Assisted living. It is not always an easy thing to admit that our loved ones need more help than we can give them. Many times it is simply not feasible to take them into our own homes as much as we would like to. I have seen family members succeed at keeping loved ones in home and also in allowing them to reside in assisted living facilities.
It is never an easy thing to leave our loved ones in the hands of other people but sometimes it just has to be done. In that case, as we have found with my own mother, it is essential to be as pro-active in the transition as possible and if there is one thing I have learned through all of our “adventures” it is that being present is THE most important thing.
While I can not be there to visit every single week due to the distance I can be present and make my concerns and desires known both when I visit in person and through communications when I am not there. It makes a huge difference to the staff to have family members who are invested and involved in the care of their loved one.
So what are some simple things to help with the transition? I have compiled a short list that is definitely not complete but a start if this is something that you are coming to terms with.
- Keep things familiar. When possible it is a great idea to keep things as familiar as possible. When we moved my mom from independent living to assisted living we set up her new apartment as close as we could to her previous place. We arranged for painting and wallpapering which was identical and arranged her furniture in a similar fashion. We hung her pictures and put out her knick knacks so she could have some familiarity and feel at home immediately.
- Plan an outing. Going out for a meal, shopping or even just a walk outside when visiting brings a huge change of pace for anyone who is living in an assisted living environment. I always make sure I tell the staff when I am taking my mom out so they don’t worry if she is not in her apartment.
- Make phone calls and visits at varying times. I try to call and visit at different times. This way I can see how my mom is doing at different times of the day and week and also with a visit I am able to see different staff members. I truly believe that it is important for staff to see family members and see that they are part of the resident’s life. Making connections allows me to build relationships so that when I do call with a question I can actually know who I am talking to.
- Bring something along to do or look at. Residents get bored even though there are usually a lot of activities to take advantage of. My sister had all of my dad’s slides converted to digital images so this past visit she shared a bunch of pictures on her iPad. Even though my mom did not recall every single event or picture it was clear that she enjoyed seeing them. I usually try to take pictures and try to send her an actual piece of mail weekly so that she has something to look forward to.
- Limit distractions. Television is often a constant companion in assisted living places and it is distracting at times so I usually try to turn it off when we are visiting. Additional noise and distractions are often commonplace in care facilities but I find that if we can limit what we can control it makes for a nicer visit.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for a Care Meeting to discuss your loved one with the staff. The staff does not know your loved one like you do. On our recent visit my sister and I met with the Care Team so that we could discuss medications, diet, activities and life in general. We came away feeling so much better and knowing that our mom is truly being cared for and looked after. Sometimes a phone call with the resident does not give an accurate picture and the staff was more than willing to meet with us when we could both be there. We felt both reassured and convinced that this was the right placement for our mom.
- Above all assure your loved one of your love for them. You can never say “I love you” too much or too often. While we always shared our love for one another it seems like it is even more important to say those words now. I have increased my phone calls and visits and I know my mom appreciates it. Moving into an assisted living place means loss of independence and that is difficult for most independent folks to handle. We constantly reassure our mom that she can do whatever she wants to do as long as she is safe. That seems to help her feel like she still has some control.
I know there are a lot of other things that can be offered up as tips so feel free to share in the comments section what you have found to be helpful. We are all in this together so all advice is welcome. Of course it also will count towards our Comments for a Cause – UMCOR Hurricane Irma Relief.
16 CommentsLeave a comment
These are all great tips. We have done all of these as well and used them again now that our mom has gone from assisted living to a nursing home. Even though the room is smaller, we have made it as homey as possible with familiar pictures on the walls, pillows and afghans from her home etc. I find as she gets older and her hearing fades, telephone calls don’t seem to work anymore. But we are able to Skype from time to time and she loves it. Someone needs to start it for her but the staff are helpful as are nearby family members. The distance makes it tough but we are managing. Sending hugs.
The distance does make it a bit challenging but your mom knows how much you love her and all that you do reflects that. It is difficult but I know that we are doing all we can to make her life as good as it can be while she is there.
These are so good, Beth! Your mom is so blessed to have loving, compassionate family to help ease her! Other things that have helped us with my mother (going on 98 and been in assisted and now memory care for going on 13 years!).
!. Get to know the care staff. Bring them goodies. At Christmas we give each care giver a personal thank you card and a very small monetary gift. They love it and I realize that we are one of very few families who do that. Care givers have a tough job and need encouragement!
