Helping Your Loved One Transition to an Elder-Care FacilityTransitions can be very difficult, especially when moving a loved one into an elder-care facility. It’s emotional and challenging, so it’s important to move slowly when making this lifestyle change.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the transition smooth and as painless as possible.
Find the Right FacilityThe first step is the most important: find a facility that matches your loved one’s and your own needs. Each nursing facility specializes in a specific kind of care; they range in focus from physical therapy to dementia care, and there’s a facility out there for your family member. Take into account your loved one’s needs, and choose accordingly.
Keep in mind the distance between the nursing home and close relatives. Close proximity to family means more frequent visits. You also want to make sure the nursing home is near the patient’s primary physician to make doctor visits easier to accommodate.
Everyone involved in this transition should feel comfortable with the home you select. It is important for the patient to feel secure in their new environment; it’s equally important for close family members to feel welcome while visiting.
Both patients and family members need to be provided with prompt answers to their questions and be involved in decision making. It must be an environment where both the patient and family members feel comfortable voicing concerns.
The overall environment of the elder-care facility must be warm and inviting. This includes cleanliness, staff that is readily available, and well lit and comfortable common and personal quarters.
Take a look at this comprehensive checklist of what to look for in a nursing home.
Help Them Downsize
The next step in making the switch to a nursing facility is downsizing. If your relative has lived in the same place for a long time, chances are they have accumulated plenty of personal items—many of which they won’t be able to take with them. Each facility is different when it comes to personal space. Before you make your decision on where to go, be sure to see the new room and take measurements so you know how much to take and how much to leave.
It’s crucial to be sensitive during this time. Getting rid of so-called “junk” can be difficult for your relative. This is because the things you see as junk are memories to your loved one. Support and understanding will make the transition easier.
When going through belongings, create piles/lists for the following:
● throw away, donate, recycle
● give to family
● take to the facility
Don’t get rid of everything, of course. Make sure your family member has everything they’ll need for daily living, like clothes and toiletries. Have a list of tips on hand for how to downsize before moving to help you as you plan.
Talk to the Staff
Before moving, make sure the staff is aware of the patient’s personal preferences. Include current and past daily routines. If the patient gets up especially early due to years of doing so for work, let the staff know so they’re better prepared.
Talk to staff about ways for both of you to maintain your loved one’s confidence and individuality. To do this, find a way for your family member to feel like part of the community. For example, if they’re interested in knitting, they can join the knitting group. Finding activities within the community will make the integration much easier.
Decorate Their New Home
Once your family member is moved into the new facility, try to make it feel like home. You’ll want to take practical pieces of furniture, such as a storage chest or their favorite chair. The most important things are to make sure they still have enough space (i.e. clear walkways) and that it feels comfortable for them. The last thing you want is for your family member to feel claustrophobic, so make sure you only take what’s necessary.
If you can, bring them with you to decorate their room. And be sure to let them know you’ll help rearrange their things in the future if they decide they don’t like the current placements.
Before you leave, make sure they have a telephone and address book. Then, set aside time to call them, and encourage friends and family to do the same. If calling every day is too much, have your loved one call you on set days and times each week.
Other ways to communicate with your family are to send cards, flowers, or plants. Or, if they’re tech savvy, you can talk with them on Skype or via email.
Personal visits can make a world of difference when it comes to adjusting to a new environment. Your relative will want and need to see you during this time. Visit regularly, and spend time with them while you’re there.
Express interest in their activities and lives in general. Make impromptu visits as well as scheduled ones. If other family members live close, encourage them to stop by. It never hurts to find more ways to make your loved one’s nursing facility feel more like home.