Many have grown fatigued of the saying, the only thing constant in life is change, but this relative truth is indisputable. Whatever ceases to change forfeits growth – we must learn to adjust.nAs sad as it may sound, the forfeiture of growth is death. Well, in reality many seniors facing an impending loss of their independence must learn to cope with the harsh reality of change. Unfortunately, many seniors resist change. The Residential Assisted Living National Association is fighting for quality senior care to help seniors overcome their fears.
Fears Of Adjusting To Senior Living Include
- Isolation from family and community
- Loss of traditions and habits
- Limited travel and physical movement
- Forced friendships
- A loss of authentic relationships
There is another way to face change – take hold of it. Seniors who are able to seize control of how their lives change adjust wonderfully to residential assisted living. In order for a senior to do this, a supportive family with keen listening skills is necessary. Likewise, the staff at the residential assisted living home need to be able to support, listen, and co-direct these transitions.
So, how does this happen? How do seniors with their families come together and face a very hard change that impacts the entire family? What practical steps and strategies can be employed to make sure seniors experience their golden years in the way they desire and deserve amid change? Here are some effective tips for easing this transition.
1. Stay In Touch
The fear of isolation is one of the top reasons why seniors are reluctant to move to a residential assisted living home. Visit more frequently during early months of a new transition. Whereas you may have visited weekly or biweekly when they lived in the family home, the frequency might need to increase in a residential assisted living home. It is essential that seniors not feel isolated, rejected or forgotten.
- Conduct predictable visits (Every Wednesday and Saturday, for instance.) It will be a time that they look forward to each week.
- Introduce technology such as Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
- Spend the night on a monthly basis for the first couple of months (once COVID-19 is no longer a pressing health concern)
- Be sure the kids see their grandparent(s) often
- Take seniors to games, family cookouts, and even vacation.
Remember, seniors living in residential assisted living, as opposed to big box nursing facilities often desire more latitude and greater independence. Grandma can still attend church on Sunday, if you don’t mind picking her up. In a RAL home, life can be lived full and free. Yet, safety and healthcare are only a few steps away. It really is the best of both worlds.
2. Lend An Empathetic Ear
Moving into a residential assisted living home is often accompanied by mixed feelings of abandonment, inadequacy, fear of the unknown. The loss of dignity and independence are also really important concerns. It’s natural for your senior to feel distraught and isolated during their first few months in assisted living. How do you address those difficult conversations? How do you listen to those painful sentiments? It should always be done with empathy.
Think about yourself in 40 years or so – will you need the kind of help that you actually do not want? Is there a potential for change in your personal health profile? What happens when your spouse passes away and your health takes a turn down a road you do not desire to travel? Consider yourself when listening to your senior. What would you want your adult children to say? How would you want them to respond? What would make you feel heard, understood, and embraced? To be empathic, consider what you’d expect for yourself.
Tips to Expressing Empathy
- Patiently listen to all that they have to share, even if it’s full of negative talk.
- Avoid trivializing the situation by saying things like, ‘It’s just a phase,’ ‘It’s not as bad as you are making it look,’ or ‘You are being negative.’
- Hear them out and offer solutions that can help them adjust to their new environment.
- Ask, “What do you think needs to be done, Mom?” This empowers seniors not to feel victimized.
- Discuss viable volunteer work.
- Evaluate house roles. Many residential assisted living homes have various roles residents fill in order to keep them engaged.
- Have friends and former neighbors visit and partake in activities and festivities (when it is safe to do so).
What matters most is your ear with an understanding heart. Do not be dismissive. Seniors understand that you are busy, but you do not want them to be thrust into a depressive state because of your busyness. Take some time with them, even schedule it, so that they know you have not abandoned them.
3. Don’t Be Over-protective
Maintaining senior independence is critical as it promotes a sense of purpose and achievement. This boosts their self-worth and emotional well-being. Quality residential assisted living homes promote this type of environment coupled with customization of care services. They aim to ensure independence and privacy for seniors in group settings. Therefore, don’t become so protective that it prohibits residents from integrating into their new community.
Also, you don’t want staff to be petrified every time you arrive or call – remember, they are in assisted living for a reason. Seniors adjust much better once they learn that caregivers and staff can be trusted. This happens quickly if they make friends. Once friends are made, adjusting becomes much easier – foster resident-to-resident relationships.
4. Add A Personal Touch To The New Living Space
One sure-shot way of helping residents adjust to a new senior living environment is by placing familiar items and keepsakes in their private living space. Bring their cherished items to their new home.
- The family Bible
- Books and Magazines
- Music Collection
- Photo albums
Allow seniors the opportunity to have a say in the layout of their personal suite. Make sure the sofa and armchair are positioned as desired – it’s the small things that count. Make sure the bed is situated just right so late-night trips to the restroom are unencumbered. The more decisions seniors make about their transition, the more ownership they have in the process. This is vital. This will be their living space. It should be as they want it.
5. Connect With The Staff
The staff in residential assisted living homes become de facto sons and daughters to the residents. The difference is, they are fully trained and equipped to address their care needs as well. Staff members in residential assisted living homes get very close to their residents, and you will find a beautiful relationship will blossom between them. Therefore, it’s important for the staff to maintain open communication with family members. Caregivers will see their vulnerabilities and strengths more so than family and friends.
Adjusting To Residential Assisted Living
Mom and Dad are usually the bedrock of support for their children starting at birth. They witness all the transitions and even usher their children through them. Residential assisted living allows adult children to do the same for their parents. The first couple of weeks at an assisted living home can be the most difficult, but this information can make the process flow smoothly. For additional information and support about owning and operating a RAL home, the Residential Assisted Living National Association has a host of resources.Visit www.RALNA.org to learn more.