Moving from your family home into an aged care facility can be a challenging time for everyone involved – particularly if the move isn’t entirely voluntary, but is rather based on a health concern or crisis. (For more about why you should start aged care planning early, click here.) For many older people, leaving their home and familiar surroundings, accepting help from strangers or being seen as anything short of capable can be difficult. However, there are a few strategies you can use to help make the transition smoother and less unnerving.
Have a tour of the facility before you move in
To help you get familiar with your new surroundings, book a tour of your new aged care home before you move in. Meet the staff, meet other residents and get a feel for the place. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you know where everything is located before you move in. Also have a look at some of the activities and events on offer, so you can start planning which ones you might like to do after you’ve become a resident. This is your first step towards easing the transition.
Make your surroundings familiar
Although your new room is not the same of your old home, you can make your surroundings as familiar and secure as possible. You might be able to bring some of your own furniture to help your surroundings feel familiar and you can make the décor of your room reflect your old home. You can arrange your knick-knacks and precious objects however you like and use them to give a sense of personality and familiarity to your room. If you used to keep your mother’s favourite vase next to the TV, put it there in your new room; and hang your favourite picture over the bed. Having your familiar things around you will help you adjust to the move easier.
Think laterally too – you may have had a lovely garden that meant a lot to you in your old home. While you can’t take your garden with you, you can take cuttings of your favourite plants and grow them in a pot in your room, or even in the gardens of the aged care facility. Not only will you be bringing a living part of your old home with you, you’ll be leaving your own touch and a lovely legacy on the gardens at your new home too.
To read more about the importance of gardens in aged care facilities, click here.
Get involved in social activities
The best way to settle in quickly is to get involved and join in with some of the social and leisure activities that the facility will organise. This will give you new interests to focus on, and help you break the ice and make new friends quickly. Each residential aged care home will offer a range of activities, services and events, and you’re free to participate as much or as little as you wish. Some may be familiar, some may be completely new, but either way, these activities are designed to help you enjoy your new life.
Encourage friends and family to visit as normal
Having regular visits from family and friends will help you settle in, and if your health permits, you can make visits to see them. Perhaps you used to have your neighbour over for coffee every Tuesday morning – you can keep that visit happening, even though you might have to travel a little further to meet up. You could arrange to alternately visit each other’s homes now, but the essence of the visit – the catch up with your friend – need not change. You might enjoy showing friends and family around your new home too and introducing them to your new friends.
Keep up with your normal activities
As far as is possible, keep to the same schedule of activities or hobbies that you previously did. While this may not be entirely possible if your health is not great, there are no doubt plenty of things you used to do that you can still do. If, for instance, you were part of a quilting club previously, see if you can continue to attend that club. If that’s not possible, try and keep up with your quilting anyway, as there is comfort and stability in familiar tasks. You might even be able to start a new quilting group with a few likeminded residents in your new home. If there were TV shows that you previously enjoyed watching, make sure you keep watching them. If you got new library books from the library every week, keep doing that. The more familiar you can keep your routine, the easier the transition will be.
Living in an aged care home does not need to curtail your independence or your activities (as long as your health allows). Just like living in your own home, you can come and go when you please, go shopping, visit friends or family, play sport or do your hobbies. Moving to an aged care facility might not actually change your life as much as you think.
See your usual doctor/dentist/health care professional
While many aged care facilities have usual healthcare providers, you’re free to see your own doctor, dentist or health care professional when you need to. If you’ve built a good relationship with your health care providers, it makes sense to stick with them. Residential staff can help you make appointments and arrange transport if necessary.
Change is hard for many people, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Staff are there to give you the support you need, so talk to them about how you are feeling. While it may take a little while to adjust to your new surroundings and way of life, you can use these strategies to keep the connection to your old life as strong as possible, and make the transition to your new life easier.