Once you've found the right assisted living facility for yourself or a loved one, you'll want to switch gears from the search to the transition process. Moving is hard on anyone, but making this move is especially difficult, since it means giving up a measure of independence and often leaving a space that has been home for decades.
Packing: The Physical Transition
Sorting through a lifetime of belongings is a demanding task. Don't leave it for one person. If you're undertaking the move yourself, enlist your children or neighbors. If you're facilitating the move for your loved one, delegate tasks to siblings or friends. Many times others are happy to help, but don't know what to do.
Make sure you understand what and how much you can take to the assisted living facility. Does the facility supply furniture? What are the room dimensions? How big are the closets? If you're making the move from a house, you won't be able to take all your belongings with you, but avoid any quick decisions on getting rid of things. You may not realize what you'd like to have with you until you've made the move. Look into a storage space if needed -they're often quite reasonably priced.
Consider hiring a mover for the big day. Even if you have a lot of family help, a professional can reduce the stress of the day and allows you to focus on unpacking and the inevitable errands like trips to the drug store for new toothpaste. For the inveterate do-it-yourselfer, hiring someone to transport the couch and any appliances can be a back-saver.
Settling In: The Emotional Transition
Just because you're entering a new stage of life doesn't mean that you can't look back. Honor the occasion by giving yourself some time to say goodbye to the living space you're leaving. The logistics of moving can take over if you're not careful, so set aside some time before you leave to commemorate the eventinvite friends and family over for dinner (even if it's take-out), or set aside an evening to reminisce about all that's happened inside those four walls.
The transition to a new space may be eased if you recreate your former layout. Hang the same pictures across from couch that have always been there. Put the same knick-knacks on the bedside stand.
One of the best ways to adjust to an assisted living facility is to get involved. If you aren't the type of person to knock on your neighbor's door and introduce yourself, then use the activities hosted by the facility as a way to meet people. You might even ask about residents with similar interests during your initial tours.
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Your Role as Adult Child
Moving a parent into an assisted living facility is a stressor even under the best of circumstances. Recognize that your loved one will need extra support as they make the transition; plan to be in close contact for the first weeks and months. If you live out of town, try to schedule a visit not long after the move is made. You might also enlist friends or family in the area to drop in to see your loved one. If you're the family contact for the assisted living facility, you don't have to wait for them to call. Reach out in the first few weeks to get an outside opinion on how your loved one is adjusting.
Of course, this transition takes its toll on family members as well. Take care of yourself by asking for help from friends and family, making time for activities you enjoy, even seeking out a support group.