Adjusting to Assisted Living — How You Can Help

You may have anticipated that the most difficult part of moving your parents into assisted living would be the initial conversation and selecting the right facility. But for many families going through the process, the real challenge arises after the move has been made. Whether your parents objected to the move or they agreed and seemed enthusiastic, it is important that you remember that change is difficult for everybody at every age. Many people associate assisted living with a loss of independence, and moving away from a home that holds long-time memories can feel like a real loss. The good news is that there is a great deal that you can do to help your parents with the transition.

Understand That the Grief and the Fear is Very Real

No matter how luxurious or homey an assisted living facility may be, or how comprehensive the amenities, it is important to remember that your parents are going to experience emotions that are best identified as grief. Though grief is most commonly associated with death, mourning is what comes with any significant loss. In this case your parents may need to adjust to the loss of the idea of having their own home and the privacy that was a natural part of it. It is important that you understand that this grief is just as real as the loss of a marriage, a job or a loved one. Be understanding and allow them to express their emotions without trying to minimize them. The truth is that teens leaving home for college and couples moving from their first starter home into a bigger house experience pangs, so why shouldn’t they? If you feel it is appropriate, avail yourself of the counseling staff that the assisted living facility likely has available.

Let Them Be in Charge

One of the natural tendencies that adult children have when moving their parent into assisted living is to take over. This is a mistake that should be avoided! If there was ever a time when your parents need to feel that they can make their own decisions, it is while they are transitioning into their new living environment. Let them speak for themselves about preferences when meeting with the assisted living facility staff, and allow them to be in charge of what is being taken and what is left behind, as well as how they arrange their new living quarters. Unless they ask for your help, it is important that they go through the process of making their residence feel like it is theirs.

Don’t Let the New Environment Change You

If you were in the habit of having dinner with your parents every other week, then that should not change once they’ve moved in to assisted living. It is essential to your parents’ transition that nothing in their lives change outside of the walls that are surrounding them, so keep your regular visit schedule and make sure that you act the same way in their new home that you did in their old.