Downsizing and relocating is a time of change that can be tough. Knowing how to support seniors through transition can be difficult for friends and family, especially if they live far away. Having watched families walk through this transition, here are a few practical ways you can make the process easier and help love your senior through a potentially difficult time of life:
Start having conversations before you have to. In other words, it will never be easy to discuss the necessity of moving your loved one to a assisted living or care facility. However, easing into the conversation by bringing it up before it’s time to move will make the final decision less jarring.
Resist feeling guilty. You may have had to have a firm hand in helping a senior transition out of their home into a care facility. Stay strong and remember that you pushed for the move out of love. Succumbing to guilt can end up sabotaging your ability to support your senior through the changes.
Stay closely connected. As much as possible, visit and keep in touch with your loved one. This will help the transition go more smoothly. If you don’t live close enough to stop by frequently, make the effort to call and even write often.
Help them stay integrated with “normal” life. If your loved one is used to eating breakfast every Saturday at a certain restaurant or only gets their hair cut at a specific salon, go out of your way to help them maintain these traditions and routines. It might be more inconvenient for you, but it will go a long way in helping your loved one normalize the changes.
Avoid babysitting. Remember that your aging loved one is still an adult. In many cases, letting them maintain independence will help in the long run. Give them the space and time they need to adjust to their new life.
Personalize their space. One of the most difficult parts of downsizing and relocating is the need to sort through a lifetime of stuff that represents treasured memories. Be sensitive to this process, and encourage your loved one to keep significant items and help them incorporate those things into their new space.
Recreate a homey feel. When arranging the furniture and hanging up pictures, think of how you can do it in a way that mimics the home your loved one had to leave behind.
Reintroduce an old hobby. Or, help them find a new hobby. Giving your loved one something positive to focus on that will reduce stress and occupy their time can ease the stress and strain of transition.
While it’s never an easy or fun task to help your loved one, following these tips will give you the tools you need to support seniors through transition. As uncomfortable and difficult at the changes may be for you, continue to keep your focus on your loved one. That kind of unconditional love and support will be exactly what they need.