Helping a Loved One Move into a Skilled Nursing Facility

Young nurse and female senior in nursing home, the old lady sitting in a wheel chair

Here are things family can do—before, during and after the move.

Making a move to a new home can be stressful. For those moving into a skilled nursing facility, the stress can seem overwhelming – not only does one have to adjust to a new living space, but there also are the added stressors of concerns about privacy, health and well-being.

It’s no wonder there may be resistance from an elderly loved one when discussing moving into a nursing facility, even if they’re aware they need assistance in living more safely and managing their health conditions. Here are some tips to help start a conversation and help them understand the importance of making the move.

Start discussing the issue before the situation is critical

Look for opportunities to bring up the subject of aging safely. It’s highly likely your loved one knows of people undergoing similar challenges. If they discuss a friend who is making a move to a nursing facility, ask them how they would feel about such a move and be prepared to discuss advantages.

Come from a place of empathy and understanding

Be willing to hear opposing points of view. If your loved one gets that you understand their position, they will be more willing to listen to what you have to say. If they shut down during a conversation, try to understand how frightening it would be for anyone to talk about a future that may involve illness, decline, and moving from a home that may hold special memories. Once you understand what is underneath the resistance, you are in a better position to help move things forward in a gentle and caring way.

Offer to help find a solution

Invite your loved one to take a tour of nursing facilities in the area. After seeing what’s available, they may be more receptive to the idea of a move. Let them know they’re not in this alone and you’ll be with them along the way. Be sure you find a facility that can meet their care needs and offers a homelike environment, where they will feel comfortable. Take a look at the facility’s activities schedule – you want your loved one to remain engaged with others.

Once your loved one is in agreement about making the move, here are some things you can do to help ensure they are comfortable in their new surroundings and are adjusting to their new routine:

Be there on moving day and help them settle in

Almost all moves are physically and emotionally exhausting. As a caregiver, the best thing you can do on Moving Day is to be present and ready to support your loved one in feeling at home. If you can, arrange for them to meet some preselected residents who have similar interests and backgrounds. Sit with them at dinner and say positive things about their room and the other residents. Bring in some special items from their previous home – photos, knickknacks, blankets, and grandchildren’s homemade crafts – to make them feel more settled and comfortable. The more you can make their new home seem familiar, the sooner they’ll adjust to their new life.

Visit frequently

If you live in the area, visit as often as you can. If you live out of town, let your loved one know you will be checking in frequently, via phone, Skype (if available) and email and follow up on that promise. Talk to staff and let them know you’re available to discuss your loved one’s situation at any time and they can lean on you for support and guidance.

Encourage them to participate in activities

Participating in a facility’s daily activities is a great way to meet new people, have some fun and stayed connected to what’s going on. Point out all of the shopping, dining, religious, and entertainment attractions close by and encourage them to get out when they can.

Keep a positive attitude

Always look for things to say something good about, such as “The grounds are lovely, Mom, you’ll enjoy taking your morning stroll here” or “The people here seem so nice!” However, if you get negative feedback from your loved one, don’t immediately dismiss it. Let them know you understand their feelings. Often, negative comments are just a way to express fear. Knowing that you can relate to their feelings may make them less afraid. Always remind them that you are available to them if they experience any discomfort in their new home. If they complain about something that has merit, talk to the staff and share your loved one’s concern and see if there is something the facility can do to remedy the situation.

While making a move is a scary thing, most people eventually enjoy their new home and understand that it was the best thing for their own well-being as well as the peace of mind of their children and others concerned about them.

Source: Real Properties in association with IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge.