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How to Help a Parent Feel at Home in a New Space

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We spend most of our lives settling into our homes, decorating and arranging our living spaces to fit our moods or the changing seasons. As we age, we work to create a space that becomes familiar and comfortable to us.

Maybe your mom has lived in the same house for forty years and loves to grow tomatoes and cabbage in her garden in the backyard. But since your dad passed, she often forgets to take her medications and her doctor is worried about her living alone. Whatever the particulars of your situation, as our parents age and their need for care grows, getting them the help they require often means deciding whether or not to move them into a senior living community—a difficult, but necessary decision to make.

When your mom or dad is ready to make the move, and you’ve selected a senior living community that fits your parent’s needs, taking the time to make that new space feel like home will be well worth the effort.

Make the Space Comfortable

Often, what makes a home feel familiar are the belongings found within. For this reason, it can be helpful to replicate the décor of the past home as much as possible in the new space. Put the same pictures up, keep your parent’s favorite books around, and use the same cozy blanket to adorn the living room chair. If space allows, bring furniture from the other home, and keep the setup similar to what it had been.

While space or setup may not allow you to completely replicate the previous living areas, when your father is surrounded by the souvenirs and heirlooms of his past, it can help make a big change feel less intimidating. When your mother has her favorite books and photos of the family, it can make an unfamiliar place feel that much more like home.

Stay Involved

The transition period typically takes longer than most assume. The timeline for moving in can take a few weeks, but even after moving in, it can take weeks—sometimes months—for your parent to feel fully settled in the new community. Ideally, the staff will be keeping your mom or dad occupied and engaged throughout the day. Even with all that activity, your parent will likely need support and encouragement from familiar faces.

Visit often during the first few weeks. Attend breakfast or dinner and help your parent socialize with others in the community. If your dad has been living alone for a long time and is not used to socializing, he may find it difficult to break the ice with others.

Set Expectations

Moving into a new setting, with new people and new routines, can be a very positive experience for your parents, but it also can be a stressful, overwhelming, and uncertain time for them. In many ways, it may feel like a loss of independence or an unwanted chapter in their life. But do not lose sight of why the move took place. It is important to set the tone of happiness and growth from the very beginning.

Remember why you and your parent chose this community. A senior living community does not strip individuals of their independence; rather, it enables people to be taken care of, supported, and free of the burden of uncertainty and everyday tasks that have become challenging. It may take time for your parent to realize this change, which is why it is important to remain positive and hopeful. New residents fit best into a community when they are open for support and friendship.

This is a significant moment filled with change for your parent, and as we know all too well, significant change is not easy. Let your mom take the time that she needs to adjust and get involved in the social community of her new home. Let your dad take the time to grieve his old life, and realize the true benefits of his new one. With the help of the staff and your support and love, your parent is sure to adjust and find comfort in his or her new home. All it takes is a little time.