Adjusting to an assisted care facility
Besides removing car keys from elderly parents, moving them to an assisted care facility signifies the final loss of their independence in large part. Demoralizing as that is, adjusting to new living arrangements and a new environment raises more challenges for both the parents and their caregivers.
Yet, with careful planning, say the experts, adjusting to living in an assisted care facility need not be as stressful as some might imagine.
"Doing one's homework prior to placement will help the care receiver adjust to the new living arrangement," said Phyllis Balliett, caregiver community resource manager with the Senior Friendship Centers. "Caregivers need to visit a variety of assisted living facilities (ALFs) to determine which one is going to be the best fit."
Senior Friendship Centers has locations and resources in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties. One of those resources, Balliett said, is a checklist of categories a caregiver or children can review to aid in determining which facility is the best fit for the elderly parent. In addition, caregivers can find information about licensed facilities in Florida at www.fdhc.state.fl.us.
Balliett added that it's important to speak with the admissions director of facilities under consideration for your parent, and get their recommendations on how to make the transition easier.
"They are the experts and want this transition to go smoothly," she said.
Balliett cautioned that once the move has been made, the parent may have "some complaints" as they adjust to their new home. To ease that transition, she offers the following tips:
•Emphasize the positives, and encourage the person to try new things.
•Have some of the personal items in the room.
•Don't visit every day, as this will let them develop social connections and comfort to adjust to the surrounding.
•Talk to the staff to see how your loved one is adjusting.
Which all lead to probably the most crucial aspect in the adjustment to living in any type of facility -- socialization.
"Socialization is very important in helping to make the transition smoother," Balliett said. "That's why it's important to find out what activities an ALF has to foster socialization. How would we respond if we were placed in a room and had no interaction with people on a regular basis? We would probably become depressed. Speak with the staff responsible for facilitating the activities program and share the interests of your loved one."
In addition to the tips offered by Balliett, the website helpguide.org suggests that you pack well in advance of the move and know what to expect to ease the transition into an assisted care facility.
"Everyone adjusts to change differently, so give yourself a break, no matter what you're feeling," notes the website. "However, if you feel like you're taking longer than you think you should to adjust, it may help to talk to your family members, the director of the facility, or a trusted friend."
Finally, Balliett adds, that the caregiver must consider themselves as well.
"It's not just the care receiver who is adjusting in this situation," she said. "The caregiver will also probably have some difficulty adjusting to these changes."
Her last and most important piece of advice for the caregiver or children: Don't feel guilty.
For more information, visit www.friendshipcenters.org or call 866-955-2122.