The move to a care home is a major life transition, and everyone copes with change differently. Your loved one or parent may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, confusion and loss over this transition. Some parents may even express resistance to the idea of moving out of their homes. If your relative is resisting the move, it is most often because of underlying feelings and unanswered questions. Family members play a vital role in fostering a positive outlook for their loved ones. Try these four methods to help your loved one open up the wonderful possibilities of a full and active life in a care home:
1. Open the Lines of Communication
The two most important things you can do are to be open with your loved one, and to make time for those first conversations, which may be difficult. Your relative may be thinking, “I don’t want this,” or “Why does it have to be this way?” He or she needs a chance to express these emotions. Make time for these conversations and listen actively. Acknowledge their feelings. You might say, “I know Mom. I wish you could stay here too. What are you concerned about?” Take the time to really listen to what your parents is saying. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Listening and offering your attention and compassion can go a long way in providing comfort.
These conversations are also a time for you to explain to your loved one why moving to a care home is a good decision. For instance, if you’ve noticed changes in your loved one’s health that are concerning you, you can connect these worries to how a care home is able to support and meet your loved one’s evolving needs.
2. Build Connection with the Care Home Before the Move
The care home staff is eager to get to know your loved one and to find ways of easing their transition. Let them help! In the time leading up to the move, you can help your loved one to adopt a positive outlook by helping him or her get to know the care home.
Exploring the home together can help abate the fear of the unknown; and your parent can begin to picture his or her life at the home. Stop by the care home together for a meal or to take a leisurely tour and chat with the staff. Ask about group activities or classes you could try that tap into your relative’s interests. Does your parents love music or drawing? Is playing cards a favourite activity? Ask staff about their programming options and look for opportunities that would provide a natural, gradual entry point into this new community.
3. Allow Your Loved One to Play an Active Role
Your relative should be involved in as much of the decision-making as possible. The more input they provide, the better! Playing an active part in the transition will help to restore your loved one’s sense of dignity and independence. Participating in decision-making also reinforces that your parents does not have to give up control over his or her life.
Ask your parent about his or her preferences: meals, daily rituals, hobbies – the aspects of his or her personal way of life. There are many ways the care home team can adapt and respond to new residents’ preferences, supporting their sense of dignity and making their new environment truly feel like home.
4. Explore Opportunities for Growth
Older adults may resist moving to care homes because of fears that their lives will lose meaning and direction. However, joining a care home community can offer a variety of new, enriching experiences and opportunities for growth. The staff will be able to tell you more about the programming, social activities, classes, and other events that take place in the care home community.
Perhaps your loved one has always wanted to enroll in drawing classes – you can suggest that this could be a perfect time to start. There’s no age limit on trying new things. For another resident, his or her love of literature could blossom into a meaningful volunteer role tutoring a child who is just learning to read. With the active support of the staff, you and your relative can explore opportunities within the care home community that will provide your loved one with a continued sense of purpose and meaning.
Change is difficult at any stage in life. Your loved one may be resistant at first to the idea of moving to a care home. Help him or her to see the wealth of possibilities by being a supportive listener, and getting to know the care home alongside your loved one. With these simple – but important – tips, you can help your relative to move past his or her initial resistance and find meaning during this new life phase.