A few years ago, you bought a medical alert system for your older parent or relative. Then later, you added in-home care to help her with the activities of daily living. Now, you're done with aging in place. She's moving into assisted living.
When moving day arrives, emotions might be high—but risk should be low. Let's look at everything you need to know to keep seniors safe during the move. To help with our journey, we've enlisted the help of our friend, the television.
And a one ... and a two ... and awaaaay we go!
Ask her, "How you doin’?"
Moving into assisted living is a huge change, so don't trivialize the impact. Acknowledge the emotions moving causes and don't let those feelings of helplessness, anger and sadness simmer. Talk it out, frequently.
Don't look back: "The tribe has spoken"
Make moving a collaborative process so that your loved one can be involved. After all, she is the one who's actually moving. Work with her to organize and plan the move. It's not about you doing it all or her doing it all. Do it together.
Once you've made the decision to move to assisted living, don't look back. Don't go 50 rounds once you've made the decision. This isn't an occasion to keep asking, "Is that your final answer?" Make the call and move on.
"Just the facts, ma'am"
Don't get fooled by sales talk or fancy brochures. Visit as many facilities as you can with your loved one. When you visit the facilities, examine all aspects of life. Never assume anything when you're visiting—ask questions! Most importantly, use a checklist like this one to inspect the assisted living facility so you can compare the options available.
Talking to residents is one of the best ways to learn what it's actually like to live at the facility, so don't be shy to ask them questions! After your visit, talk with your loved one about what you both liked and disliked about each facility so you can choose the one that best fits both their needs and their wants.
"Move that bus": How to get your home ready to sell
Your home may not need an extreme makeover, but now that you've chosen your ideal facility, it's time to get your house ready to sell. Go through the house, clean it up, and make those small repairs that have been put off for years. You want your house to shine for prospective buyers! Work with a real estate professional to sell the house. It's one less item that you have to manage, and you'll make sure you're getting full market value for the assets.
"Well, isn't that special?" Bring the things that matter, but not everything
Moving into an assisted living facility means your loved one has to narrow down what they want to bring with them. First, talk to the facility to learn what is and is not allowed. Then you and your loved one need to have a talk—be careful not to assume what they want to take with them.
Make sure your loved one brings her favorite belongings. You want to avoid clutter, but you also want to recreate the feeling of home in the new space. Be careful of the temptation to buy your loved one completely new furniture for their new home—many older adults prefer to keep their favorite recliner or sleep in their own bed.
Finally, double-check that you have packed the basic, day-to-day items she will need. These include medication, shampoo, toothbrush and other toiletries. Pack enough clothing to fill the closets. Include enough underwear and socks so that there is always a clean set available. Bring sweaters for air conditioning, and nice outfits for socializing events.
Choosing which items to bring can be the most difficult part of this process. Your loved one will likely need to downsize. Keep up the conversation with her so that everything she needs to be happy and feel at home is packed to bring with her.
"Grab your gear" (Or better yet, have someone else grab it)
Once you've decided what your loved one is bringing with her, it's time to get it over to the new place. Let a moving company take care of things. While they do the heavy lifting, you can go over the paperwork to update your loved one's address with the post office and necessary companies. You want her to continue getting her mail!
"Hi, everybody!" Make some new friends
It can be hard to make friends as a senior. She doesn't have to announce herself every time she enters a room at the new facility, but your mother will have to try a bit. Work with your loved one to create a friend strategy before you arrive. Encourage them to meet the neighbors. Look at all of the available activities and pick a few to try. Meeting new friends and staying busy will ease the transition and make living in the facility much more enjoyable.
You're not Mighty Mouse. Your job isn't to save the day. Just do a little planning and help her transition to assisted living. Bring your plan and do the work, and you'll be just fine. Remember, with clear eyes and a full heart, you can't lose.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is an NAHB Certified Aging In Place Expert and has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard as well as a Master's in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home. As the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company, Shayne writes about issues that matter to seniors and those that care about them.