Transitioning to senior living is a major decision, and seniors may make the move for a variety of reasons. Some make the decision themselves when they recognize specific physical or cognitive concerns that affect their day to day life, and others are encouraged by family members who are concerned about their loved ones well-being. No matter what the reason, there are certain steps that can be taken to make the transition as easy and smooth as possible.
One of the most important steps in acclimating to a new location is to explore it thoroughly and often, to build up familiarity. Make sure to get a comprehensive tour of the grounds the day of the move, and try to gather key information about each location such as operating hours and events that take place. If possible, get a hard copy of this information to keep in the room.
Although it is probably not possible to meet everyone that first day, encourage your loved one to get to know their next door neighbors or tablemates. Also, encourage them to attend daily activities and get to know the people there. Even one or two familiar faces lessens the stress of a new place.
One of the most difficult challenges is getting used to a new schedule. Most seniors are used to their own schedule that they have kept for many years, and they often do not like change. The new community will have certain meal times and a schedule of activities. A good way to help is to set alarms or provide a schedule to hang up in the room. If it seems that your loved one is having a particularly hard time adjusting, or is resisting the change, stop by personally when possible to encourage them to make it out for the meal or activity. Help them see the positive side of all the changes; for example, they no longer have to cook and clean up after a meal anymore!
Finally, make sure that you stay in touch with your loved one post-move. One of the biggest concerns among seniors is that the transition to retirement living will result in less communication between friends and loved ones. They fear that they will be forgotten and isolated. Give them a call, send a card, and encourage their friends to do the same. New technology makes it even easier to stay in touch. Teach them about video chat, and employ that as a way for them to really see what is going on and how the grandkids are growing. Set up an email account so that they can quickly communicate back and forth.
Moving can be hard, and moving to a retirement community proves an even bigger change. Employing these techniques can help the transition go much smoother.