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If your loved one cannot quite handle day to day tasks on her own anymore, but does not require the constant supervision and skilled care offered by a nursing home, an assisted living facility can help meet her needs. Here she will get the help she needs with daily living, yet, she can maintain a degree of independence. Transitioning to this living arrangement can be hard on both of you, but adopting certain strategies can make this difficult time flow a bit more smoothly.
Find out all you can about the facility and make sure any questions your loved one has are answered to her satisfaction. The more she knows about the place, the less anxiety she may feel about going there. Pack well in advance to avoid rushing and stress over what to take and what to discard.
Your loved one may have difficulty accepting that she can no longer care for herself completely; leaving her home may be very upsetting. These issues can produce feelings of grief and loss. It can be tempting to try and dismiss these feelings and pump up the positive aspects of moving to the facility. While pointing out the positives is certainly a good idea, it is important to acknowledge these negative feelings and allow them to be expressed, not continuously squashed . Try to be empathetic and understanding of these completely understandable and normal feelings.
Whether your loved one is moving into a full-on apartment or just a single room within the facility, it is important that this space be made to feel like home as best it can. Talk with him about what special items he may want to bring to the facility. When helping with the decorating, be mindful of not taking over—it is his space after all, and he should have the most say in how it is arranged.
While it is great to come to the facility and spend time with your loved one, it is important to keep some distance and not hold her hand through the entire process. If your loved one spends too much time with you and other family members during this crucial transition time—which can last up to three months—they will find it that much harder to adjust. This might hinder their independence and keep them from making the effort to meet new people and get involved in the community. It is natural that you may have strong feelings of guilt that you hope to assuage by visiting often, but remember that this move was the best thing and these frequent visits may do more harm than good in the long run.
The staff can play an integral role in smoothing the transition to assisted living and you should utilize them. If you think that there is anything that the staff can (within reason of course) to ease your loved one into this new way of living, reach out to them. Inform them of personal preferences and their typical daily routine. Devise ways to keep up self-esteem and sense of self. The staff may be able to help activate different aspects of his identity in this new environment—for example, if he loves gardening, perhaps the staff can ask him to get involved with maintaining the community garden.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has blogged about various issues related to elder care; if you are in need of a facility in the Will or Kendall county areas of Illinois, she recommends learning more about this Joliet assisted living community.
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