Advice for Caregivers: How to Help a Loved One Come to Terms with Moving to Assisted Living

Advice for Caregivers: How to Help a Loved One Come to Terms with Moving to Assisted Living

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Before a fall sealed the deal, my husband had been trying to get his dad to move into assisted living for a couple of years. Though my father-in-law’s mind was strong, his mobility had really started to decline. Then, he suffered a serious fall, and we knew we couldn’t wait any longer to help him make the move.

Prior to the fall, he was very resistant to the idea of moving to assisted living. And despite our efforts to convince him that he might really enjoy it, he insisted on staying in his long-time home. Of course, my husband and I aren’t the only ones who’ve had to guide a loved one through this process. Far from it. In fact, with the number of seniors in assisted living on track to double by 2030, many caregivers will soon face the difficult decision of moving their loved one to an assisted living facility.

Whether your loved one is moving to assisted living due to a recent fall or illness or whether they can simply no longer take adequate care of themselves, it’s never an easy conversation to have. Here are few tips on how to help your loved one see the benefits:

Focus on independence.

In addition to giving up a home they’ve likely lived in for years, your loved one will view moving to assisted living as giving up at least some of their independence. Though this article is about how to modify a home for a senior, it provides some great advice on the importance for caregivers to acknowledge the role independence will play in any decision related to the senior’s future living arrangements. Whether modifications are being made to their current home or they’re being prepped for assisted living, the article stresses the importance of letting the senior (if possible) take the driver’s seat. Let them decide which facilities you visit, which amenities are most important to them, and what to do with their current home once they’ve moved out.

Before the move, meet with staff.

Your loved one will feel better about the move if they’re familiar with the staff at the assisted living facility. EverydayHealth.com stresses that how a facility’s staff interacts with its residents is just as important as how the facility looks. It advises that you and your loved one use a few visits to assess the staff. In addition to letting you see how caring they are or aren’t, these visits will give your loved one an opportunity to begin building a rapport with staff members. That way if you do choose that facility they’ll have a little more peace of mind when they move in.

Find ways to make it feel like home.

The transition will be made a little easier on your loved one when they are able to bring familiar and loved items with them. Are there family photos they’d like to display? A favorite chair they want to be able to sit in? A potted plant they enjoy maintaining? HelpGuide.org advises caregivers to act as an assistant and help your loved one decorate the new space with personal items from their home. Just be careful not to take over. Let them direct you to ensure the space is set up to their liking.

Make sure they can take their pet with them.

If your loved one has a pet, the idea of having to give the pet up may be one reason they’re resistant to assisted living. Work with them to find a pet-friendly facility, and it could pay off in other ways. Several studies have found that pets are actually really good for our health. As this article on the health benefits of dogs notes, they improve our mood, help our hearts, keep us moving, and more. In fact, if your loved one doesn’t already have a pet and they’re capable of taking care of one, consider getting them a pet. It’s a great way to provide them with a constant companion that can make this new transition, not simply bearable, but actually fun and exciting.

Even when it’s the only feasible option, moving to assisted living can be hard for seniors to accept. After his fall, my father-in-law still wasn’t totally on board with the decision. I’m happy to say that today he enjoys living at the facility, and he really is thriving. Throughout this process, my husband and I have learned just how delicate a topic this is, and I think that’s an important reminder for all loved ones of seniors. As I begin to help my own parents make this difficult decision, it’s something I’ll definitely be keeping in mind.

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Vee Cecil is passionate about wellness for people of all ages and in every stage of life. She often studies the topic and shares her findings on her recently-launched blog. She is also a Kentucky-based wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor.

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