So Mom and Dad have finally settled on their senior care choice: assisted living. After months of searching, of touring various facilities and questioning all the staff, they have found the assisted living facility that is perfect for them. Their new assisted living facility is beautiful. Mom can’t wait to have her morning strolls through the beautifully gardened grounds. Dad can’t wait to get into the recreation center. Both of them are thrilled at the thought of no cooking or cleaning, and both of them feel secure knowing that there are trained medical teams on-staff at all times. Their new assisted living facility is everything they wanted–so why are they nervous?
Moving somewhere new is intimidating alone. Moving into an assisted living facility is something else altogether. It is a transition–an involved adaptation to an entirely new way of life. Personal possessions must be carefully uprooted from the home and moved into the new private space. Schedules are drastically changed, daily routines are completely overhauled. For Mom and Dad, this is not just a change of scenery–this is a change of their everyday existence as they know it. It is exciting, and thrilling, and with all the opportunities offered at assisted living facilities today, the transition is largely invigorating. Now, Mom and Dad can be active. They get fresh, healthy meals. They get a consistent source of socialization. To enjoy all of the perks offered by their new, shiny assisted living facility, they just have to get past the first day.
The Move to Assisted Living
For Mom and Dad, the first day of assisted living poses a range of exciting challenges. The first of which is the move itself.
When you’re moving Mom and Dad into their new assisted living apartment, you want to treat all of their intimate possessions with great care and respect. They’ve left their home behind, and often have had to sacrifice a good number of their familiar possessions in order to downsize. What they’ve chosen to bring with them are often their most prized possessions. Work patiently with them to carefully set up their new living space. Furniture, bedding, light fixtures, and other cumbersome essentials should already be set-up in their room, meaning Mom and Dad only have to worry about displaying the things they brought with them.
Making sure their room feels cozy and personalized is crucial. Mom and Dad should feel at home in their new space. They should feel comfortable and secure. Taking the time to set-up the room carefully can help Mom and Dad feel settled sooner. Be sure to also check lightbulbs, plumbing, and other necessities to make sure everything is working. Do not be afraid to ask for a new lightbulb if one looks like it isn’t working–that’s one less thing Mom and Dad will have to worry about later.
Be sure to celebrate the new space. Yes, there’s a lot to do on the first day in an assisted living facility, but take a moment to sit with Mom and Dad in their new apartment. Relax, enjoy one another. Show them that not only is this space theirs but that it is a space they can continue to invite family and friends to for visits. Making their space feel like home makes every part of the rest of the transition easier because they know they have their own private solace to return to at the end of the day.
Making the First Impression
The first day of assisted living is also Mom and Dad’s first introduction to neighbors and staff: future friends and companions. Though it may feel superfluous, having a brand new special outfit for Mom and Dad can really improve their overall reaction to the day.
Having a new outfit or a new article of clothing to wear on their first day of assisted living can boost Mom and Dad’s confidence. When they feel good, so does everything else. Some seniors really struggle during the first day of assisted living because they feel discarded, as though they are no longer worth what they once were. Having a fresh outfit or a fancy accessory can help Mom and Dad feel put together. A colorful brooch or scarf for Mom; a classic watch or tie for Dad. Feeling fresh and confident can give them the courage to tackle the rest of the transition.
Dressing well can also help Mom and Dad feel more outgoing. When they’re put-together, they will be more willing to approach others and be approached in return. The friends Mom and Dad make on the first day may be some of the most important relationships of their lives. The way the staff and other residents treat your Mom and Dad powerfully influences Mom and Dad’s reaction to assisted living. A new outfit helps them feel secure in their own skin, which will help them feel secure in the friendships they make.
Once Mom and Dad are all set up in their room, and once they’ve met all of their important points of contact, take a walk through the facility. You may have toured the facility extensively before the move-in, but now Mom and Dad are actually here. This kind of a tour is not about all of the things they could do, it is about all of the things they are going to do.
Walk with Mom and Dad through the facility and the grounds and loosely plan their next couple of days. Maybe they’ll spot a table in the lounge area where they might have the tea tomorrow morning. Maybe they’ll see that a favorite film is being played in the common area tomorrow night. Walking through the halls as new residents really lets Mom and Dad soak-up their new surroundings. These halls are their halls now. The recreation center and activities are their days. Talking excitedly about all the things they are going to do can help Mom and Dad stay energized, excited, and positive. It is important to focus on all the possibilities their new assisted living facility has to offer.
What to Expect in Your First Meal
Joining Mom and Dad for their first meal in assisted living facility is an important part of ensuring their security and sense of comfort. Sharing a meal with them helps the facility feel like home. You’ve shared so many meals together over the years, at kitchen tables in their home. Be sure to continue the tradition here. Show Mom and Dad that the beauty and intimacy of sharing a meal is not about location, it is about them. This helps emphasis their importance in your life, and their continued role and value in the eyes of their family.
Sharing the first meal is also a great opportunity to engage in a reflection of the day. Ask them about their hopes and fears, ask them what their initial response to the assisted living facility is. The first meal is a great opportunity to reassure Mom and Dad, to quell any worries and provide heartfelt words of support. You are sharing in their new home by sharing this first meal–you are beginning a new routine, a new tradition with them. This first meal marks the beginning of a new time in their lives, one that may seem intimidating at first but is actually exciting and invigorating. At this first meal, you can all agree together that the right choice was made, and that Mom and Dad will feel happy, fulfilled, and secure in their new assisted living facility.