Transitioning to Senior Living

How to Help During the Transition to Senior Living

Relocating to a new home can be an emotional process. Leaving behind a house that has been the backdrop for years of memories will inevitably evoke a range of emotions. There is also the logistical stress of listing the home on the market, decluttering and downsizing, and packing.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make your family member’s transition as smooth as possible.

4 Ways to Help Ease the Transition to Senior Living

1. Find the right fit.

It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to help your family member settle into a senior living community is to pick the right one. Finding a community that suits their needs can be challenging, and what may appeal to you may not appeal to them. Because of this, it is important to let your family member drive the search. You can provide suggestions, but ultimately this is their decision.

2. Recognize the challenges of relocation.

Moving is stressful for people of any age, but especially for older adults. There is even a name for it — relocation stress syndrome. Symptoms of relocation stress syndrome include anxiety, confusion, hopelessness and loneliness. Older adults and their families can reduce the stress of moving by watching for signs of relocation stress syndrome and by working as a team to make the move go as smoothly as possible.

Give your family member space and time to voice their concerns about relocating and avoid minimizing or dismissing their apprehensions. Help them find resolutions to their concerns and engage in stress-relieving activities together.

3. Organize the move.

As soon as your family member has selected the senior living community that best meets their needs, you can start planning the move. It is important to start early. After all, downsizing an entire home can be quite challenging. We suggest following the timeline below for the best results.

6 to 8 weeks before the move: receive estimates from moving companies and assign tasks to family members you recruited to help out. Start clearing out the storage areas in your family member’s home and work with them to decide what they will bring, what can be donated and what will go to family or friends. If possible, obtain a floor plan of the new residence to determine what furniture to bring.

3 to 5 weeks before the move: purchase packing supplies like boxes, bubble wrap and tape and start packing lesser-used items like knick-knacks, wall art and framed pictures. Submit a change of address form through your local post office and start transferring magazine or newspaper subscriptions. Make sure you have set your moving date and reserved your moving company or rental truck.

1 to 2 weeks before the move: have a garage sale if your family member plans on selling some of their belongings. Otherwise, donate them to charity or family. Schedule disconnection of utilities for the day after your family member vacates their home and transfer their bank accounts and prescriptions if necessary. Pack an “unload first” box with items like paper products, toiletries, snacks, bedding and a change of clothing so your family member can enjoy a comfortable first night.

Day of the move: make sure all boxes are labeled correctly to make it easier on the movers; consider color-coding boxes by room. Do a final run-through of your family member’s current home to ensure nothing gets left behind. Double-check all drawers, cabinets and closets.

4. Help them settle in.

The move is all over with. Now what? First and foremost, it is important to make sure your family member feels comfortable in their new space. This might mean taking a few days off work to help unpack and decorate. If furniture from their old home wouldn’t fit in the new space, consider taking them shopping for new home furnishings like:

  • Sofa and chairs
  • End tables/nightstands
  • Bedding and pillows
  • Kitchen table and chairs
  • Kitchenware like dishes, glasses and cutlery
  • Television and stereo
  • Linens like comforter, quilt, throw pillows and towels
  • Table and floor lamps
  • Special keepsakes and knick-knacks
  • Framed photos and artwork

In the months following your family member’s move, you may feel compelled to visit multiple times per week or even call many times per day. Though it is important to ensure they feel supported, it is also important to give them space to settle in and develop new connections. Consider limiting visits to once a week and calls to once a day. You could also drop off flowers or baked goods on special occasions. These small gestures show that they are still on your mind, no matter the recent life changes.

If, when you do visit, you notice your family member is having trouble acclimating, encourage them to take advantage of opportunities to meet new people. Rather than eating dinner in their apartment, for instance, they could join a neighbor for drinks and a movie. They could also sign up to volunteer, attend group exercise classes or join a club.

In Summary

While moving to a senior living community can be stressful, it can also be exciting. Moving to a new location presents opportunities to meet new people, see new sites and enjoy a range of services and amenities. During this stressful time, help your family member focus on these positive attributes. Downsizing a home can be a challenge, but the benefits of a senior living community far outweigh the stress of moving day.