Fact: People live an average of 50 years longer than they did 100 years ago, thanks to advances in medical science and better nutrition. And “within the next five years, for the first time in human history, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition, the parents of a majority of adults who are middle-aged and older today are still living. Although some elders are well enough—and strong enough—to live their daily lives without outside assistance, many others are not. They may need daily assistance with caring for themselves, taking medications safely and on schedule, getting nutritious, regular meals, and doing chores around the house. Moving into an assisted living facility may be the best and healthiest alternative for these elders.
For them and their middle-aged children, making such a big move is one of the most stressful and wrenching of life’s many transitions. Change is hard for anyone, but leaving a beloved, perhaps near-lifelong home can be devastating for an older person. It’s difficult physically, wrenching emotionally, and frighteningly costly. But by approaching the move in a caring and compassionate way, you can minimize the trauma.
Smoothing the Move
The move from the old home to the new one is sure to be chaotic and messy. Creating a new home is equally so. It’s an intensely personal and emotional process. Approach it with respect for your parents’ feelings. Acknowledge their loss—and your own. And don’t feel guilty for encouraging or initiating it. You’re doing this because you care about your parents’ health and well-being—because you love them—and because it’s the safest most beneficial option.
There are a number of things you can do to smooth and ease the move to assisted living. They include:
- Plan for the move, if you can. Talk with your parents about their health as they age; discuss what they’ll do should living alone becomes too difficult and unsafe. Be loving and frank.
- Be up on your parent’s financial situation. It will help them—and you—to make the decision regarding the move.
- Visit several assisted living facilities well in advance of the move. See the different rooms and apartments available, and get floor plans and measurements. It will help when it comes time to downsize furniture and possessions.
- Understand how the assisted living facility accommodates the special needs of their elderly residents. Do they provide help with laundry? Bathing? Housekeeping? Medications? Ask about staff-to-resident ratio during the day and during the night.
- How does the staff respond to emergencies? Is there a registered nurse on duty? Can she or the staff provide critical supportive care before an ambulance arrives? Is that a service your parents want?
- Establish a familiar environment with familiar things at the new place. Sometimes, it’s even better to bring too much to the small space—and get rid of some of it later—than to insist on it before the move. People grieve possessions as surely as lost friends.
- Pack medications, supplements, and personal hygiene items yourself and bring them separately to the new place.
- Do your homework. Check ahead with movers for costs, etc.
- Lists, lists, lists. It’s incredible the number of small tasks and errands that must be done during the run-up to moving day. Make lists—and stick to them. And when you think of something new, write it down. Otherwise, it’ll be lost in the general chaos until it shows up again transformed into a crisis.
- Approach the move by putting yourself in your parents’ shoes. How would feeling pressured to leave the familiarity of your home affect you? Keep that in mind throughout the move and help your parents through the transition with love, patience, and compassion. And remember to laugh as often as possible.
- Moving Seniors: Tips for Settling Into a New Home. (2014, June 5) A Place For Mom. Retrieved on September 25, 2014 from http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/moving-seniors
- Helping Aging Parents Move. (2009, September 8) American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Retrieved on September 25, 2014 from http://www.aarp.org/relationships/family/info-09-2009/goyer_the_big_move.html
- Helping an Aging Parent’s Transition to Assisted Living. (n.d.) Cambridge Health. Retrieved on September 25, 2014 from http://www.cambridgehealth.org/straight-talk/105-helping-an-aging-parents-transition-to-assisted-living
- Are You Ready? What You Need to Know About Ageing. (2012) World Health Organization. Retrieved on September 25, 2014 from http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2012/toolkit/background/en/