Donna has always been a fiercely independent soul. Near the end of World War II, she left her hometown in Minnesota and ventured to the Washington D.C. area on her own to start working. She was just 17. But she found a job, made a life for herself, fell in love, got married, had five children. Even after her husband passed away, Donna’s independent spirit lived on. She stayed in the townhome they had lived in for decades, and continued to travel, both by herself and with her grown children.
Her children always knew: Mom could take care of herself.
Then, one day, she said something odd to one of her sons.
“You know. I can’t remember exactly how to drive the car,” she said. “But I just prayed that I would and it went fine.”
It was a moment that changed everything. It became clear that it was time for Donna to make the transition to an assisted living facility.
Perhaps more than any other challenge of aging, the decision to move your parents into an assisted-living facility — even if it was their idea — is one of the most difficult transitions a family can face.
For your parents, it’s a time of meeting new people, adjusting to new surroundings, and maybe admitting that they aren’t as independent as they wish they still were. For you, it can mean a role reversal of sorts, where you’re the one gently pushing them to try new things, reassuring them that they got this, and being their advocate.
Although avoiding stress completely during this time might be an impossible ask, these five tips might help make the transition a little easier on everyone.
- Create a floor plan.
Ask your parents’ new community for a floor plan and measure each room so you know exactly what to bring and what will go where. With the floor plan in hand, determine exactly where each piece of furniture will go and how much will fit in each closet.
- Start downsizing early.
Chances are, your parents are moving into a significantly smaller space. If they’ve accumulated many belongings over the years, one of the first steps is to decide what goes with them, and what to do with everything else. Use the floor plan as your guide, determine what furniture will fit in the new space and what you might need to give away or donate.Downsizing can be an emotionally draining process for everyone involved, so consider recruiting help from family, close friends, or a professional downsizer/senior move manager like WayForth, formerly Let’s Move, to keep the process organized and as stress-free as possible. Schedule 2-3 hours every Saturday for the next month or so, so it’s spaced out and you don’t get overwhelmed. Create three separate areas for each room: Keep, Donate, Trash.
- Plan every step.
One way to help reduce stress on moving day is to plan every aspect of it as thoroughly as you can. Make sure your parents see their new space in advance, ensure that the movers are on time, efficient and careful, and don’t forget about their pets. Knowing exactly what will happen when can erase some of the uncertainty that your parents are sure to be feeling.
- Give it time.
Experts say that it can take three to six months for someone to adjust to assisted living. So even if your parents seem to be settling in fine, understand that there could be setbacks. They could decide that they don’t like the neighbors, or that the activities aren’t their style. They might ask to go home (which can be a tough one), or they might be just downright mad about the whole thing. In these cases, you can check to see whether the facility has resources that can help, join an online support group, or enlist backup from other family members.
- Surround them with the things they love.
As much as possible, try and recreate their longtime surroundings at their new home. Our team members often take photos of our clients old spaces and recreate them in their new home, whether it’s a grouping of framed photos or a china cabinet display.
Fill the space with family pictures, favorite chairs, books, decor, and blankets that they’ve loved for years — and don’t forget their most favorite thing. You. Visit early and often, let them know you’re there for them. Be their advocate, but also consider pushing them a little to get out and make new friends.
In order to make Donna’s new apartment feel like home, her children worked with our team to recreate their mother’s favorite space. They brought in her large dining room table, complete with the chandelier, where she would sit for hours and play cards. It was logistically challenging, but we made it happen.
On moving day, our team set up the card-playing area first. While Donna played cards with one of her children, project manager Connie Iampieri and her team hung up family photos and made the new apartment feel as close to home as it possibly could. By the time our team was finished for the day, Donna’s new space felt like home.
You can read the full story here.
If you need help or support, WayForth specializes in senior move management. By leaving the heavy lifting and logistics to a trusted expert, you can focus solely on the emotional and mental welfare of your loved ones.