How can a family help with the move into a rest home?

Moving into an aged care facility requires a lot of major lifestyle adjustments. While everyone deals with change differently family members may be able to utilise the suggestions below to assist with this adjustment process.

     Encourage the family member to take personal belongings with them that enables them to view and treat the new place as their own home. Some people like to take a large number of personal items, furniture and/or a pet with them. Talk with the facility manager about what is appropriate and manageable for the room size, the way they like to live etc. Other people initially want to discard most of their belongings (this may be a reflection of how they are feeling about the move). If possible encourage them to allow important and/or sentimental items to be stored and review this decision in the future. Often, once the person begins settling in, items of significance can be reintroduced.

     Be available to talk. It’s natural that when becoming a member of a residential care community that there will be a number of things your family member will want to talk about; people who do things differently to how they do, routines that on first impression may seem to be overly prescriptive etc. They may not be looking for solutions to any issues they raise but may simply feel better for having expressed their feelings knowing that they have been listened to. If there are any issues that your family member wants addressed, help them do this. Sometimes this is harder to do than trying to convince them that everything is fine. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with their concerns but it does mean that they know you are supporting her.

     Where possible assist your family member keep up their previous contacts in the community. This can be done via phone calls, emails or Skype.  If they were a member of a community group prior to the move encourage them to continue with this afterwards.  Ask the manager how this can most easily and best be achieved.  Mobility vouchers may be available to assist with transport.

     Continuing with previous interests can also assist someone to settle in.  If appropriate, talk to the activities coordinator about your family members previous interests and activities and see if any of these can be continued in some way.

     Encourage your family member to exercise. Physical actively has positive psychological effects too.  Perhaps family members can take them out for a walk. If the facility offers an exercise programme there may be opportunities to link into these or build on them during your times together. Ask the Occupational/Diversional therapist or Activitities Coordinator for ideas.

     If your family member is struggling to settle in they may find (if able) that writing down their concerns or feelings about the move helps them to clarify and deal with their thoughts regarding this new life. Nobody needs to see this; just the act of writing things out can be therapeutic in itself.

     Another option, if settling in is proving to be difficult, is to encourage them to talk to a social worker (e.g. from the service that was involved in the move) about specific concerns. The facility may also have a visiting pastoral worker or spiritual advisor who may be available to talk to and assist. These people are more impartial than family members and they have the skills to help people work through issues they are finding difficult.

     A move into residential care requires many changes and adjustments.  Therefore it is understandable that this adjustment process will take a considerable period of time. Be aware of this and be patient.

If you feel that your family member is not coping well with the move after trying these suggestions let someone know e.g. the manager (if appropriate), their doctor or the service coordinator or social worker who was involved in the placement.  There could be various reasons as to why they have not settled in e.g. unresolved issues with people at the facility, suffering from depression which could be relieved or managed with the right medical advice or it could be that the facility is not the most suitable for them. Keep an open mind about what the solution/s may be.

Updated: 27/08/2012

© Eldernet 2014