No matter who you are, moving into any type of new home is understandably daunting and emotional, not to mention a type of living you’ve never tried before. Adjusting from the full independence of a private home to an assisted living community may make this shift even more stressful for most people making this transition. Knowing what kind of place your family is looking for, what to bring, what will be provided, and the ways you can support your loved one in this move will make all the difference.
Though this process may sound daunting to your family, taking the right approach can make the outcome a positive and nurturing one. Below we will address everything you need to know about moving into senior living. Let this be a guide to get you going in the right direction and take off some of the pressure.
Choosing a Community
Before you can decide which senior community is best for your parent, you will need to determine exactly what it is that you are hoping to find. Making a list of criteria that are important to you is always helpful. Here are some suggestions that will give you an idea of the types of things you will want to pay attention to.
Do you want to buy or rent?
Some people prefer a rental situation because there is a lot of flexibility that goes with being a tenant—maintenance, lifestyle amenities, and even meals are often completely taken care of for you. Renting does, however, come with the implication of a continued cost each month, so budgeting will be important. Choosing a continuing care community usually means paying an entry fee as well as a monthly fee. Some communities give special support options to long-time residents who no longer have the available funds. Homes or condos can be purchased in senior communities or in multi-generational neighborhoods. Making this choice depends on your financial situation and the type of assisted care that your loved one requires.
What will be the total cost?
Money may or may not be an issue for you, but costs can add up quickly, and you want to make sure that all of the important things will be covered. Most assisted living communities offer the choice between all-inclusive or fee-for-service pricing. All-inclusive involves a single monthly fee that covers rent, meals, and any other services a resident chooses. Fee-for-service means the resident will pay for only the services he or she uses.
What will life be like?
Senior living communities are not what they used to be. Places like Vitality are focused on making an engaging lifestyle the number-one priority, no matter the level of care that is needed for your loved one. For seniors who are looking for a little more independence, communities plan excursions and provide opportunities for adventure. If memory care is starting to become an issue, the adventure is brought home with exciting and engaging events that are designed to stimulate the heart and mind. Be sure to carefully assess the lifestyle options available at each of the communities you visit and choose the one that is the best fit for your loved one.
Who will the neighbors be?
Generally, this new type of environment will give the option of community members sharing meals and attending social events together. It is a good idea to spend a little time becoming familiar with a place’s culture, as it will define the daily activities that are arranged. Check out the community’s event calendar and see if these activities sound appealing.
Where is the most desirable location?
When you buy a house, you often hear the old adage “location, location, location.” The same is true when considering senior living. Some location questions may be:
- Is it within close proximity to loved ones and visitors?
- Will it be more desirable if the residence is in an urban setting, the suburbs, or an area that is more rural?
- Should it be open to the community surrounding it or gated in and closed off to its neighbors?
- Is public transportation available to provide access to restaurants and theaters?
- Is it preferable to be close to the city or farther away from the noise and bustle?
All of these elements have a major effect on the comfort and convenience of the location, so it is important to know exactly what your loved one prefers.
Making the Transition
Helping your parents physically pack, unpack, and decide what to take and leave will ease a good amount of the stress that surrounds this move. They now have to create a new home. You being involved could help them give a proper farewell to the home they are leaving. When deciding what to take, remember that possessions can always be discarded later, after longer consideration. It is important to take along things that are familiar rather than buying a new carpet or wall hanging. Bringing shelving systems, books, souvenirs, and family photos will help maintain the warm and comforting feeling of home throughout the transition.
What to Pack
Though it is recommended to hang on to items that will create a familiar environment, the reality is that your loved one may be downsizing to a smaller space. This means having to identify the things that carry the most importance as well as those that are still necessary, given all of the new amenities. Think of how you can re-create the look and feel of what your parent enjoys while avoiding clutter at the same time. Take the layout of the new living space into consideration and remember to keep things as simple as you can. Here are some items that people prioritize keeping around:
- Favorite furniture (sofa, chairs, end tables, nightstand, coffee table, lamps)
- Meaningful decor (picture frames, keepsakes, artwork, clock, vase for flowers)
- Clothing for all seasons (casual and formal clothing, weather-appropriate clothing, pajamas, sweaters, jackets/coats)
Managing Medication and Lifestyle Needs
Depending on the community, medications can be handled by staff, or it may be up to the individual or a trusted caregiver or family member. The staff may also provide housekeeping and fresh linens, but this is not always the case. You will need to know exactly what amenities and elder care services are included in order to determine how involved you will have to be. Depending on the circumstances, you can also provide your family member with a paid companion who has the time and extra motivation to give him or her the best possible care.
If you need help, there are professional movers who specialize in assisting older adults move. This can relieve some of the emotional pain that comes with the packing and moving process. Keep your thoughts and conversations geared toward the future more than the past. Talking about creating a new and comfortable living space, while incorporating treasured memories, tends to help.
Every family is different. Focus on what matters the most to yours while making these decisions. If you do find yourself needing guidance, that’s perfectly normal. There are also professionals dedicated to assisting older adults and their family members with the emotions that come along with relocating. As you and your loved one move through this transition, be comforted by the fact that you are headed in a direction that will ultimately be a better situation for everyone.