I'd love to have a dollar every time a Boomer confides in me, "I know moving to an assisted living community is best for Mom. But I worry that she might not adjust and be happy."
Grief. Relief. Or some of both. On moving to an assisted living community, elders often experience all or any of the above. "I miss my house, my flowerbeds, and my cat," one woman said. Others grieve the loss of physical ability, their memory and relationships.
On the other hand, others almost jump for joy. "I cooked all my life, and now it's time to give it up," is the sentiment. And yet other elders bounce between grief and relief during those first days and weeks.
How can we help them adjust?
1. Probably the biggest gift we can give our aging parent is to listen, without censorship. While it's easy to answer a complaint like, "I so miss our house!" with, "But it was so big and so difficult to keep up," it's far better if we bite our tongues, and sympathize. A statement like "I know you loved that house. And you took such good care of it," lets your parent know her opinion is valued.
2. Upon move-in, trust your instincts as to how much of your time your parent will need. Often it's best to set up the apartment in advance, so it's ready to go when your parent moves in. Some adult children will sleep the first few nights in their parent's new apartment. Other family members eat meals with their elderly parent as often as possible during the first few days.
3. Give your aging parent time to adjust. Fortunately staff of assisted living communities are used to listening to their new residents' stories: of grief, and of relief. Staff can also distract new residents by getting them involved with Bingo, Bridge or other diversions. After a month or two, given lots of tender, loving care, your mom or dad will begin thinking, "This is my home!"
Do any of you have any other ideas on how to help your aging parent adjust to a new setting, such as assisted living, or a nursing home?