Perhaps your family has decided that mom or dad needs more care. It’s probably not something they want but to keep them safe and healthy it’s a necessary choice for many families. I’m sure most families also worry about how their loved ones will settle into an assisted living facility. You can be the difference that makes it a positive experience. Here’s what I learned while working in a senior community.
I’ve always been a people watcher and it really paid off while I worked in assisted living. I have seen the seniors that had the best experiences and those who just had a much harder time adjusting. It was apparent that their families made all the difference. Those who were visited often did the best. They loved showing off their children and grandchildren. They didn’t seem to feel isolated and looked forward to each day.
If at all possible, make sure your parent has their favorite possessions around them. You won’t be able to take a lot but decide carefully on the items that will make them feel at home. Where do they like to sit and watch television? Is it their couch, loveseat or recliner? Make sure to take that along and their favorite throw blanket. If their bed is in good shape they’ll be more comfortable in it than in a new one. Gather their favorite photos of family members and their cherished art work to display in their new apartment. Even their dishes and their favorite coffee mug will make them feel more at home.
The first few days will be the hardest so be prepared to be there for the transition. Talk to your siblings and even your parents’ friends and neighbors. Encourage them to come for visits. This is also the time for you to get acquainted. Knowing when meals are served, what days clothes are done, all the activities that are planned each week will help you guide your loved one. It’s also very important to get to know those who will be caring for your folks. The better you know them and appreciate their service, the better care they’ll give your loved one. Make sure to post your phone number on your parents new fridge so their personal caregivers can call when they need to. Talk to those caregivers on each shift. You can give them lots of tips on your parent’s preferences. It’s also really important to meet the Nutrition Director. Let them know your parent’s special dietary needs such as allergies or diabetes.
Breaking the Ice
Look over the list of activities that are offered. Where I worked the staff made copies of all the things happening each month. See which ones your loved one might enjoy. It might be hard at first for you loved one to join in, but if you go with them the first few times it can make it more enjoyable, less stressful and help them meet new friends. Most assisted living places also schedule a meal out once a week or a field trip to a local store or tourist spot. Try to encourage them to go and for the first few go yourself or have a family member or one of your parent’s friends tag along.
Let’s Do Lunch
There were a few very happy residents that looked forward to a certain day of the week when one of their children or grandchildren would come and take them out to lunch or dinner. For Miriam, her daughter came every Tuesday and treated her to lunch. Sometimes they ate in the dining room with the other residents but most times they went out to one of her mother’s favorite restaurants. When her mother didn’t feel up to going out, her daughter would bring lunch in. Miriam loved it! Sometimes her daughter would bring a neighbor or long-time friend of her mother’s to join in on the fun. It’s important to help keep those connections for your parents. It will make them feel less isolated and lonely. Be sure to let all your parents family members, friends and neighbors know they new phone number and where they are. Encourage them to visit as often as they can.
Hairdos and Manicures
One of the residents in the memory care had a wonderful granddaughter who would visit each week to give her grandmother a manicure. She had a special basket she brought along with all the needed supplies and tools. She’d paint her nails with a bright cheerful color and her granny just beamed when she was done. The assisted living space where I worked had a hairdresser on staff one day a week. There were quite a few family members who made sure their loved one was scheduled to get their hair done. Those residents always left the salon with big smiles.
Church, Clubs and Gatherings
Let your parent’s church or club know that they’ve moved. Many churches will have a member pick-up seniors who no longer drive. Keeping these connections and abilities to go to church or club meetings are very important to your loved one and don’t forget the family celebrations. Include your mom or dad whenever you can.
Remember, the more people you help stay in contact with your family member is such a blessing — not only for your parent but also for you. The more visits your parent gets, the happier they’ll be.