Moving a family member into assisted living can be a challenging experience for the entire family. Grown-up children often compare it to the first day of school, only this is a reverse scenario! Remember that feeling when you left your child alone at school or day care for the first time? It’s emotional. But if you think of it as the beginning of a new frontier, the transition can be smooth and positive.
1. Utilize Help from Staff Members
“Enlist the help of the staff members at the assisted living,” advises Megin Hemmerling, Director of Assisted Living Services at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, the non-profit organization affiliated with JGS Lifecare. “At Ruth’s House, we can introduce your parent to other residents, and make sure to put your mom or dad together with residents who share similar interests and backgrounds.”
2. Socialize During Mealtimes
Meal times, of course, are key to establishing friendships. The assisted living staff will place your parent at a table the very first day. If, after a few days, your mom or dad is not happy, do not hesitate to ask about changing tables. Meals are an important part of the socialization process. Sometimes it just takes a few weeks to get the right mix of individuals.”
3. Establish Relationships
Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience. Often, these are the relationships that come first, and mean so much to the elder and their families. Keep in mind that staff members visit with residents throughout the day, alleviating loneliness and fostering communications. They are also a terrific resource for the family. Most facilities encourage family members to call or email staff members so they can check-in on how one’s parent is adjusting to the transition.
4. Participate in Activities & Get Out and About
Recreational planned activities are obviously a great way to make friends. Card games, lectures, concerts, trips, and holiday celebrations are just a few of the offerings. And who doesn’t enjoy weekly spa and salon appointments? These events inevitably lead to friendships among both the staff and the residents themselves. Encourage your parent to go to the café for a light snack, read in the library or just sit outside on the patio. There are always people out and about.
Hemmerling strongly suggests participating in Family Days. “We plan special days for families where you can interact with residents, families and staff members,” said Hemmerling. “Talking with other families can be extremely helpful.”
Easing the Transition to Assisted Living
Like any new situation, the transition to an assisted living is different for every person. But you’ll be amazed how quickly seniors adapt to new surroundings, especially when they are relieved of cooking, cleaning and housekeeping responsibilities. Hemmeriling added, “You may be pleasantly surprised when your mom or dad introduces you to new friends. In fact, he or she may even cancel plans with you because of a busy social calendar. Now, wouldn’t that be something?”