Change isn’t easy at any age. But when your parent is used to where they’re living – be it at home, with you or in an assisted living community – transitioning to a skilled nursing facility is tough. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, though; it can. And it can be done well, and smoothly, with smiles all around. Here’s what to do to help your parent adjust to skilled nursing.
Don’t do it alone.
Unless you are the absolutely only person your parent knows on the face of the planet, don’t try to move them by yourself. Whether or not you have to downsize, it’s a huge job. If you get stressed, your parent will pick up on it and get stressed, too. And that’s the last thing you need.
So call up your siblings or your cousins. If that’s not feasible, get family friends in on the project. If your parent has neighbors or friends who live nearby, make sure to let them know so they can come visit before the move and say goodbye.
Stake out the territory.
Once you know which skilled nursing facility your parent will be moving to, visit it. Show your parent around. Let them meet staff members, like the social worker, the activities director and the staff at the front desk. Take them for a walk around the grounds. If you can, eat lunch there one day so they can experience the dining room and maybe exchange a few words with the people they’ll be coming to live with. The more familiar the place is, the better your parent will feel when moving day arrives.
When you’re packing, make sure to pack memories, too. Favorite photo albums, framed pictures, a favorite painting or piece of furniture can go a long way toward turning a strange room or suite into a home. If space is limited, consider buying a digital picture frame as a housewarming gift. Load it up with family pictures and place or hang it somewhere prominent where your parent will be able to really enjoy it.
And don’t forget things like favorite books, collections, hobbies and even games. If your father has a chess set he loves, take it. If your mom once loved to collect glass figurines, ask the staff about installing a shelf or display case and bring those miniatures along. And remember, these things don’t have to make sense. Of course they have chess in the game room. That’s not the point. The point is to keep your parent surrounded by as many beloved, familiar objects as possible. It’s not a logical thing, it’s emotional. So when your dad insists on taking the pencil holder your son made for him 25 years ago, just nod, smile and pack it.
Help your parent adjust to skilled nursing activities.
Once the move is done, be there to help your parent adjust. One great way to do this is to encourage your parent to participate in activities and outings. If your parent resists because they still don’t know anyone yet, offer to join them for movie night, bingo or a shopping trip. Go with them to an exercise class or a music session that the facility offers. Not only will that help them adjust, the social interaction and stimulation will keep them mentally and physically at their best.
Once your parent is settled, make sure the staff knows who you are and has all of your contact information. And if there’s anything you feel they need to know about your parent, tell them. Does your father have a favorite sports team he enjoys discussing? Does your mother have a nickname they should know about? When staff members know this kind of personal information about new residents, it helps them forge a connection with them.
Give some thought to dietary preferences, too. Some people like taking their medicine with a certain kind of drink. Your dad might detest green beans. Your mom might love lemon in her water. You get the idea.
Visit often, but don’t take your parent for an outing just yet.
Make sure to visit your parent often. But resist the desire to take them out for a drive or a shopping expedition. Not quite yet. Wait until your parent has really gotten into the new routine before you take them out of it, even for a short drive.
Do you have any tips on how readers can help their parents adjust to skilled nursing? Please share in the comments below.