One of the best ways to help a loved one transition to assisted living may be by reflecting back on your own memories. What was it like to be ill or immobilized by an injury? What was it like to leave your kids when you dropped them off at kindergarten on the first day? How did you feel moving away from friends or family?
Your answers may help increase empathy for the transition that your Mom or Dad is about to make. Keeping your experiences in mind and following these suggestions can make the transition go a little more smoothly.
Supporting a Senior’s Transition to Assisted Living
Tour the senior living community
Visiting the new community may sound obvious, but it is vital to have sufficient opportunities to see what the community is really like, experience how the caregivers interact with residents and develop familiarity with the place. During the visits, encourage Mom or Dad to ask questions, voice concerns to you, and make some connections with staff and residents.
Once you’ve decided on a community, visit it a few more times with your senior loved one. Participate in activities and events. Stay for lunch or dinner. It can help make the new community feel more like home.
No matter how much we like the new place, moving may create a feeling of loss. Adjustment takes time, and most people feel sad, angry or depressed at various stages after they’ve made a big move. That happens to eight-year-olds as well as eighty-year-olds.
Love and listening, support and faith, humor and reminiscing can go a long way to providing comfort at those times. Exercising kindness and compassion may help to reduce the fear.
Consider reasoning and logic
Remember why the decision to move was made. Write it down and post it for yourself and your loved one. Refer to it when you need to remind yourself why you are doing this.
It might feel like the wrong decision when the emotions of moving day take over, but “this too shall pass.” Try to focus your mind on how senior living communities improve the quality of life for older adults.
Create a tiny escape clause
If possible, provide a minor “out”, so the older person doesn’t feel trapped. For example, “Mom, if this doesn’t work, maybe we can make some adjustments. But let’s really give this an A+ honest effort. This is our best choice.”
If possible, help the senior make the move before putting their house up for sale. It can take some of the stress and fear out of the equation if you do.
Get the family involved
Contact family and friends who may be willing visit your loved one at the new community. Consider setting up a schedule for the first few weeks. This helps ensure a steady stream of friendly faces during the toughest days of the transition.
Establish some routines
Activities that build familiarity can be helpful to reduce transition stress. Suggest to your loved one that they start a routine, such as eating in the dining area or taking a walk at the same time each day. That will make it easier for staff and residents to see them and develop relationships.
Make it personal
Who am I now? Who was I? Who do I want to be?
Finding those answers are important to our identity and self-confidence at any stage of life. So as much as possible, help your parent identify their unique qualities and potential contributions, even though they may have limitations now.
Also, provide your Mom or Dad with items that remind them of different stages of their life. Familiar personal possessions and furnishings may be more comforting than buying all new furniture for the move.
Advocate for your loved one
Sometimes it’s little rules or small problems that can seem like a very big deal to a senior who recently relocated. Although the staff may be busy, most people want new residents to feel comfortable and at home in their new surroundings. Don’t be concerned about speaking up and acting as your loved one’s advocate. Resolving those issues can help to make an aging loved one feel safe and secure.
Trust your intuition
Intuition is that gut feeling that tells you something is wrong. Listen to it. Ask questions of yourself and respond in writing to generate deeper answers. Talk about it with others. The problem could be an old fear rearing its head or it could be a something that requires immediate action. Most of our parents tried to heed those feelings when they raised us. Now it’s our turn.
Visit Heritage Senior Communities to Learn More
At Heritage Senior Communities, we welcome you and your loved one to visit us. Our team will help provide support to make the transition comfortable for your mom or dad. Call us and schedule a time!
My mom has Alzheimer’s and watching her slowly slip away is so awful.
It also makes me worry that I will develop this awful disease. I’ve read some researchers think there may be genetic links to some forms of the disease.
While I know there is nothing I can do about my family history, I wonder if there are any steps I can take that may help me prevent Alzheimer’s?
I would appreciate any insight!
Stacey in Grand Blanc, Michigan
Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?
Alzheimer’s is definitely a devastating disease a senior and those who love them. It is understandable that you would be concerned about developing the disease yourself.
Researchers are still struggling to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Although there is no proven method of preventing the disease, there are steps you can do that may help reduce your risk
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Research has shown that seniors following the MIND diet have lowered their risk for reduced brain functioning by 35 percent. Even people who were so-so about maintaining the diet were 18 percent less likely to have reduced brain function.
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet with a few tweaks. The diet is pretty simple: eat lots of green vegetables and fruit, particularly berries. Include whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are especially good for preventing Alzheimer’s because they contain omega-3 fats.
