Making the move into aged care can be a challenging time – both for the person making the move, as well as their family members. Relocating from the family home can often be a wrench, as it can be upsetting to leave their home and familiar surroundings. As well, many older people make the move into aged care following a health concern or crisis – meaning they may be physically unable to deal with the move properly. And most don’t want to be seen as anything short of capable, and may struggle with the fact that they now need help.
However, they are many things you can do to help ensure a smooth transition from independent living to aged care. Here are a few helpful strategies you can try.
Encourage choice and decision making
As much as possible, people should have their choices and decisions heard and respected. If you have an older family member who needs to make the move into aged care, resist the temptation to make all the decisions for them. Even if they are not able to make all the decisions involved, allow them a say in some, so that they feel greater ownership of the choices. They may not have a choice about whether they move into aged care, but they could certainly make the choice of which aged care facility to move to, when to make the move, or what to do with the family home. If they are cognitively impaired, they might still be able to make smaller decisions, such as which possessions to take with them, or where to position furniture in their new room. Allowing as much choice as possible will prevent the older person feeling railroaded and resentful, and allow them to be more accepting of their new circumstances.
Tour the facility
It can help to know something about the place you will be moving to, and to meet some of the people there before you arrive. If you haven’t made a choice of which aged care facility to move to, arrange to tour potential homes so that you can make an informed choice. Even if you do know where you will be moving to, it helps to get familiar with your new surroundings. Book a tour of the facility and get a feel for the place, and meet the staff and other residents. You’ll feel much more comfortable if you know where everything is located before you move in. You’ll also be able to have a look at some of the events and activities on offer, so that you can start planning how you want to be involved after you’ve become a resident.
Keep up with your normal activities
Once you’ve moved in, keep going with your normal schedule of activities as much as possible to ease the transition. While this may not be entirely possible, there are no doubt plenty of things you used to do that you can still do. If, for instance, you used to grow orchids and attend an orchid club, see if you can still continue to attend the club by getting family or staff members to transport you. If that’s not possible, continue to grow orchids in your room, or see if you might even be able to start up a new orchid group with a few likeminded residents. The facility’s garden may even contain orchids that you might be able to help care for, or you could suggest adding some to the garden. There’s many ways that you can stay connected to your previous activities; and it may be as simple as continuing to watch the TV shows you used to watch, or getting library books from the library every week.
There’s comfort and stability in familiar tasks, and the more familiar you can keep your routine, the easier the transition will be.
But get involved with new activities too
While you should certainly try to keep as normal a schedule as possible, you should also try to get involved with the social and leisure activities of the facility. There’s no better way to break the ice and make new friends quickly, and this will give you new interests to focus on. Each residential aged care facility will offer a range of activities, events and services, and you’re free to participate as much or as little as you wish. These activities are designed to help you enjoy your new life, and there’s sure to be something that you’ll love – you might even discover a brand new hobby!
Encourage family and friends to visit
Having regular visits from friends and family will help you settle in; and you can also make visits to see them. As with your previous activities, you social activities don’t have to change hugely even though you’re living in aged care. If you used to have regular visits with someone, keep them going, even if you have to travel a little further to meet up, or arrange to alternately visit each other’s homes now. Catching up with friends and family need not change – and you can enjoy showing them around your new home and introducing them to your new friends.
Make your surroundings familiar
Bring some of your furniture and possessions along to help your surroundings feel more familiar and home-like. You’re free to arrange your décor however you like, and you can position things in familiar ways to give a sense of personality and comfort to your room. You can even take cuttings from your old garden to grow in a pot in your room, or in the facility’s garden – a lovely way to bring a living part of your old home with you and help you adjust more easily to the move.
See your usual health care professionals
Many aged care facilities have on-site or preferred healthcare providers, but you don’t have to use them. If you prefer to see your regular doctor, dentist, physio or other health care professional who you have built a good relationship with, you’re more than welcome to. Staff from the aged care facility can help you make appointments and arrange transport if necessary, and a lot of the time it makes sense to stick to those professionals you’re already comfortable with and who know your history.
While change can be hard, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and a move into aged care has many positive benefits (see some of them here). While it may take a little while to adjust to your new surroundings, use these strategies to maintain a connection with your old life, and make the transition to your new life smoother.