Moving from one place to another can be stressful, though it’s especially difficult when this life event also coincides with making the transition from independent living to long-term care or retirement living. More specifically, it’s not uncommon for new residents to experience a range of emotions, such as hopelessness, isolation, or even a sense of mourning. Here are some tips and examples for how to help ease the transition to care for a friend or family member:
It’s normal for someone who’s making the transition to long-term care and retirement living to feel a little emotional about the situation. Moreover, they might also have trouble articulating what they’re experiencing. As a caregiver or supporter, it’s important to give them space to process these feelings internally. That said, it’s a good idea to sit down with them to address any specific concerns they might have. Try to lead all these conversations with a lot of patience, empathy, and compassion. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid and ask very specific questions to identify what some of their reservations might be.
Going from living independently to receiving long-term care or retirement living comes with a lot of immediate changes to one’s lifestyle, which can potentially impact mental health. Keep in mind, new residents are not only downsizing their living space and personal belongings, but also leaving a place where they’ve spent years of their life building and creating memories.
To help create more familiarity and help ease the transition, you can reuse or recreate the same furniture, art, or even paint colours to make a new space feel like their past home. When it comes to getting rid of any old belongings before moving, try to give your loved one some freedom in the decision-making process so they can feel in control of the situation.
Being more involved in the process can help reshape a resident’s experience. Get to know the staff at the residence, as well as other members within the community like residents and volunteers. Be sure to also get familiar with the residence itself, in terms of its rules and regulations. With full awareness of how the home operates, you can easily relay this information to your loved one and answer any questions they might have. Moreover, it relieves your loved one from feeling like they’re burdened by the need to “learn” about their new home.
Figure out what to expect
After identifying some of the immediate lifestyle changes that can be expected with this new living arrangement, go over this information with your loved one in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Even something as simple as explaining what their new day-to-day might look like, or what friendly faces they’ll see at the residence can make a huge difference in making them feel more at ease.
While going over what to expect, it’s a good idea to reframe this narrative into something positive. For example, talk about all the new and exciting things that your loved one can look forward to, like getting to meet new people and connecting with others who might share the same experiences.
It’s completely normal for new residents to feel a sense of loss, sadness, or hopelessness. Remember, they’re not only trying to adjust to moving from one place to another but might also be trying to reconcile negative feelings associated with a decline in their health or losing the ability to take care of themselves.
When reframing this situation in a positive light, it’s important not to overdo it. Being overly performative can be especially off-putting for someone who’s already not feeling great about the situation. Instead, acknowledge that their feelings are valid, reassure them that you’re in this together, and give them some space to grieve. This can be as simple as saying, “you’re right, this is hard.”
You’re not alone
Supporting a loved one through their transition to care isn’t easy. However, walking into this with an open mind and putting in the effort to learn more about what to expect can make a huge difference on how smooth the transition goes. Have any questions for us? We’re here to help. Contact us for more information about one of our residences.