2. Speak out if you notice something not quite right – you are their advocate just as they used to be yours!
3. I try to always pray with my mother when I leave, “Dear Jesus, please hold my mother’s hand until I see her again.” And she also loves it when I read the Bible to her.
This is a bittersweet and sometimes very challenging path we are on with our parents. Be gentle in all areas. I’ve felt guilt that my mother is in an community instead of at home. I sometimes feel guilty when it is time to leave and she begs me to stay (other times she doesn’t even notice I am there or know who I am). This stage can be hard to navigate and anyone doing it needs support and love and encouragement!
I could go on and on! It is an honor to help tend to the woman who always patiently loved me; she is a great role model.
love you Beth!
I knew I could trust you for some really excellent tips. We do know a lot of staff although there is a bit of turnover with the CNA’s but the main folks we know and have a relationship with. They do discourage tips and gifts there but have a huge employee gift fund we give to and I also am going to make a point of sending an edible bouquet or something to the floor for the staff to have. It is hard when there are so many people who take care of different things in a larger facility to cover everyone but I do write thank you notes so hopefully that helps. Your prayer time is so special and that is something that I need to start doing with my mom before I leave. We pray over our meals, etc. but I don’t intentionally say a prayer when I leave and I need to do that so thank you for that idea. It is a perfect one. Your support and thoughts are so wonderful. Thank. you!
Sounds like your mom is well taken care of with you and your sister keeping an eagle eye on things. I think visiting at different times and coming unannounced makes a big difference. Corey’s Grandma has home care 24/7 and it’s the same principle in a way. We check on her aids at odd times too just to keep an eye on things…
Thanks Susi. I think she is and it isn’t that we don’t trust the care but that we just want to be involved and make sure that things are going according to plan for her. I think the checking in at different times is the best way to keep track when you can’t be there every single day.
These are all good tips and it sounds like you are doing everything for your mom to help in this living adjustment.
In my family of six siblings, one brother (the one who lives nearest and has power of attorney) handles interactions with staff. That said, if any of us are visiting and see a need/have a concern, we can address that.
Fortunately Mom lives in a care center in a town of under 500 people where everyone knows everyone. She gets excellent care.
Two things I’ve found helpful: When I call Mom prior to a visit, I ask if she needs anything. Then when I leave, if I find she’s in need of something, I text my siblings so the next one to visit can bring the needed item.
I also purchased a small, bright notebook for visitors to record their names, dates of visits and to leave a note for Mom. That helps her remember visits. The problem comes in folks not signing the book.
All great points and additions. I always ask what is needed as well (although she can never really come up with anything) and we have a guest book as well which helps us know who has visited. It does not always get signed but at least it is there. Being in that small of a town means that there is a lot of transparency and good care is the norm which is wonderful. I am sure your mom has the best of everything that y’all can give her and that is wonderful. Thanks for the tips.
Great tips. So happy that you had such a great visit with your Mom.
Thanks, Val. It is always good to see her.
These are all excellent tips! When my Mother in law was in assisted living, I found that taking an I-pad or tablet, and sharing photos in a much larger format was a big hit! She even liked to look at some of the same photos visit after visit. ~ Lynn
Yes!!! That is a great idea and that is what my sister is doing in the one pic in the post. We had a bunch of my dad’s slides converted to digital and she loved looking at them on the iPad so that will be an activity every time someone visits. Thanks for your thoughts.
Good tips. My husband’s 102 year old Aunt is now in a nursing home. She went from her independent apartment to the hospital to rehab to the nursing home. It was traumatic. I’ve found that it’s extremely important that the staff knows you’re involved. She says that they respond to her call light much faster when we’re sitting in the room than when she’s alone. That’s sad. Tomorrow we have our quarterly care meeting with staff. She’s been 9 months now and it’s hard.
I totally agree. Having the staff know that the family is involved is key to good care. It shouldn’t be. All residents should get good care but it is important to be present and be an advocate. I hope your aunt is doing okay and that the care meeting went well. I know she is appreciative of you and your husband.
I’d definitely agree that when anyone is in a hospital or nursing home, it’s good not to miss a chance to say “I love you.”
I’m so glad you’re sharing what you’ve learned to make the transition easier. I remember watching my parents help their parents transition into assisted living. This is spot-on! Happy you are also finding they are providing your mom with good support.