When is the best time to move into an older adult community? How do I make the transition worry free? Nicole Moore is United’s learning and development coordinator who supports staff working with residents who are transitioning from their home to our community. In this article, she discusses the obstacles and solutions.
By Nicole Moore, learning & development coordinator
“I can’t say enough about the staff, they’re the most caring, efficient, pleasant, and helpful people. The staff is what helped me make the adjustment.” – Fish Creek community resident.
Our homes are so much more than just physical structures; they provide us with security, privacy, comfort and independence. Our homes contain our memories and reflect our identities as individuals. The majority of us would prefer to stay in our homes as we age for as long as possible, but this can become an issue when we reach a point where our needs outgrow our home environment.
“I was so familiar with my community all my life so moving here was an adjustment.” – Fish Creek community resident.
Transitions to supportive communities are complex, and in order for them to be successful, older adults and their families must endure a series of adjustments. The most obvious adjustment is the physical relocation to a new home. This includes ending an established life pattern and the decisions involved can be overwhelming for all involved.
Relocating to a new environment is often described as one of the most difficult issues faced by older adults and their families. In 1989, Virginia Brooke, then an assistant professor in Spokane, Washington, identified four phases of adjustment that older adults typically go through during a move.
Although the transition to a new community can be stressful, there many positive outcomes. Research suggests that after a transition people often feel more secure and less lonely than they did before the move. In addition, feeling a sense of relief is common. Think about all of the work that goes into maintaining a house. No longer having to worry about yard work or home maintenance can be very freeing. Many older adults will discover new opportunities to develop hobbies or skills and form new bonds with others in the community, which results in an enhanced quality of life.
When the decision is a result of personal choice instead of a consensus of family members and health professionals, older adults will adjust better to their new home.
“My husband and I both came to the conclusion that rather than our children having to sort out everything for us, we would decide for ourselves, and we thought it would be wise to move while we were able to make all the decisions,” said Garrison Green resident Betty Earle. “A lot of people are resistant, but if they take the time to look at some of these places, they’d see that they are not what they thought they were.”
How to make the transition easier
Involvement in the decision to move is arguably one of the most important aspects that can either help or hurt the adjustment. Older adults who are included in the decision-making process feel empowered, respected and view the move as more desirable. However, when older adults have little or no input in the decision they tend to feel hurt, angry, misled or depressed.
United is committed to supporting resident adjustment to our communities. We strive to understand resident needs during this stressful time and work with them and their families to help everyone adjust positively.
Quick tips for families
Before the move:
- Site Visits: to help develop relationships and become acquainted with the physical space and programs and services available
- Counselling: older adults and their family members need to feel safe expressing their feelings towards the move
After the move:
- Help Them Settle: recognize emotional impact of the move and respond with compassion and patience
- Offer Choices: involving residents in decorating the space, meal choices, developing routines around their lifestyle enhances feelings of control
- Promote Identity: display documents or items of significance and encourage the continuation of previously enjoyed activities.
- Facilitate Connections: building new bonds with staff and other residents is crucial for quality of life after a move. Our staff will make the effort to introduce themselves to new faces and make them feel comfortable.
“It was the right thing to do, as hard as it has been.” – Fish Creek community resident.
Transitioning from your home to another community can be very difficult, and it can take up to a year or longer to finally feel settled. However, understanding what the move means to the individuals involved and planning ahead can help everyone make a healthy adjustment to a new environment. At United, transitioning is a team approach involving a number of disciplines. This is the first of several articles that will provide advice on moving to ensure transitions are smooth.
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