You’ve worked hard to get here. To start with, it wasn’t easy convincing them to leave their house, even though it was clear they weren’t safe living there anymore. Then there were all the arrangements to look after like fixing up the house, selling it, and booking movers. Helping your parent decide what things to bring to the new place and which to let go of wasn’t a picnic either.
Now the movers have arrived. And as you stand in your parent’s living room, the place is beginning to look so… empty, a shell of itself. Emotions can suddenly catch up with you.
It hits you that once your parent leaves this house today, they’ll be closing the door on a big part of their life – and likely yours too. This place – where you may have been raised, that holds so many family memories – will cease to be their home. The thought of some other family taking possession of it suddenly seems strange now that it’s about to happen.
If you’re feeling this way, you can only imagine how your parent is feeling. Maybe you’re ambushed by a moment’s guilt, but you remind yourself that this move is for the best.
Acknowledging the emotions of a move to assisted living
It’s tempting to suppress these types of emotions when they bubble up, to focus on the task at hand and make sure your parent is well and truly settled in their new home before the day is done. However, the fact is that this move represents a huge change in their life. And with that change will come a sense of loss and, yes, even grief.
It’s important to acknowledge this.
That doesn’t mean that moving to an assisted living community was the wrong decision to make, but it would be a mistake to assume that the adjustment will be simple for them.
What can you do to get through today to strike the right balance of sounding upbeat about the move and respecting your parent’s feelings?
Remember, moving is hard. If your parent expresses second thoughts or sadness, don’t try to convince them they shouldn’t feel that way. If you do that, it tells them it’s not okay to be open with you. Instead, acknowledge their feelings. Say something like “I can see how you’d feel that way.” Maybe admit to feeling something similar, if that’s the case. That may be enough. Don’t jump to defending the move.
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Helping them feel at home in their new surroundings
There are a few things you can do to make their new place feel like home:
Bring familiar items from their old place
This could be their favorite blanket, family photos, or a piece of furniture that they love. These items can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity. Try to personalize their new space by adding a splash of color or displaying things that reveal their interests in life.
Use comfort food
Arrange for favorite and familiar foods for your parent’s first few meals in their new home. You’ll need to talk to the chef and kitchen staff to find out whether they can accommodate your request.
Assisted living communities have a wide range of activities that will give your parent a chance to make social connections, but try not to push too hard. There’s bound to be an adjustment period. The first weeks in assisted living can feel a bit like being a new kid in school. It may take a while for your parent to find their crowd.
Your parent may be worried that now they’re in assisted living and their needs are looked after, there will be less reason for you to visit. Dropping in to see them regularly will reassure them. And because you no longer have to focus so much of your energy looking after them, you can return to simply being their son or daughter. If you’re not able to visit as often as you’d like, consider setting up video calls or sending letters and care packages to show that you’re thinking of them.
Remember that it gets easier when they move to assisted living
Eventually, your parent will adjust to their new surroundings. They may even come to love it there. After all, it may be a lot more interesting and engaging than where they were before, given the attention they get from staff, the chance to get to know other residents and the daily slate of activities.
For more helpful tips about assisted living, check out our free ebook, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Assisted Living.