By Elise Morgan
To all adult children of aging parents: At some point in your life, you may have to travel across an emotional minefield called “moving my parents into a senior living facility.”
Age, finances and declining health or mobility have brought you and your relative to this important life transition. It’s possible that all of you are scared, and at least one of you may be angry or sad.
You’re taking a leadership role in the family with this move. They’re trying to cede control after, perhaps, a life of independent living. Make a plan together and go from there. To start …
1. Scout the new facility together.
You’ve already chosen a place, so use the time before the move to visit often. Mom and Dad can get familiar with the schedule and staff. They may even start taking part in activities. Being familiar with the place and its people before the move will give them a chance to warm up to the place.
2. Familiarity is important, so bring along several special items that feel like home.
As you pack, choose small, tangible items that act as powerful touchstones and make the new living space more familiar. Portraits, knickknacks and family artwork are obvious choices. For example, my father keeps a lump of coal from the Colorado mine where my grandfather worked in his office. Measure the new spot to be sure cherished furniture or wall hangings will fit.
3. Old things will make a new place feel familiar, but so can “home-like” items that are welcoming and comfortable.
We’re talking about new shower curtains, bath mats or a new mattress. If your parent wakes up sore or tired, their old mattress will feel unfriendly no matter what. Seniors need 7-8 hours of sleep per night for good physical and mental health – as it is a myth that older people need less sleep when they age. There are mattress models well-suited for seniors suffering from arthritis or joint pain, sleep disturbances from medication, sleep apnea, etc.
4. Help your parents make friends by encouraging them to participate in community activities.
Once moved in, gently push your parent to play card games with residents and take whatever painting classes, tai chi or yoga, singing or dancing classes offered in house or in the community. You want them to meet people and make friends to build a new support system in their new neighborhood. Several studies looking at friendships and family relationships found that we value family relationships consistently throughout our lives but tend to value friendships more as we age. Seniors needs to make friends, too, so give your parents that extra push to get them actively participating in their senior living community.
5. Finally, let everyone off the hook when things don’t go well.
You and your parents should plan on investing time doing all you can to make a successful transition from a longtime home to, perhaps, their last home. Moving an aging parent is not an easy task. So be gentle. Be kind. Be consistent. You can get this done and help ensure the happiness of someone you love in the process.