Together, you’ve chosen an assisted living facility as the right place for Mom or Dad. They’re all moved in: Clothes are in closets, toiletries are in the bathroom, the bed is made. Great!
How can you help your parents not just live in the room, but feel at home?
The easiest way? Put them in your shoes.
1. Remember the First Time You Moved Away from Home?
Maybe it was your first apartment, your first dorm room. It was a good move.
But you also had to adjust. You were glad for your parents’ support—and glad when they knew you had to do some things on your own.
Today—It’s your parents’ turn to step out.
So, what are some things you all learned when you spread your wings? And how can those lessons help Mom and Dad do the same?
Such a simple phrase, you’ve doubtless heard it since kindergarten.
And yet friendship can make such a difference. People need people. We are made to be social creatures, and your parents probably spent many hours wanting you to have good friends wherever you were going.
So Mom and Dad need the same. If you want your parents to feel at home, the quicker they start meeting other residents, the better. Watching a thirty-minute Jeopardy by themselves now and then won’t hurt them, but why not encourage them to find someone else who also likes Jeopardy. And watch it together.
If you moved out to college, the first thing they told you during orientation was probably all the clubs and activities you could join. Why?
Because when you’re connected, you feel like you belong.
And if you belong, you feel at home.
Every assisted living facility should list activities they’re offering for the week. Look over the possibilities with Mom and Dad and see what they’d like to try.
Whether it’s something your parents have loved for decades or something brand new, this is a great time for them to enjoy fun events with their new friends.
Now, this is not necessarily a call to join yoga, although if that’s what your parents want to do, that’s great.
But moving to a new place with new housemates is bound to have new situations and opinions and preferences. Not to mention new routines.
That doesn’t mean Mom and Dad have to give up everything they’re used to. If there’s something that would make them more comfortable, talk to the staff.
However, if they accept that there will be changes—and are willing to try new things—it will make the transition so much easier.
Don’t Be Shy about Asking
Moving into a new place always brings questions. Where do I get mail? What if something breaks? Who do I call for help?
Nurses and assistants work hard to anticipate what your parents need to know.
But they can’t read minds.
If Mom or Dad have questions, encourage them to ask. If they don’t understand something…or need something…or wish something, that’s why the staff is there. Let them help.
They’re called “caregivers” for a reason.
2. Switching Places with Your Parents
Years ago, while you moved out, met new friends, got involved, worked to be flexible, and asked questions,… What was your parents’ role?
They learned to support you while cutting the apron strings.
So what does that look like today? For you with Mom or Dad moving?
Remember Why They Moved
Make a list of reasons why you chose that assisted living facility as the best choice for your parents. Maybe physical help, maybe memory care, maybe because your parents needed a social outlet.
Whatever the reason, you didn’t jump into this decision lightly. You weighed all the options, and this stood out as the best.
So if guilt tries to set in about your placing them in assisted living, read over your list. Remind yourself why you did it.
And celebrate that Mom and Dad are in a place that will serve their needs.
Make Their Walls Their Own
Moving into your first apartment, what made it different from everyone else’s? Your own special stuff. Those photos, albums, and unique tchotchkes that tell your life story.
Mom and Dad want the same thing. So bring their favorite quilt, books, knick-knacks, music…
The staff works hard to make the place comfortable, but nothing beats those personal items that make it home.
Visit Mom and Dad AND Their Friends
When your parents came to visit you in your new place, they wanted to see where you lived. Who you hung out with. Who was important to you.
Return the favor.
Taking Mom and Dad out for a meal here or there is great. But, sometimes, eat in their dining room. Invite their friends to sit with you. Or take their friends with you to Chili’s.
Why? You learn a lot about someone when you watch them interact with friends. And if there’s no one your parents want to hang out with, that tells you something, too.
You live too far away to visit? Care packages are great. And, of course, phone calls.
But also, keep in touch with the staff.
- Ask us how your parents are doing.
- And tell us about hobbies that Mom and Dad spent years enjoying, even if they can’t do them anymore. It gives our caregivers something to talk about with them. And if your parents suffer from Alzheimer’s, that connection could be the difference between a confusing day and one rich with memories.
Don’t be a Helicopter
(This is that apron strings part.)
Visiting your parents is good, but also give them time in their new home without you. They need space to meet other residents and find activities they enjoy.
And let them do as much as they can for themselves.
- If Mom’s able, encourage her to talk to the staff when she needs something rather than your running to the front desk to ask.
- And if Dad’s had a stroke and struggles to come up with a word, don’t fill it in for him. He can learn to talk with his new friends even when you aren’t around if you let his brain create new pathways to figure out the word himself. Then next time, the word will come much faster!
3. Use The Staff Team in the Transition
As your parents are getting involved and making friends, and you’re learning how to best support them, the staff can help you all through the process.
You’ve already decided it’s a good facility. So, chances are, they’ve helped others make this transition many times before.
Keep communicating, keep asking questions, and don’t be afraid to express both concerns and delight.
Yes, moving into a new place might take a little getting used to, but if you all work together, that new assisted living facility can feel like home for Mom and Dad in no time at all.
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.