Helping a Parent Adjust and Prepare to Move to a Nursing Home or an Assisted Living Facility

April 1, 2021

Moving a parent to a Nursing Home or Assisted Living community is a transition like no other. Many family caregivers avoid even thinking about such a move. The hope is that parents can live an entire life either in their own home or with family. The mere thought of approaching a parent and discussing “future” living options can be extremely stressful. Caregivers experience guilt, anxiety, and fear. These emotions can be exacerbated by family members who are sharing their own internal conflicts.

This article will help you relax, think straight, and realize that what you, your parent, and your family are experiencing is just everyday life. The reality is that many aging adults can thrive and enjoy newfound independence. They will make new friends and engage in fun therapeutic senior activities. Sometimes it just takes a little time. Any change or transition causes some stress. It’s normal. Letting go of fear helps an individual approach challenges positively and constructively. This attitude is reinforcing to your aging parent. Don’t avoid having “the talk.” Discussing senior living options earlier with a calm and positive approach helps avoid stressful searching and long waiting lists. Be prepared. A sudden unexpected illness or accident might require immediate changes. It’s much better to be aware of options for whatever needs will arise.

Start Learning

Some steps can be taken ahead of time to help ease this transition.

Spend some time researching senior living communities, including the various living options they provide. Ensure you know the fundamental differences between independent living, assisted living, and long-term nursing homes. Discuss these with your parent’s physician and, most importantly, with your parent. He or she should be involved in the entire process. If your parent is experiencing any memory loss or other neurocognitive disorder, memory care will be a top priority. Find out about Memory Care support strategies, treatments, and healthy aging environments. Ask questions and become informed. To your parent, all these actions support your continued role as his or her caregiver and advocate.

Learn about diet options (like diabetic diet plans), medical care, safety, and security. Consider facilities that offer complete continuums of care – like physical therapy, on-site clinics and hospitals, diagnostic tests, and more. If they do not, make sure you understand the process of medical assistance, emergency care and that your parent is aware and comfortable with the plan.

Communicate with Empathy

Understand that your parent will likely experience some fear and trepidation. This is normal. Remind your parent that it won’t last. Talk about plans, like weekly visits or ensuring there is plenty of room for the family and grandchildren. Discuss how you will often connect with a tablet or iPad for seniors for frequent face time. Make sure your parent has an opportunity to communicate any likes or dislikes.

During the most challenging moments, try walking in your parent’s shoes. Understand the potential feelings of loss. Your parent could be mourning independence, losing a sense of purpose, or even being a burden. Empathize with these feelings and try your best to turn the negative into positive. Remind them of the benefits of this lifestyle change but try not to downplay their emotions. They are genuine.

Make Visiting Facilities Together an Adventure

Remember how your parent treated your college campus visits? It was a big, exciting, and sometimes scary adventure. There was laughter, and there were tears. Good visits and disappointing ones. You did it together, and it is likely a very fond memory. Take your parent to as many facilities as you can. Make available choices together. Generate some excitement around experiences that you know your parent will be interested in. Be honest with yourself and your parent.

Prepare for an Adjustment Period

Make sure the entire family is aware that change will be challenging. There will be an adjustment period for everyone. Build a family team that works together. Plan to take turns to communicate with staff, particularly in the first few months of a move. If you talk about the adjustment ahead of time, your parent has time to get used to the idea and be better prepared. Listen to what your parent has to say. If there are issues, communication is vital. Be available and be present. Plan your visits ahead of time.

Establish a Level of Comfort Before the Move

Once you have selected the right community, visit with your parent and other family members. Short and frequent visits will help everyone become more familiar and comfortable with the new environment. If possible, attend meals and events. Take images of their new residence and use them to personalize and plan.

Above all, relax and practice peace of mind. More than likely, your parent’s new lifestyle will be enhanced. Just give it a little bit of time.

At Miami Jewish Health, we encourage our residents and their families to tour our campus as often as needed. Our team of experts will help you and your parent choose the right living option with just the right amount of assistance and services. There is so much to see and so much to learn. Get to know us.


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