The transition from a home environment to Assisted Living can present challenges for many senior parents.
The responsibility of helping to ease these challenges often falls on the adult children and other family members of these seniors. Many emotions are at play for both adult children and their parents. Understanding what’s at work on a psychological level can help everyone adjust to a new living situation for parents.
Many senior parents feel uncomfortable about the aging process and the thought of losing their sense of control over their lives.
They may have deep attachments to and memories connected with the home they are leaving, and may experience uncertainty and anxiety regarding the new living situation they are about to enter. Learning how to recognize these concerns and address them with empathy and compassion are essential to easing this transition.
Another challenge of helping an elderly parent is the role reversal that occurs when an adult child takes on more involvement in caring for an aging parent. Sensitivity to a parent’s need for autonomy will help an adult child be supportive without being overbearing.
With all of the emotions and shared history at play, this time of transition is not easy.
Here are some tips for making this process as smooth as possible:
Be Proactive Being aware of changes in parents’ abilities and needs and beginning a conversation early about future plans gives everyone time to adjust. Planning in advance is better than having to react quickly to an unforeseen fall or health issue requiring immediate attention and last-minute decision making.
Recognize the Emotional Intensity Dr. Regina Koepp, a specialist in the psychology of aging, notes that everything about this move is fraught with emotion—no one is spared. Knowing ahead of time that this transition is a process that will become easier with time is especially helpful.
Listen to Parental Needs and Concerns What may seem obvious to an adult child is not always apparent to an aging parent. Seeing a bruise on Dad’s arm from a stumble, for example, can send an adult child into panic mode. Talking about what happened and listening to your parent’s thoughts and ideas will help stave off heated confrontations and promote idea-sharing that will ultimately help your parent.
Help Create the Right New Home Environment According to workingdaughter.com, the desire to decorate your parents’ new digs with brand new things can be tempting. But take your cues from your parent. Maybe Mom really likes those ratty-looking potholders and Dad thinks his old recliner is perfectly comfy. It’s your parents’ new home, so respect their choices—as long as their choices are safe ones.
Become Familiar with Staff and Procedures Getting to know who will be helping your parents and the exact nature of the care they will receive will more clearly define your new role.
Be an Advocate and Liaison No one knows your parents like you do, uniquely positioning you to facilitate communication between your parents’ caregivers and parents. Sometimes, parents aren’t comfortable speaking up or making their wishes and concerns clear; you can step in to fill the gap.
Finally, it’s important to give everyone some time and space to adjust. Do your parents want you to visit often following their move? Or do they prefer having a few weeks to get to know their new community and neighbors?