How to Help Residents Adjust to Life in a Senior Living Home
Life in a senior living home is often a tough adjustment for families and residents.
It’s a tough topic. Most people aren’t sure when they should begin to explore a senior living home as an option for their loved one. Assisted living and senior care facilities are often viewed with a certain stigma and fear. It’s important that facility owners and staff members learn to guide the family with empathy and care as they help their loved ones adjust to life in a senior living home. It’s possible to help residents, and their families, view this life change as an opportunity and a new beginning. Care facility staff members and owners can take steps to ease the transition for all involved.
As the owner of a senior living home, there is a lot on your plate. You’re in charge of the health and care of your residents. You’re managing staff, maintaining a facility, and keeping a watchful eye on operations. But one of the most important moments during the care of your residents is when they move into your facility. Easing their transition during that time should be one of your top priorities.
When residents move into a senior living home, they may have recently experienced a health event that has limited their independence. They may be struggling with the day-to-day aspects of aging. They may also experience the emotional effects of undergoing a major life change. In fact, when a senior citizen moves into an assisted living or care center, their life expectancy is reduced by 50-75%. This is in large part due to the stress of the transition.
Fortunately, there are many ways that facility and care center owners can help ease the change and make the move positive for both the senior and their family. One of the best steps you can take is to spend some time putting yourself in the shoes of the family members. What are they looking for in a senior living home? Ask yourself what questions they need answered, what concerns they may have, and how you can address and allay their fears.
Many of the concerns surround the amenities, change in routine, and understanding the intake process. Take time to explain the logistics, such as food plans, visiting hours, and activities that make impact a resident’s experience at a senior living home. As you explain these aspects of the facility to the senior and their family members, offer them some tips to help them ease their transition as well. Here are a few tips that will help all involved experience a healthy transition.
Tips for a Healthy Transition into a Senior Living Home
1. Focus on Wellness
Often when families make the choice to move their loved one to a senior living home, there are concerns for his or her health and safety. The senior may have recently undergone a health event, or they may simply be struggling with the aspects of living independently.
Family members often select senior care facilities based on the proximity to their homes as well as services such as doctors and healthcare providers. That said, in some areas, there is currently a shortage of senior living options, so location isn’t everything. There are often other factors they consider as well, such as the health and wellness considerations of the facility.
Does your facility offer plenty of opportunities for residents to enjoy the outside? There are proven benefits from outdoor access for seniors. Facilities that provide a courtyard, a well-maintained exterior, and plenty of sunny windows are often appealing. Time outdoors also helps seniors feel independent and energized. From stronger bones to better sleep and happier moods, extra vitamin D for elders (in moderation) works wonders for both their physical and mental health states.
2. Personalize Living Space
The moment an older person moves out of their house and into a senior living home, they’re facing many new experiences. These new situations can be intimidating and frightening for them. One simple way to ease their transition is to encourage families to personalize the resident’s space.
For health and safety considerations, certain items may be limited. Rugs and some furniture can cause tripping hazards. Electronic appliances can be safety concerns. But decorative items like personal photos, books, and artwork bring comfort to their space and help their new spot feel like home.
Facility owners and directors can assist with personalization in many ways. Something as simple as providing small bookshelves, bulletin boards, or allowing residents to hang personal belongings in their room can make a huge difference. Walls adorned with handmade gifts from grandkids will help the senior feel cared for and connected to the world around them.
Similarly, encourage residents to continue to pursue their interests once they move to your senior living home. Modern senior healthcare caters to the interests and wellness of the whole individual, including their mental and emotional wellbeing. Musical instruments, pet visitation programs, lending libraries, and art classes give residents an opportunity to continue the pursuits they love and incorporate them into their new life.
3. Encourage Independence
Seniors may initially feel restricted or overwhelmed by the assistance at a senior living facility. This is especially true if they’ve previously lived independently and can no longer come and go as they please. Often, they may have experienced a major health crisis or the early stages of cognitive decline, so they’re also feeling trapped by their own mind and body.
It’s important that residents are encouraged to make independent choices whenever possible. This may be as simple as deciding to eat certain foods or engage in activities they enjoy. The freedom to organize their new living area the way they’d like, to choose their own bedding or the way their furniture is organized allows seniors to feel in control of their own life.
Seek opportunities for residents to get involved with the community as well. Senior visitation programs with local schools provide the seniors with an opportunity to give back by sharing their knowledge and wisdom with younger generations.
Talent shows, classes, game, and movie nights are enjoyable chances for the residents to form friendships and meet their neighbors in their senior living home. Provide plenty of options for them to choose from, especially as they’re building new social connections. As the relationships form, it reinforces their sense of autonomy. Outings and excursions will give residents a sense of adventure and independence that helps combat the blues they may feel during this life change.
4. Schedule Activities
When people move into a senior living home they may focus on their lives changing they forget to actually LIVE! Staying busy is the best way to promote a happy lifestyle in a new senior living home. Zumba, gardening, book clubs, cooking, yoga, and even computers and social media are great examples of the amazing activities offered at senior living homes today. These enrichment activities keep seniors living vibrant, full lives.
As seniors get older, many of them have lost friends, neighbors, and even their partners. This loss can lead to isolation and loneliness—one of the biggest dangers to seniors’ health. The Elder Care Alliance found that the key to healthy aging is socialization and friendship. When seniors connect with others, the health benefits are huge; from improving memory to reducing stress levels. Moreover, engaging in physical activities particularly helps prevent memory loss and cognitive decline.
Offer plenty of information and encourage new senior residents to explore the activities your facility offers both on-site and in the community. Help new residents establish a regular routine by offering ongoing classes and regularly scheduled programming. This could also include access to services such as a beauty salon, manicurist, massage therapist, and holistic activities.
The move to a senior living home doesn’t need to be sad or stressful. It can be a chance for seniors to make a move toward health, socialization, and a safe, full life. As the owner of a senior living facility, it’s your job to reassure families and provide their loved ones with plenty of opportunities for enrichment and self-care. Help seniors’ transition to a newer and brighter living situation, where they can settle in for years to come.