Moving to assisted living can change a senior’s life. It ensures that they have the support, comfort, and safety they need to thrive. It puts them in close proximity to their peers for socialization as well as staff for care.
While it may sound like giving up independence, assisted living facilities encourage residents to retain as much independence as possible. Staff will assist with whatever a resident needs and can increase the amount of support provided as they age.
It is a good thing for all involved. Seniors live healthier and better, and their loved ones have peace of mind. However, it isn’t always easy to see the benefits that come with a significant lifestyle change.
Many older adults are reluctant to move into a home for seniors. They see it as a loss of freedom or a reminder of their age. This can lead to pushback when friends or family suggest a move.
And once they are in an assisted living community, they may be worried about what life will look like. Will loved ones still visit? Will they be forgotten? Will they be able to do the things they enjoy? Will life become boring or meaningless?
The right senior home will provide entertainment, enrichment, and social opportunities. Seniors will be comfortable, feel safe, and overall enjoy life on their terms. However, the facility can only do so much to make an aging adult feel fulfilled. It also takes friends and family to help them make the transition and adapt to their new surroundings.
What can you do to help an aging loved one embrace life in assisted living?
- Have an Open Discussion About Assisted Living
Being told what to do can make an adult feel like they have lost their autonomy. This can be especially difficult when the dynamic between loved ones has changed, like when a parent is now being cared for by their child.
Communication is key to avoiding conflict and easing into these changes. Have an open discussion about assisted living. Explain the benefits but also listen to your loved one’s concerns, fears, and worries. Help alleviate them by providing accurate information or seeking answers together.
When your loved one feels heard and understood, they will be more open to listening to the reasons why assisted living might be a good choice for them.
You can also tailor the conversation to their specific needs. For example, if they have arthritis, you can discuss how an assisted living community helps seniors with arthritis.
This is a conversation that may happen more than once. Also, remember to avoid getting heated or angry. If emotions run high, it’s time to step back and let everyone cool off. The best time to talk about a major life change is when everyone is relaxed and ready to listen and share.
- Schedule a Visit to Tour the Assisted Living Community
Seeing an assisted living community in person is also a great way to alleviate fears. Look for potential facilities in your area. These should be places that offer quality care and the services your loved one needs.
Contact the community to schedule a tour and bring your loved one along. Let them tour with you and see the place for themselves. Many people envision a clinical environment, like a nursing home or hospital. However, today’s assisted living homes are far more residential. They feel cozy and inviting.
This is also a great opportunity to get to know the residents. Your loved one will meet their potential neighbors and may even find that they have things in common. They can also see what facilities are on-site and check out the events calendar to see what the community does each month.
You can also ask about touring during a mealtime to allow your loved one to sample the food at the facility. All these things will help them get a better picture of what their daily life would look like in assisted living.
- Be There for Your Loved One on Move-in Day
When it’s time to move in, make sure you are present and available for your loved one. Even if you aren’t physically moving their belongings into the facility, you should still be there. This will reassure them that you are still going to be a part of their life – and they are a part of yours.
You can also provide support or assistance if anything unexpected comes up, like a forgotten item.
You can’t be there all the time, so your loved one will eventually have to learn to be ok without you. However, this day can be overwhelming so it will benefit them to have someone there for moral or emotional support.
- Plan Your Next Visit and Reassure with Availability
As stated above, you can’t be there all the time, but you should make a point to be there sometimes. Let your loved one know when you will visit again.
You don’t want to overdo it. After all, you don’t want to prevent them from mingling with neighbors and fully adapting to their new surroundings. But knowing that you will be back will reassure your loved one.
It can also help to let them know how and when you are available. If you can’t be there in person for a while, then schedule a video or phone call. Staff can assist your loved one with devices if they aren’t tech-savvy.
- Encourage Your Loved One to Remain Independent
Assisted living isn’t about doing everything for seniors. It’s about allowing aging adults to live as independently and fully as possible. That means they should strive to retain independence as much as they physically and mentally can.
Encourage your loved one to keep doing the things they can do. They can continue engaging in hobbies or daily living tasks that they can handle.
This is great for their mental and physical wellness. Doing things keeps a person active. It also serves as mental stimulation that can help prevent cognitive decline. And feeling like you can do something for yourself is a great self-esteem booster.
However, make sure your loved one knows that they can request support if something is difficult or becomes difficult as they age.
- Bring Something from Home for Their Assisted Living Room
You can make your loved one feel more at home by bringing in something they love. Most assisted living facilities will allow residents to bring smaller items in. This can include wall decorations, photos, or even small furniture pieces.
Ask your loved one which items they would like to have in their room with them. Help them find the perfect place to display their belongings. These keepsakes can bring comfort and personalize their living space so it feels more like home.
- Create Opportunities to Make New Friends in the Community
Socialization is essential to good health for senior citizens. The assisted living facility will likely have a busy event calendar with groups and meet-ups. However, it doesn’t hurt to create more opportunities to make new friends.
Organize a small get together in communal areas or in your loved one’s room. You can speak with staff to make sure there aren’t any conflicts. Bring tea and treats to share. Have some icebreaker games or questions ready to help your loved one get acquainted.
Also, keep your loved one aware of what’s going on at their facility. Monthly events keep things new and exciting. Most places will host holiday gatherings as well as regular groups throughout each month. You can also check for seasonal things to do, like these 7 fall activity ideas for seniors in assisted living communities.
Even something as simple as doing a puzzle or making seasonal decorations can become a group event.
- Connect with Assisted Living Staff
The staff at the assisted living facility are a lifeline between you and your loved one. Get to know the people who provide care. Developing a strong connection with these people will help you stay aware of what’s going on at the facility.
Staff are the first line of defense when a resident starts to show signs of a mental or health problem. They can also be a wonderful source of knowledge and information. They can recommend services and resources that may be available to a senior, including those that are found off-site.
Getting to know the people who provide care for your loved one can be tremendously helpful during this transitional phase.
Your loved one will always want you to be a part of their life, but they really need your support now. Moving into assisted living can be intimidating for seniors who have never experienced this lifestyle before. Be present and provide support while encouraging your loved one to immerse themselves in all that assisted living has to offer them.