Change is difficult regardless of your age. For seniors moving to an assisted living community from a long-time home, even when they know they’ll be getting the daily help they need to thrive, it’s important to remember that they will still face an adjustment period. They may have very mixed emotions about this move and change in their lifestyle. Think about how you felt the day you started at a new school or job. You probably had some first-day jitters as you figured things out, got used to a new routine and met new friends.
Easing First Day Nerves: Making the Assisted Living Community Home
Your loved one will be facing these same types of jitters on their first day in their assisted living community, so ensuring a smooth transition is key to helping them get used to this new way of life. Here are a few tips for helping them get through the first day in their new home:
Be patient and take things slowly. It takes time to adjust to change, so you shouldn’t expect aging loved ones to adjust on the very first day. These new surroundings are strange, but encourage loved ones to take time to explore rather than make quick judgments about their new home.
Take loved ones’ feelings into consideration. Loved ones may feel anxious, scared, nervous, sad, apprehensive and a wide range of other emotions about moving to an assisted living community, especially on the first day. Watch your loved one’s mood carefully, but allow them some time to grieve over leaving their long-time home behind.
Help set up their new living space. One of the best ways to help loved ones adjust to this new way of life is to make their assisted living home comfortable and familiar. Bring favorite items from home, like photos, keepsakes, blankets and furniture to replicate their former home as much as possible.
Find some friends. Many assisted living communities offer a buddy system for new residents, pairing them with a person who may share similar interests or backgrounds. Have your loved one meet the staff members who will be providing their daily care so they recognize faces after you’ve left that first day. Go over the community’s activity calendar together to choose some events your loved one will enjoy and encourage them to attend. This will ensure loved ones are meeting people who enjoy the same activities they do.
Enjoy a meal together. The first meal may be exceptionally stressful for new residents, as they likely feel nervous about being thrown into a social situation with so many people they don’t yet know. Take your loved one to the dining room and enjoy a meal together while meeting and talking to the residents at the same time. Chances are your loved one just needs a small nudge to help get over the anxiety of meeting new people.
Beyond the First Day
You might experience some of the same emotions as your loved one as you leave the community that first day. It’s also common for family caregivers to feel guilty about the move. It’s important to allow loved one’s ample time to adjust, and to remember that they’re now receiving the level of care that will ensure a higher quality of life. Keep in touch regularly and visit when you can, or brighten their day by sending flowers.