How to move a senior into smaller housing and keep them happy…francy
Dear Francy; I moved my Grandma into an assisted living. She had been in her family home for forty-two years. The change was hard and she argued with us all through the move.She is now in her new studio apartment. She is unhappy, lonely and her health is going down hill. How can I help her with the transition?
New Surroundings for a Senior are Hard to Handle
First, you can just allow her to be calm and adjust. It will not happen in a week or a month, it will take a while for her to get into the swing of not having her things around her and giving up her privacy. Make sure you,or someone you appoint, goes to visit her each week. Make a plan of action before you go and bring a little something to brighten the senior’s space and fits into the season. Let her feel your sincerity and forget the hurt feelings…they will happen. The point is; you go forward and you keep the dialog open — your Grandmother can not change her situation and you have to respect her upset and continue your support of her.
Make Plans before the Move
Almost all seniors eventually have to move from their family home. Yes, if they are well to do and have a good income they can stay there longer…but most senior men and woman face this change, at a hard time in their lives. So, have your “open ears” on as you visit and care for them. Listen to what they love and and ask about different things in the house. Is there a special family picture they feel closer to than others?. A picture of a time in life that they want to remember forever. Is there a special chair or table they have had for years and enjoy? What do they do each day that they enjoy? Does your Dad still go out to the garage where his tools are, maybe just to stand there in comfort? Does your Grandma still enjoy making cookies or fixing coffee for you when you arrive? Does your Grandpa read about the war years and have books around him? Does your Mom water her houseplants and talks about missing her big garden? Take notice–write your self a few notes for the future.
Ideas for the Change
If you don’t really know your senior well…talk to a friend or older family member and ask them. “What do you think that Grandma would really want to see on the wall or have around her everyday when she moves?” Get input. I have a case that the senior was a hoarder and her two sons took her out of her small home to rescue her and place her into a clean and safe assisted living. But they did not bring anything of hers…no pictures no chair, not even clothes. Now, I get the frustration of that special situation but you have to keep the comfort of the senior in your mind.They are making the last move of their lives…they need things to ease them into that situation. The opposite can happen if you try to crowd a studio apartment with too much stuff….so just take time to think it over.
Take pictures of the old house. Inside and out. If the senior is home sick you can bring your laptop over and show her a nice slide show of her home and her rooms. Close up of pictures on the wall of all the family and inside closet shots of things the senior may miss. You do not have to rub their noses in their past life…but you can have it ready for them, if they need it.
Just because they leave their old bedroom behind for a hospital bed in a small room…does not mean you can not take their bed spread, quilt or favorite pillow or throw. Comfort for an elder is sleeping, so having things on their bed that reminds them of safety and their old home is very helpful.
Sort over clothes by season. Only take clothes that are clean and in good shape. Divide them into large air compression bags or nice see through storage boxes. Keep them in your garage and each season take their clothes over to them…take out the winter items from their closet and take them home to launder and put dryer sheets in the box to keep them smelling fresh. Add a few new pieces of clothing like fresh undies and shoes for the season. That way they have changing wardrobe in a small closet.
Take a favorite family photo and one of just their spouse and have them blown up. You can do this on the net or at a local copy shop. Blowing up photos to good size posters keeps the room feeling clear but filled with memories…it will allow them to see the photo well and have something sweet to remember their children, grand children and spouse.
Get nice new sheets and then towels for the bathroom and keep a hanging kit for their shaving things or their make-up. Yes, even elders want to feel fresh and look good when they go down to the group dinner table.
Bring their favorite chair or side table from home. If they are having problems with standing; you can get them a mechanical recliner that raises and lowers with a push button, but you can keep their old tapestry pillow for their back and a throw from the house for their lap. Make sure a small chair for guests is there too.
If ladies miss cooking a safe toaster for them to make toast or warm up pop-ups at least gives them a feeling of cooking. A nice mug or tea cup from home and thermos or tea pot…those things mean a lot to a senior.
A tall table to put a plant on and bring in a long time loved orchard or houseplant in a special pot gives gardeners a feeling of green. Don’t forget a small measuring cup to water the plant.
Nothing wrong with a small work bag filled with small tools for dad…there may be an emergency and he would need a wrench…or it might just make him feel safe to have it close by.
Donate old books to the library at the senior facility so your senior can still visit and enjoy their books.
“Ott lites” give high power light to those that love to do handiwork like knitting or crochet…and higher power readers or jeweler’s magnifier are great so they can still enjoy an long time hobby. The new craze of adult coloring books are also a fun treat. Its easy to find a lap desk that goes over the chair arms so they have their things right in place for comfort.
