After months of back-breaking work, you’ve finally got your elderly parents out of the family home and settled into their new assisted care residence; yet something’s still nagging at you…
Ah, yes. That would be your dad, who is calling you at all hours of the day and night to complain about everything—the staff, the food, the surroundings, and especially the other residents. It’s all terrible, he says. Awful. Couldn’t be worse.
As if you weren’t already feeling enough emotion over the realization that your parents could no longer safely care for themselves in their life-long space and the fact that yes, they truly are in the late stages of life, now you can add tremendous guilt to the mix.
Don’t fret. In all likelihood, your aging parents will indeed settle in to their new surroundings. They’ll probably even flourish. This is a difficult time for everyone involved, fraught with emotion and change.
Usually, the passage of time and just a bit of hand-holding can help ease your parent(s) through this rough patch and into happier days ahead. Below, seven suggestions for transitioning Mom and Dad into successful residential-care living:
- Spend time in person with Mom and Dad
Making arrangements to be on hand during those first few days can be especially comforting for not only your parent(s), but for you as well. Just being available to accompany Mom to her first meal in her new residence can make a big the difference in her level of comfort. (We all remember the first day of school or being the new kid at summer camp, right?)
- Encourage new activities by initially joining in
This is great if you happen to live in the same city. Read up on all of the activities within the residence and start attending one. The more social and learning activity you can find within your parents’ senior residence, the more your own parents might be enticed to take part in these (and other) activities as .
- Tell the staff about your parents’ favorite activities, foods, etc.
This provides a nice jumping-off point for conversation as staff get to know your folks. If allowed, send some of your family’s favorite delicacies for Mom or Dad to share.
- Find yourself a main point of contact on the staff for both daytime and nighttime shifts Introduce yourself, even if by phone, to your parent’s main caregiver during both the day and night shifts. Ask them what time is the best time for you to call in for an update, and do so daily that first week or two (and for as long as you need). Don’t settle for a generic, “Dad’s doing great!” answer. If need be, work up the chain of command until you feel as though you’re getting reports with satisfactory amounts of information on your parent’s progress.
- Call your mom daily—morning and night, if necessary
Speaking of phone calls, don’t get lazy with them—an easy thing to do when you know that your parent is in a safe place and being checked on by caring staff members. A quick “good morning” can help set the tone for your parent’s day, especially when settling into a new place. Ending the day with a check-in to see how the day was, even if you know all you’re going to hear is negative-speak for the first little while, can help ease your parents back into a familiar and comforting routine.
- Hang a calendar, or arrange for a nurse to do so for you, with visible, scheduled dates of upcoming visits, Skype/FaceTime chats, family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other events, along with a list of telephone numbers
Your parent can be included in the family’s goings-on without missing a beat.
- Decorate with mementos and family photos from home
Try to engage your parent in decorating the new digs. Hang family photos and favorite mementoes within clear view. Replicate the comforts of home by bringing favorite blankets and pillows Mom had in her own home, or, offer to make things special by picking out all new bedding and accessories in a particular colorway or theme. Do the same with favorite reading chairs.
During this time, acknowledge your parent’s feelings, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. You, too, are going through a time a transition. Most of all, you want to be available for your Mom and/or Dad, but not to be there so much that they don’t try to meet new friends and work toward developing a new routine.
I’d like to help you and your family through this and any other time of uncertainty the aging process brings, and help restore a sense of calm and communication. Please reach out to me so that I may be of help.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.