Managing the Emotional Journey from Home to Senior Living

Managing the Emotional Journey from Home to Senior Living

Moving a loved one from the family home into a congregate living setting can be a very challenging and emotional transition for everyone in the family.   Involving your family member in the decision and planning may help them feel more in control of the situation. Each situation is different, and every person is unique, so it is important to respect how your family member wishes to be involved.   Additionally, if your loved one is living with dementia, they may be unable to participate in the discussions or can quickly become overwhelmed by the need to make difficult decisions.  

Be patient with your family member and yourself.   Moving is an incredibly stressful event for anyone and even more so for someone leaving a home full of memories.  Working with other family members or a professional consultant to help with the planning and the move can reduce everyone’s stress and allow you to focus on your loved one's needs.  Professional movers that specialize in working with seniors are a great resource.  They will be able to provide helpful tips, and most have checklists to guide you.  Sorting out legal decision-making and financial issues in advance will reduce the likelihood of problems in the future.  While many services are available to assist with all aspects of the move, it can be difficult to know where to start.    

Senior Care Access is an excellent resource to identify living options and find other service providers, including consultants, who can help you coordinate all aspects of the transition.

When talking with your family member about the move, it may be tempting to focus only on the benefits of a congregate living setting.   It is essential to acknowledge all of their emotions; to talk about what your family member will miss and their concerns. Grieving the loss of one part of their lives does not mean the individual will not adjust and enjoy their life in a new environment. Understanding their concerns also allows you to try and address them and reduce their anxiety.

Ask what is most important to your family member to help them feel at home in the new setting – for some people, it might be having certain personal belongings moved. For others it is about staying connected with family, friends and activities in their old community.   Making sure that the things most important to your family member are looked after will make the transition much easier.  

Other strategies to help your family member adjust:

  • Plan to spend extra time with them on the day of the move. Most retirement homes will be happy to have you stay for lunch and meet the staff and other residents.
  • Leave a note or card for your family member in their mailbox when you leave.
  •  Ask other friends and family to drop in or send a letter, especially during the first month.
  • Take a walk or drive through the surrounding community with your family member. Being acquainted with the area will help them feel more like a part of that community.

Helping a family member move is stressful and emotional regardless of your situation. Having a strong support system of friends, family and professionals will help make the transition go as smoothly as possible.