Moving into assisted living or a memory care community can be hard on both the person and their family. The good news is there is much family members can do to ease the transition. Here are eight tips that will bring more ease into the initial assisted living experience:
- Help set up the room ahead of time with favorite furniture, pillows, blankets, photos, books, things -- nothing is worse than a bare room with no pictures and no personal references for the new resident to hang on to. Put yourself in the person's shoes, and imagine what it would feel like to find yourself in this new environment all of a sudden. These familiar objects will serve as transitional objects for the person, and bring some of the home they left behind into their new environment.
- Make your loved one's personal preferences known to the staff. The more information, the better, including daily routine, present and past. For instance, if the new resident starts pacing late in the evening, it will help knowing that she was working the night shift and was used to getting ready for work at that time of the night for many years.
- Make sure he or she has an ample supply of their favorite snacks or drinks. This is especially important for persons who were born in a different country and have lived their lives in a bicultural environment. Someone from India, for instance, may feel nurtured when given Indian sweets or savory snacks from their native culture.
- Give the staff a list of your loved one's favorite music. Even better, bring CDs and a music player or an iPod pre-loaded with the person's favorite tunes. Music can help engage and build an instant rapport. It can also help calm the anxiety and agitation that often arise during the course of such a major move.
- Brainstorm with the staff and together devise a plan for maintaining your loved one's sense of self and self-esteem. This is best accomplished by figuring out what important part of the person's identity can be activated in the new environment. Was the person a gardener? Maybe she can be encouraged to help with the community garden.
- This may seem obvious, but make sure the person comes with a complete wardrobe, and enough changes of clothes. Check that the clothes are the right size, and shoes and slippers fit correctly. Choose clothes that are easy to take on and off, and yet still preserve the person's dignity. Bring their favorite toiletries. These are small things that can make a huge difference.
- Introduce predictability in your communications with the person. Get a big calendar where you can write down the times when the person can expect to communicate with you. Have your phone number written out in big letters. And if you cannot visit in person, see if you can have the staff arrange Skype sessions between the two of you.
- Leave your own guilt and anxiety at the door. Persons with memory loss tend to easily pick up on others' emotions, and the last thing they need during this time is the added baggage of their relatives and friends. If necessary, seek help and see a therapist.
Remember, each one of these eight steps can make a huge difference in how your loved one adjusts to her new living environment!
Originally posted at Presence Care Project blog.
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Talking with other people who face the same daily challenges can help caregivers manage stress. Specific types of support groups can vary on a community-by-community basis; check out this Caregiver.com guide to find the right program for you.
Caregivers have their hands full and may not have the time to meet with an in-person support group. In that case, an online support group can be a great alternative.
Support groups not your thing? You can see what other people are saying about caregiving by just checking out a simple message board, such as this one sponsored by AARP..
You may need to attend an event or simply seek a few hours for some much-needed rest. Eldercare.net offers a Search For Respite Tool or Eldercare Locator where you can find professional help. Also check out this guide from caring.com for more respite-care ideas.
Does your loved one need transportation to go buy food or go shopping? There are numerous van and shuttle services specifically for seniors. Contact your local Area Agency On Aging for one near you.
Don't have time to shop and cook? Consider a service that will deliver gourmet meals to your home, no matter where you live. For low-income seniors in need, AssistGuide Information Services offers a directory of food services available.
During the 2009 economic downturn, 1 in 5 family caregivers said their finances were so strained that they were forced to move into the same home with their aging loved ones to reduce expenses, according to a survey by caregiving.org. Some 47 percent of working caregivers indicate that an increase in caregiving expenses caused them to use up all or most of their savings. The Many Strong Support Network has a fundraising tool which allows other people to anonymously donate funds to people who are under financial strain.
If ever you have a question about resources, or need support at a moment's notice, AARP's caregiving support line is available at 1-877-333-5885, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Senior care advisors for Care.com, also provide free counseling for caregivers, and help them map out the best course of care for their loved ones.
Organized caregiver co-ops can provide an affordable way to coordinate care for your loved ones. Check with local community centers or this Adult Day Care Directory to see if someone in your area has already started one.
Care.com's Senior Care Directory can set you up with a housekeeper, errand runner, pet sitter, or whatever you need to make the caregiving experience a little more manageable.
According to author of "The Medical Day Planner", Tory Zellick, hospital social workers are a great resource for all caregivers. "[Hospital social workers] are always armed with information for your community," said Zellick.
Websites like Lotsahelpinghands have caregiving communities that connect volunteers with caregivers in need of support or help.
Family gatherings offer a great opportunity to discuss the future of loved one you care for, says Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation. The group offers a guide -- "10 Conversations To Plan For Aging With Dignity And Independence" -- to lay the groundwork for these critical discussions.
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