the afternoon after lunch? Although these details might seem inconsequential to you, informing the team members about these details helps them create a more comfortable environment for your loved one while fostering a connection with care partners.
Assisted living team members are a valuable resource. The more you communicate with them, the more they can partner with you to help your aging loved one transition with success.
Balance Frequency and Length of Visits
Call and visit often during the first few weeks. Create a schedule that works for you. Visit during “free time” when there are no other activities going on. Don’t stay too long. Visit at different times of the day to see how they are doing throughout the day, including meal times.
Play games, such as cards, dominoes, or Scrabble. Watch television or videos of old movies together. Listen to music they like. Talk about sports. Sit together and hold hands. Bring old photo albums, or go online to visit Facebook pages. Share stories of what other family members are doing. Bring favorite foods as treats. Visit together with a family member or friend.
You should also be sure to give them space to adjust to their new home on their own. Do not feel as though you need to be with them all the time during the transition. Allow them time to get to know their neighbors and care partners, and encourage them to develop a community and life within the community.
If your loved one has dementia, the memory care community may recommend waiting a week or two until visiting to help them adjust to their new surroundings with minimal distractions and reminders of home.
When you do visit, remember that his or her experience of your visit will be the same if you stay twenty minutes or two hours. Try not to worry about the length of the visit. Focus on quality, not quantity.
Practice Letting Go
It’s OK for you to have a life outside of caregiving. Your renewed energy will make it easier to visit and you will have more to share. You have a right to enjoy your life. Embrace the transition of your role from a full-time caregiver to a son or daughter again.
To learn how one daughter navigated her father’s move to senior living, based on true stories from Highgate residents and their families, read our eBook Moving Dad.