Taking care of adult parents often means making difficult decisions. Many seniors would prefer to remain in their own homes until their final days, but this is often not possible. As they age, adults may become more vulnerable to illness, injury, or even depression. You may notice that their basic hygiene needs are not being met, or that they are no longer able to keep their home sanitary or safe. For those with advanced neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, living alone is simply no longer safe. It may be instinctual to move your mother or father in with you or to move in with them, but this is not an option for many families, especially if there are children or work obligations. Fortunately, there are many wonderful long-term care facilities that can provide both physical care and companionship for seniors who need a little extra help. Read on to help your loved one prepare for their big move without burning yourself out in the process.
- Set Healthy Boundaries
It is natural to want to help your parents however you can, but you have your own adult obligations to tend to as well. Though it may be difficult, it is important to make your other commitments clear. Let your parent know what your work schedule looks like and make sure to carve out time for yourself and your family. Keep your word when you say you are going to do something, but do not cave and let yourself be guilted or manipulated.
- Validate Their Feelings
Change is hard, and your loved one will be feeling a lot of things throughout the moving process. They may be scared of leaving their home behind and moving to a new place where they don’t know anyone. Even if you don’t have the answers to all of their concerns, simply acknowledging that their feelings are valid can go a long way towards helping them feel less alone. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to fit in at their new residence, so just allow space for their emotions.
- Validate Your Feelings
Your parent will not be the only one with emotions that are running high. This represents a change for you, too. Your relationship is shifting and you are becoming the parent in many ways. You may be feeling guilty about making this decision, especially if they are experiencing apprehension or anxiety about it. If their old home is the one you grew up in, you will also be saying goodbye to many memories. Take time to grieve your losses and support yourself.
- Ask For Help
Even if your family is small or not local, you do not have to do this alone. Insist that any siblings, spouses, or other relatives do their part throughout the moving process. Ask friends or partners to help you make phone calls, pack or drive items to the new residence, and run errands. Hire a housekeeper for your own home, look into using a packing service, order delivery. You can’t do it all, and you don’t have to.
Moving to a long-term care facility will mean getting rid of a lot of things. As much as possible, go through belongings with your parent. Sell or donate items that do not have personal significance and make plans for those things with memories attached. Use or store such items, at least at first, to minimize the feeling of loss. Bringing small yet important personal items such as photo albums, family quilts, and small knick-knacks helps a new place feel more familiar, especially for those residents with memory impairments.
- Build A Strong Team
A good skilled nursing facility has a lot of support available for both you and your senior. Talk to staff about any concerns that you and/or your parent may have. Address any potential issues before move-in day so that a plan can be created to handle situations that are likely to arrive. Keep open communication with employees at the facility during those first few weeks and months and advocate for your parent. There are many residents, and it is impossible for even the most experienced staff members to see and anticipate every need.
- Have Realistic Expectations
Every long-term care facility has rules, regulations, and guidelines that must be followed by residents, guests, and staff. Make sure that you and your parent are familiar with these and know what to expect and who to contact with any issues. Involve your senior in the process and allow them to ask any questions, either directly or through you. Write down any confusing rules if necessary as a reminder.
- Plan Your Visits
If your senior is used to living with or near other family members, the adjustment to a long-term facility can be difficult. Follow staff recommendations regarding the frequency of visits and communicate your plans to your parent. Show up when you say you will, but resist any of their efforts to manipulate you into daily visits. It is necessary to allow time for them to settle into their routine, so strike a good balance that allows for connection and independence.
- Trust Your Instincts
Second-guessing yourself is normal, especially if your parent is pressuring you to consider other options. Remember that you did not enter into this decision lightly. You did ample research and weighed out all the relevant factors. You made the right choice, and the skilled nursing facility is equipped to handle your parent’s needs better than you are. Trust in them and yourself.
- Be Patient!
Any new situation takes time to adjust to. Give yourself and your parent time to learn what the new normal looks like. The average senior takes 3 to 6 months to adapt to their new setting, though actual timing varies by individual. Things will keep getting better, so focus on the positives and provide as much support as you feel comfortable with.
Princeton Health Care Center welcomes questions and concerns from potential residents and their family members. Contact us today to learn more about our services.