Moving a parent into a new home is stressful, not only for you but for your parent, as well. Even under the best circumstances, it’s bittersweet for your loved one to leave a place she’s called home for some time and move to a new location. Her routine may change and the new home may be smaller, forcing her to make decisions on what to bring and what to leave behind.
Having patience during this transitional period is important. Your parent may be sensitive and hesitant; by finding ways to reduce her stress, you will likely help reduce your own anxiety, too. Here are three tips for making the transition process easier:
If possible, visit the potential future home together—your parent will feel more involved in the process. Often senior parents will begin to feel a loss of independence when moving into a senior living facility, but this need not be the case. Ideally, the new home your parent is moving to will not take away the independence your loved one enjoys.
If you bring your parent with you, it will provide the opportunity for her to ask questions and imagine more accurately what her new life will look like.
Moving an elderly parent is not a short process, so take the necessary time to pack and prepare for the move instead of transitioning right away. In some cases, it may make more sense to move your loved one with a few necessary items. Regardless of how much you bring, be sure to decorate the room to resemble her previous home. This will help the new setting seem familiar, which eases feelings of confusion or anxiety about the new location.
That said, you do not have to move everything at once. No matter how quickly or slowly you deal with the physical items, it is important to allow your parent time to process the transition and create a productive routine in her new space.
By staying organized, you’re likely to avoid any chaos. If possible, pack with your parent. Prepare a plan together for the transition process and moving timeline. And do your best to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible, which helps to create a secure environment from your parent’s perspective.
It is also important to maintain consistency. Work with the staff to prepare a daily routine for your parent that remains the same throughout the preparation and transition periods. A fully developed pace and timeline will help comfort your parent and reduce any confusion she may be experiencing.
During the first few months, your parent is likely to feel vulnerable, so it is important to visit often. Making in-person contact can help provide a sense of familiarity and remind your parent that you are looking out for her.
Sometimes, for the loved one who is relocating, that stress can turn into relocation stress syndrome (RSS), also known as transfer trauma. RSS is a formal diagnosis and involves both physical and mental symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and disorientation. Watch for signs of RSS during the transition process.
Maintain an open and honest line of communication with the staff. They will be working to make sure your parent acclimates to her new home while also watching for signs of RSS.
Moving is a challenging and stressful time for everyone involved, but with research, preparation, and involvement, your loved one can have a smoother transition into her new home. Don’t be afraid to reach out to facility staff for help throughout the process, and take heart in knowing that once comfortable in her new home, your parent will regain her sense of community.