Let’s Talk About It: Helping ease the transition

Moving, in the best of times, is ranked as one of the top stressful events in life. When the move is to a seniors’ residence, it is filled with anxiety and fear. Top this off with the person’s ambivalence to make this move, we can only imagine what the person is feeling.

She is leaving behind a home filled with a host of memories, surrounded by treasured items gathered over a lifetime. The home is in familiar territory, some neighbours still present, where she frequented the shops and services in the area. While she may intellectually understand the need for the move, it does not make it easier.

The individual should be as involved in the process of selecting the residence as possible. Once the choice is made, frequent visits prior to the move may provide some comfort in getting to know her soon-to-be new home. A few meals with family or friends is a good introduction to how the meal service works and one less thing to learn and adjust to. Attending some interesting activities before the move may even lead to a connection with another resident.

These visits prior to the actual move should include relating to the staff. Meeting with the recreational director, sharing the interests of the new resident, learning of the activity schedule are all important in this process. A meeting should also take place with the nurse and other key staff members. Ask about any hospitality program. Some residents are only too happy to spend time with the new person, introducing them to the ins and outs of the place. A telephone number exchange is helpful so the person doesn’t feel like they have to call reception with multiple questions.

The resident should be the one to choose which furnishings from home will be brought to the residence. A floor plan and measurements should give an accurate idea of what will fit. Paintings, family photographs, favourite trinkets will make the new apartment feel more like home.

There are professionals who specialize in downsizing and decorating, again with the involvement of the senior.

At times, children may stay in the new apartment for the first couple of days, especially when they live out of town. I counsel the children not to be glued to the parent during this time but allow for same space for the person to find his own way, secure in the thought that the child will be returning in a few hours.

Acknowledge your parent’s feelings of anxiety and fear. Don’t downplay it, be supportive. It is also best for families to familiarize themselves with the staff noting their names, numbers, and responsibilities. It can only help to be extra nice to the staff because your parent will be living
with them.

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