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AN IN-DEPTH LOOK: Relocation Stress Syndrome in Older Adults Tracy Mintz

November 26th, 2012 | 0

RelocationStressSyndromeImagine you are sitting in your kitchen at a table handed down to you from your parents, sipping coffee from your favorite mug, when there’s a knock at the door. It’s a county employee who very politely explains that she has been asked by your landlord to check on you. A bit perplexed, you assure her that you are fine. A week later the worker returns with a few others to inform you that you are being moved to a place where you’ll get nice new furnishings and three meals a day, that all your needs will be met, and this is permanent. The favorite mug can go with you, but you will not be allowed to take the heirloom table – or most of your personal belongings. Does this scenario sound improbable? Not if you are one of the many elders who are involuntarily relocated each year, either from their own homes to eldercare facilities or from one facility to another.

This may seem an extreme example, but it is true that Adult Protective Service (APS) workers, social service agencies, and well-meaning family members can remove elders from their homes with little time to prepare. Discharge planners are in a similar predicament: If an older adult cannot be discharged to his or her home safely, then home has to become somewhere else. The scenario above is told from the older adult’s point of view. What’s missing is the part about the strong odor of urine throughout the apartment, the empty refrigerator, and newspapers stacked on the radiator. Naturally someone does not swoop down and forcibly remove someone from a situation that is just fine, but that is exactly how it feels to the older person who is living in questionable or unsafe conditions. The reasons for relocation may be an unclean environment, history of falls, household hazards, medication errors, neglect by self or others, or physical changes that make self-care impossible.

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