Bring a basket from home for all of their “little” things. Nail files, lip balm, pens and small notebooks, address book, small scissors and flashlight, etc. This goes on the table by their comfort chair. Remember the key is to keep the room looking clean and clear so the senior and cleaning staff have a calm vision. But inside the basket can be a collection of items that we all need to have on hand.
Don’t forget a small drawer unit for emergency storage of personal things. Like band-aids, itch cream, Vaseline, Bengay, and simple relief meds like gas pills, diarrhea pills etc. These are personal things…if you mark the drawer with vitamins, creams, first aid…the senior can store little tubes of this and that needed with privacy. These are found in box stores by Sterilites small 3-drawers.I use them for my own things and love their size and ease of use.
Jewelry and expensive art can be stolen in public housing…so make sure there are ways to note that your Grandma has her wedding ring on and your Grandpa has his silver golf award on his table. Just ask the staff how to handle that sort of thing so the senior can be safe and still enjoy something they cherish.
There are never any rules that you can not put your own web-cam in the room to check out your senior’s care when you are not there. Small nanny cams are available and allow you to see the seniors room from afar. This is a great way for family from out of town…can rest assured that their senior is safe and receiving good care.
Teach your senior about their cell phone and how to use it. So they can have a camera and face to face talks with their kids and grand kids. They need to know how to charge it and how to take it with them. In a special lanyard holder around their neck so they can walk with their walker and not leave their phone behind…or in a cross body bag…or on a special holder that recharges and keeps the phone at hand by their comfort chair. Seniors can use gadgets…they just need reminders and patience in teaching them how to use them and find enjoyment…not fear over making mistakes with them.
Get to know the staff and help the senior make friends and become involved in gentle ways with the social side of the assisted living. Maybe they will not attend all the events…but choosing a few things that will hit their interest button may mean you coming over and taking them to the meeting the first time. Easing them into a new life-style takes time and patience…reach down and find it within yourself so the senior can feel your strength and love.
I know you can do this…it’s just a hard time and hard decisions have to be made. But making those decisions so they are for the best of the senior is key. This helps keep it in perspective and makes it smoother for all of you. Giving love to a senior that has now lost friends, dear family members, possibly a spouse and or children…their end of life issues are raw…so your patience and understanding is a big deal. You always there smiling, always there even in quiet…is a gift. I thank you for your giving…as I have experienced my own losses lately…having friends and family to just talk and walk me through scary times…feels like you are surrounded by angels.
Dear Francy: I have decided that Mom just can not keep living on her own and in a state of worry each day. Her health is not ready for nursing care but I know she needs to be looked after more than a drop by each day. How do I tell my husband and kids and where will I put her? I live on a thin budget and I am worried.
Now this is a problem that I can help you with because I did the same thing and I have helped so many others do the transition smoothly. Here are my ideas and tips:
Moving Elders into Your Home Tips:
After discussing it with your spouse and getting their approval, you call a family meeting. You will not be asking their approval, but informing them of the situation and letting them know a new arrival means there will be changes that might not be the most enjoyable. Depending on the age of your kids, let them live in the elders shoes, explain why the change, why the elder is no longer safe in their own home that way the family has a base of understanding that this decision is how we treat and care for family. You make room for children when they are born into the family, you make room for elders when they retire into advanced family care.
Make it clear to your family and to YOU that this is a change that is not going to just go away or get old. This is a commitment on your part and your elders that life will be together through thick or thin. If money gets low, or someone gets unwell in the family, or a move has to be made- the elder is now a part of your family and will be with you for good or bad family times. That is life making room for an elder is a serious decision that once made is made, not changed because of an argument. You do not throw out babies or elders because they are extra work or a pain to live with…so think this step out very carefully and inform all; that this is a commitment of heart and honor on both sides.
Set up some rules of the house so every one can work within a fair basis of comfort living. Kids do not invite friends for an overnight if Grandma is using the living area for her bedroom. Things will change, but the changes do not have to be huge, just considerate on all sides.
Plan your elder’s living area. They need their own room, even if your children have to share a room, that is better than an elder sharing a child’s room. If no extra bedroom is there, then take an area that can be shared like the dining room. Put the big table in the kitchen, living area, or storage. Put up a day bed that can be used as a sitting area during the day. Always give privacy from public areas, you can hang a curtain or a bamboo shade to enclose the privacy for the senior.
Try to bring the senior’s favorite things with them. A good sitting chair, a side table for bed and chair, a little desk or bookcase, favorite books, family memory photos, jewelry, special mementoes and art that can be incorporated into your home. This is the time for them to distribute family things to their children and grand children, not at their death. Do not rent a storage unit. If your elder is going to move in with you and it does not work, they will be in a care facility with little space, so there is no going back to an apartment living for the elder, this is a life change, not a try out.
