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.
Thank you for your care giving…francy