Making Long-Term Care Feel Like Home

For any of us, significant change in our lives can be difficult. A new job, moving to a new state, grown children leaving the nest and other changes to our daily experience can move us out of our comfort zone and cause us to feel a bit off balance, less confident and sometimes apprehensive.

The same is true, and often to a much greater extent, for our older loved ones. It seems that as we age, we grow more comfortable with things in our life that are familiar, and we tend to become more resistant to change in our environment. While some 80 year olds go sky diving for the first time, many are very content to stay within their comfort zones.

Therefore, it is not at all surprising that moving into a residential long term-care community can be emotionally difficult for an older loved one – as well as their family members. The good news is that experts on the emotional impact of major life transitions suggest several things can do to reduce the anxiety while helping to create a home-like feel that eased the transition.

Tips for Making the Move a Happy One

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) and other expert sources of advice, such as the article, Making an Assisted Living Room Feel Like Home,” by Carol Bradley Bursack, offer useful pointers that can help transform your loved one’s new room into their home.

Leading long-term care communities such as Saunders House assist with the transition process by encouraging new residents and their family members to bring items that support comfort and familiarity such as family photographs, a favorite chair or a particular style of room décor.

Expert tips include:

  • Be positive and upbeat – Your attitude, language and general approach to the transition to assisted living can make a big difference in how your loved one perceives and accepts the change. Experts tell us that it is important to refer to their new living space as their home. Your goal is to help them feel at home, and your language can make a significant difference.
  • Be understanding and supportive – Although you may feel better about them being in a safer environment and receiving the daily care they need, moving from home can represent a major loss of personal independence and a connection with their past life. Empathy and support for your loved one’s feelings is key. Frequent visits, if possible, can help your loved one to feel loved and connected with family and ease their acceptance of the changes occurring in their life.
  • Bring possessions that have true meaning – Ask your loved one what personal belongings are most important to them. Favorite and familiar items will help make their new space feel more like home. Bring as many reminders of home as you can to help make the change easier (e.g. books, photos, pictures for the walls). You can also offer to store any possessions, such as seasonal clothing or decorations for which there is no room. Bring as many mementos from home to help ease their emotional transition.
  • Create a “just like home” ambiance – Create a living environment thathas a familiar look and does not feel at all “institutional.” For example, bring your loved one’s favorite comfortable chair, as well as items such as curtains, pillows, bedspread and their dresser from home. 
  • Encourage, social engagement, but don’t rush it – Encourage social connections with other residents that your loved one can easily relate to. To smooth the transition and integration, assisted living communities often have a "get to know you" process that will introduce new residents to others who have similar personalities and interests. However, it is best not to force your loved to become socially engaged before they are ready. Some individuals simply require more time to acclimate and adapt than others.

If your loved one struggles initially with the transition from their home to a new home in a long-term care community, don’t be overly concerned. Their behavior is not uncommon. With some time to adjust and the support of family and friends, loved ones typically assimilate well and enjoy the social activities, companionship of new friends, amenities and sense of security that long term care communities provide.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Discover our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Hospital, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services, including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing care, restorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at (610) 658-5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House/Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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