Paint the area to match the elder if you can. If your home is high energy color reflecting an action family….lower the tones for the elder so they can relax and rest in their space.
Decide on the bathroom the elder will use. You might have them use a half bath and just take a weekly bath or shower in the kid’s bath. Always make room for their personal products. A basket with their bathroom items tucked on a shelf makes their things private. Young kids do not understand false teeth or Depends. Make sure your family respects the privacy of the elder and no teasing takes place, bathroom humor is not appreciated by a person making a big change in their life.
Keep elder drugs in a place in the kitchen or laundry area. That way it is away from the kids and in a place that can be sorted and the weekly pill try can be filled as well as meds reordered correctly.
Use a closet in the hall or a rack in the laundry room for elder’s clothes, plastic drawers can be purchased for clothing. Sort over elders things and take clothes that fit the lifestyle they have now, not the clothes they wore ten years ago when they were active or working.
Keep the elder with their friends as much as you can. If they go to a faith center away from you, take them back to the faith center once a month to connect. If they have a favorite Senior Center or exercise group try to keep them there or let them visit and replace those activities close to your home. Elders need to know their life has just moved, not changed or gotten lost. Emotional problems often stem from elders losing their friends, spouse, home and all connections…so work on keeping them as connected to their long established lifestyle.
If your elder is into gardening and you are not, let them at it, get them started redoing your front yard and enjoy that the elder is giving back to the family. If the elder loves to cook, let them do a dinner during the week or make the lunches for everyone each day. Figure out how to use their talents with your needs and make room for change on your part as well as theirs.
Hearing impaired does not mean shouting or loud TV. It means getting them a headphone remote for the TV so they can hear it, or putting on the text feature to run text on the bottom of the TV screen. It means turning down music to a normal range and take time to talk facing the elder not on the run.
Careful walking with elders that may trip means removing scatter rugs and use double side carpet tape on larger rugs. It means making sure there are lights to see well in the public rooms and dogs that are trained to love not jump up on people. Think safety. If your kids are older you may have left those safety thoughts behind a long time ago, now get your mind going again on what your elder needs to be safe walking around the house.
If the elder wants to make alot of calls, get them a cell phone and let them learn how to use it. Then they can call on their own phone without worry about family phone time. Get them their own TV if they need it and a radio or MP3 player with a head phone for music and talk radio listening.
Do not be afraid to ask the senior for money to add to the family income. They can give you a couple hundred dollars a month for food and utilities, even if they are on a small social security income. They can pay for their own personal needs and medication products, specialty foods and clothing, too. Just be fair, do not take all their money and think they will not reflect emotionally to it.
If your senior is part of your family…then you can take them off as a tax deduction. Ask your tax person how to do this before you take that action, but it can help you financially to do this. You can also get help with their house sales investment of money, or reducing their bills. Get help so you do not have to worry about funds for their care, talk to senior care consultants and let them help you with the legal part of your relationship. Remember their home sales will have to pay for their care for a long time, so be wise with the money. It is hard when you are limited on funds to care for an elder, but it can be done with advise.
If the senior is unable to pay for their own medications ask the DR for help with pharmacy company programs. If you need to put the senior on state medical do so, they will pay for the medications and pay you to care for your parent if they are in need of more than just light care. Get a review, be in the know, so the money you spend on your elder is wisely spent.
Make sure your senior has someone to talk to about you and your family living. A faith center person, a neighbor or other family member, that is a third party, should make a monthly visit. Get the elder to talk about their life. They may be afraid to say what upsets them, or they may be filled with upset and anger and need to vent it to make their life easier with you. Emotional health is often not understood until you live with someone, a doctor can also medicate to calm an elder, if you explain your concerns in a letter to him before your elder’s next appointment.
Everyone has odd behaviors even you…so learn to live and let live, small things you have always done may need to change, that is not the end of any one’s world, it is just a change to make life easier for all parties. That is what makes living as a family work, you all have to adjust and talk and love and make changes to make sure each of you can enjoy life together. But elders find change upseting and hard and younger folks can adjust to change much easier, so that should set the tone when making family decisions.
Perfection is not the goal with a senior living with their family. But kindness on both sides is a must. Do not be afraid to have someone come in and talk to the family about problems, questions, ideas or concerns. Talking things out helps everyone. There is your way or the highway is not the way with a multi-generation family. Every one has to make way for privacy and for kindness for each other. Often the experience of grand parents living with children changes the child into a more understanding and caring adult in years to come. That means when it is your turn to need help, your own children will be more open to giving you loving care in your own older age.
Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.
I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one,
PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.