Moving to a new home when we’re in our 20s or 30s might not be a big deal. There might be a new job or a new relationship that has prompted the move, which can make the changes seem exciting, like an adventure.
For older adults, who may have lived in the same home for decades — and especially those who are experiencing memory issues associated with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia — moving to a new home in a senior living community can be more challenging. But with the right kind of support, it can be a positive transition.
At Avenir Senior Living, we’ve been helping older adults and their families adjust to the carefree lifestyle in our senior living communities for decades. While each resident’s circumstances are unique, we’ve found several steps that you may find useful when helping your family member settle into their new home.
Naturally, seniors who are moving into an independent living community will be able to participate more fully in the various phases of the move than those who will be in memory care. Nevertheless, the following suggestions can be helpful in nearly any transition.
1. Make the new place feel like home.
Even if you’re limited in what you can do, it’s important that your loved one feels comfortable in their new surroundings. Display framed photos and cherished keepsakes to provide a sense of comfort. If possible, bring some furnishings from their previous home, such as a favorite quilt, artwork, or a lamp they like, to make their new home seem more familiar.
It helps to have the new space set up before moving day, if that’s an option. Having family members and friends help can make the process more fun.
On the day of the move, plan for a family member or friend to stay and have a meal with your loved one. This can go a long way toward making their initial experience in the new community a positive one.
2. Plan for friends and family to visit frequently.
One of the biggest concerns many older adults have about moving into a senior living community is that they’ll lose contact with the people they care about most.
The truth is that virtually all communities encourage residents’ friends and family to visit. Many communities even have a private banquet room in their dining area that families can use for special occasions, like birthday celebrations.
Residents in independent living and assisted living communities are always free to visit with friends and family outside of the community, as well. So are residents in memory care, as long as someone is responsible for overseeing them while they’re away.
If your loved one is worried about having to give up the relationships and activities they currently enjoy, assure them that won’t happen. In fact, the staff in the new community may encourage them to maintain as much of their usual routine as possible — especially at first.
Gradually, your loved one may even find their social circle expanding. For many older adults, the opportunity to develop new interests and friendships is a compelling reason to move into a senior living community.
3. Take advantage of the services and amenities.
Senior living amenities and activities are a key part of the engaging lifestyle that helps older adults thrive, whether they’re in independent living, assisted living or memory care. Amenities such as the salons and gourmet-inspired cuisine prepared by chefs in our communities are there to make life more convenient.
Initially, it may be helpful for your loved one to maintain as much of their usual routine as possible. Having a semblance of continuity can be comforting, particularly for those who have dementia.
Eventually, though, if your family member is in an independent or assisted living setting, you may want to encourage them to explore the senior living amenities that come with their new home. In all likelihood, there will also be a social calendar filled with classes, group outings, entertainment events, and year-round indoor activities for seniors that can make life more interesting and enjoyable.
If your family member is in memory care, the staff will introduce new activities based on his or her specific status and needs. Many of these activities are designed specifically to stimulate the brain and encourage them to engage and participate. A lot of memory care communities offer safe, secure spaces where residents can go outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.
4. Realize that it takes time to adjust.
Getting used to new surroundings, people, and routines can be a challenge at any age. As most of us can attest, it becomes more challenging as we get older. For those who have dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, it can even more difficult.
It might take your loved one at least a few weeks to learn their way around the community. They may not feel ready to venture into new activities or start forming new friendships right off the bat. Even after several months, they might still get a little disoriented.
All of that is perfectly normal. It’s a big change. Try to be patient and know that in time your loved one will adapt to their new home. In fact, if all goes well, they could very well be much happier — and that brings us to our last and most important recommendation.
5. If possible, take the time to find the right community.
This underpins everything else we’ve suggested.
If your loved one moves into a community that isn’t the right fit, then adapting to their new home will be far more challenging. They may not even try to participate in activities or meet their neighbors.
How do you find the right fit?
If circumstances permit, visit several communities to compare them. If you like what you see, visit more than once.
Many senior living communities have events specifically for potential new residents and their families. Usually, all these events require is an hour or two of your time. Choose a few at different communities and go. Spend some time with the staff and talk with a few residents if the opportunity arises.
Be sure to ask questions. If you’ve gone to a community’s website for information and couldn’t find it there, jot down notes to take with you when you visit the community in person. The sales staff is there to answer your questions about everything from entrance fees and other costs to amenities and activities the community offers.
Doing this level of legwork takes time, which is why it’s always a good idea to start researching senior living communities well ahead of when you think the move might need to happen. Life can change unexpectedly and quickly. This is not the sort of decision you want to make in a hurry.
Ready to take a look at our senior living communities?
We’re here to answer questions you may have about the amenities, types of care and activities for seniors you can expect to find at Avenir Senior Living communities. We’re just as eager as you are to make sure the community you choose is right for you, your family, and your loved one.