Dairy products, in moderation, are OK if they are low in fat. Olive oil is on the diet, but red meat, sugar and salt should be limited. Also, limit alcohol intake.
Smoking cigarettes is not recommended on this diet.
Anyone who puts effort into following the MIND diet will likely see a payoff. It can include a better functioning heart, healthy blood vessels, and optimal blood pressure—all of which are factors that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Exercise For Your Life
For years, studies have shown that exercise can benefit the brain and delay the start of Alzheimer’s. People who are less active have a higher risk of developing this disease.
Exercise helps to keep the blood flowing and increases the chemicals that protect the brain. The key is to exercise several times a week for 30 minutes or an hour. In a relatively short time you will feel the benefits of exercise: sharper thinking, improved memory, and better decision making.
Reduce Stress Daily For Your Memory And Mood
In a study looking at how stress impacted the brains of mice, researchers found that stressed mice had high amounts of a protein called beta-amyloids in their brains. These proteins cause memory problems.
Other research has linked these beta-amyloids to Alzheimer’s. Avoiding stress may be one way to keep your brain healthy.
But, let’s face it, stress in life is unavoidable. So it’s especially important when you are a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s that you find ways to de-stress.
- Take advantage of community support through online resources or phone help lines.
- Use relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, visualization and muscle relaxation.
- Take time to express yourself. Self-expression through music, art, writing, private dance or movement can all help.
- Find ways to leave your problems behind for a little while. That might be by taking a walk, going to a movie or watching funny videos of babies or pets. There are days when just a long shower or an early bedtime can be a big help.
- Use positive affirmations and self-encouragement to reduce stress.
- If you have faith, use it to find peace and comfort while you are caring for your loved one and taking steps to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
When The Stress Gets Too Much
Finally, it might help you to consider using respite care at the Heritage Senior Communities. Short-term breaks can do a lot to restore balance, energy, joy and hope.
My very best wishes to you and your family, Stacey.
Alzheimer’s Action Day on September 21st provides a chance for early stage patients, caregivers, and others to share stories that help to increase awareness and end the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also be a turning point for people who choose to become a community advocate.
Advocating for Adults with Alzheimer’s
Why should I advocate for the disease that I dislike and prefer not to think about?
A number of benefits can result from advocating for Alzheimer’s disease—whether you’re an early stage patient, a family member or friend.
- Establishing connections with other people, resources, and support systems
- Reducing the loneliness factor that is so common with the disease
- Providing opportunities to share your insights, experience and hope
- Enabling you to contribute to medical research
How can I fit community advocacy into my schedule?
- Start simple and set small goals. Caring for a loved one can take a huge amount of time and emotional energy, so set small goals. Even one hour a week might help you feel as if you are contributing.
- Reframe your viewpoint. Change your it’s-a-drain attitude to it’s-a-gain Your support and advocacy may actually recharge your batteries because you will be having meaningful conversations with other adults who have similar concerns and problems.
How can I start advocating in my community?
There are several steps you can take to become an advocate.
- Begin by talking about Alzheimer’s with coworkers, friends, church members, and others. That may provide a sense of satisfaction and social purpose.
- Read the facts and statistics about the disease. This will help you speak comfortably and knowledgably about the issues.
- Get involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You’ll meet people, find camaraderie, be inspired, and have an opportunity to participate in activities that increase empathy, self-esteem and self-care. All of this may help to heal some of the emotional wounds caused by Alzheimer’s.
- Use social media to connect with people from the comfort of your home.
- Brainstorm ways to increase attention about Alzheimer’s and other memory problems. Consider arranging a presentation at the local library or organizing regular meetings at a coffee shop.
- Connect with local politicians and learn about their position on medical research funding for Alzheimer’s. Encourage them to back bills and laws that increase financial support for the disease.
- Invite health care providers who specialize in Alzheimer’s to speak at local events and chamber meetings. Broaden the topic of the meeting to include other memory disorders and provide tip sheets, brain-healthy menus, and resource lists.
- Create newsworthy articles for your local media. Include your personal story along with seasonal topics, such as holiday planning or Alzheimer’s-friendly activities.
- Engage the help of business faculty members at a local college or SCORE counselors to solidify or strengthen your community action plans.
- Identify assets and financial resources for your advocacy work.
At Heritage Senior Communities, our staff members receive specialty training to help them provide the best possible care for residents with Alzheimer’s. Each team member in our memory care is an expert and an advocate.
Ask about having one of our dementia care experts speak at your local advocacy meeting or for resources that you can share with the other families.