4 Tips for Transitioning to Assisted Living
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Moving to a new home is always stressful. You may think that’s exaggerated, but studies have confirmed that stress increases during a move. This is especially true for those who are moving into an assisted living community. This transition can be tense for all the normal reasons: uncertainty, changes in routine and, of course, packing. But it can also bring up a lot of emotions as one stage of your life ends and a new one begins.
Whether you’re planning for your own move or helping your parents as they take this step, the following tips can help create a peaceful transition.
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Worrying about missing a step or forgetting to do something can add to moving stress, since everything feels out of control. Moving into assisted living can add to this feeling, especially if you’re worried about losing independence in the new environment.
Writing down your plan can help ease these worries. Having a list of everything that needs to be done, as well as dates and times for each step, can bring some certainty to the process. You can make sure that everything you need is packed, bills are paid and the old home is ready for its new residents. This is also a good time to designate; friends, children and grandchildren will all be ready to help, so assign them jobs.
Some assisted living communities have moving consultants. If your new home is one of them, take advantage of their advice. They’ve helped many people become part of the assisted living residence and know what you have to do to make your move trouble-free.
Visit the Community
Not everyone is comfortable stepping into a new community where everyone knows everyone else. It might feel disturbingly like starting at a new school. But spending some time there beforehand can help you prepare. A new environment is less intimidating if you know where the dining room, library and bathrooms are.
These visits are also a good time to get to know people. You may be able to join the community for dinner and introduce yourself to your neighbors. This means there will be a friendly face waiting for you on moving day. Some communities also offer respite care and can let you stay for a short time. You can get used to the idea of assisted living and have a complete experience of the facility before making a permanent commitment.
One task that makes moving into assisted living so difficult is sorting through a lifetime of belongings. This is often as emotionally taxing as the move itself. If you raised your family in this home, it may be tough for your children as well. It’s best to start early — possibly when you first start looking for an assisted living community. Work with other members of your family to decide what you need to bring into your new space and what can be passed down to the next generation.
Finding somewhere to store your belongings for 6 months or so can be a good strategy, especially if your move is imminent. Renting storage space is an option if you don’t have any family members with an empty garage. You can throw out or donate things you know you don’t want, but anything you’re not sure about can be stored. This means you don’t have to make any big decisions while also navigating your move. After you’ve adjusted to your new space, you’ll have a better idea of what you need and what you can do without. Then you can finish your downsizing journey.
Throw Yourself Into the New Environment
When you first started thinking about assisted living, people probably told you about all the advantages of living in a community. Once you move into your new home — or if you’re already living there — it’s time to experience those advantages. Think about the amenities that drew you to that particular facility and jump in. Was it the fitness center? Go along to the exercise classes. Hobby groups? Sign up and meet some new friends that share your interests. There might be outdoor spaces to explore, spa treatments available or outings to a local museum. This is your chance to relax and enjoy your retirement.
Throwing yourself into new opportunities helps you focus on the positives of the situation. There are going to be times when it’s difficult being in a new environment with people you don’t know so well. Fortunately, studies have found that thinking positively helps people manage stress and reduces depression and anxiety. This means that experiencing the good things about life in assisted living, such as chef-prepared meals and no maintenance chores, can help ease the transition into your new life.
The Bottom Line
Transitioning to an assisted living community combines the stress of moving with the emotional upheaval of starting a new stage of life. But you can make the transition easier by planning ahead, visiting the community, going slowly and focusing on the positives. If you’re thinking about assisted living, start planning and downsizing today. If you’ve already moved in, focus on the advantages of your new home to help you feel great about your decision.