There just might come a time when you have to move mom or dad into your own home or into an assisted living facility. This scenario must rank among the top ten most stressful times imaginable, but there are ways to make it a little less stressful and a lot more comfortable for your parent.
The Things that Make Home Feel Like Home
Just imagine for a moment that you are the one that is leaving your home and moving into a small studio apartment. What items would you want to take with you? Would it be your favorite chair? What framed pictures would you want to take? Then think about the treasured items that perhaps a loved one gave to you. How about that soft quilt that your mother made or your favorite books?
Now Pretend You Are Your Parent
Many assisted living communities will offer you a service from a trained professional who can guide you through this process. They know from experience what furniture and other items will fit and when you’re trying to bring too much into your parent’s new living quarters. If you’re moving mom or dad into your own home, this is something you’ll have to decide between just you and your parent.
Ask Them What Home Means to Them
You probably are more than aware of some of the items your parent feels comfortable with. You know where they prefer to sit. It’s usually a comfortable easy chair but some seniors prefer a couch. A loveseat will take up a lot less room, so hopefully they have one they feel comfortable with. You might be surprised if they tell you, “that old thing is worn out.” It might be time to go shopping. The table that they use next to their sitting place will probably be something to make them feel at home. Ask them.
What to Display
There’s usually room for a small bookcase in the living area of an assisted living facility or in the spare bedroom of your home. If your parent has one you then need to decide what favorite items they want to bring to display on the shelves. Family photos, those favorite knick-knacks, the books they can’t let go of are some items to consider.
Walls of Comfort
If your parent is moving in with you, consider painting their room a color from their own home. It’s a small thing but it might bring some extra comfort. Soft neutral colors are best but look around and see what colors they’ve chosen in their own home.
What do your parents hang on the walls of their living room? Ask them what they cherish the most. Make sure they bring their photo albums to have handy on the coffee table or on the book shelf. A framed photo of your parent and their spouse will probably be a good choice. Old photos of their parents are also cherished by most seniors. If your parent suffers from dementia, items from their early life will bring them the most comfort and help them recall fond memories.
The Bedroom Area
Bringing a full bed to your home or an assisted living might take up too much space. Most assisted living homes want a twin bed unless it’s a couple moving in. Being able to walk around both sides of the bed makes it easier to make up the bed and clean. Have your loved one choose their favorite bedding items: pillows, quilts and bedspreads from home will make it feel more like their own.
A bedside table is almost a must. Bring their favorite lamp, a clock and a framed photo. Take a look around their bedroom at home. Are there lots of framed photos? Are the curtains something they really like? There might not be room for a full dresser, but a small chest of drawers will usually fit into an assisted living studio.
The assisted living I worked in asked for residents to provide laundry soap. It’s a tiny thing but making sure their clothes and bedding are washed in a familiar soap can’t hurt. It will make their sheets smell the same as at home.
You’ll need to take their personal grooming items along with towels, wash cloths, shampoo, toilet paper and a shower curtain. If they’re coming to live with you, make sure the shower and bath are safe for them. All older people need a large hand rail in the shower or bath with a non skid surface inside the wash area and on the floor where they step out.
A Familiar Kitchen
When moving them to an assisted living, don’t forget their favorite mugs, plates and coffee maker. Do they have a favorite kitchen clock or treasured cookbooks? No they won’t be cooking much but these items are often treasures they’ve had for years. They will need some dish soap, towels and a drying rack. It’s nice to make sure they have their favorite snacks and the coffee they like to drink. I know I would miss real cream for my coffee! How do they take theirs?
Their Door — Make it Special
Whether they’re moving into an assisted living or just your guest room, make their door something special. All the doors in assisted living look the same without a wreath or decorative hanging. The facility will probably put their name on the door, but if your loved one is moving in with you, this is a great way to make them feel they have their own space. If they have dementia, it will be very important they see their name on the door.
The Ingredient of Most Importance is YOU!
If they’re moving in with you, make sure you introduce them to all the neighbors. Give your neighbors your contact numbers so they can be helpful to you. If your parent has dementia, make sure your local police department is aware of where you live. Take a photo of your parent with your contact numbers and address to the local police station.
Of course if they move in with you, you will be there for them on a daily basis. If they’re moving into assisted living, visit them often! Make sure all family members and their friends know that a visit will bring them so much joy. Go with them to activities when they first move in. Help them get acquainted with their new “neighbors.” Your presence at activities and especially meals will help you both. They love showing off their family members and they won’t feel like they’ve been stashed away and become disconnected to those they love.
The happiest residents I met were the ones who were visited often and taken outside the community at least once a week.