Moving is exhausting at any age. Cleaning out closets, packing belongings, and arranging countless details can feel overwhelming. For seniors, moving can take more than just a physical toll, it can trigger grief and sadness. Leaving the home where a senior raised a family can be especially traumatic.
If you are helping a senior loved one prepare for a move to an assisted living community, it’s important to recognize the emotional struggle this situation can create. Adult children might find that a loved one’s agitation and anxiety increases dramatically as moving day gets closer.
Anxiety Caused by Relocation Stress Syndrome
A senior might be excited to start a new chapter in life, one that comes with fewer worries about home maintenance and repairs. Anxiety and grief, however, may still be a prominent issue. Psychologists refer to these emotions as relocation stress syndrome (RSS)—a unique set of struggles older adults encounter when they relocate in their later years.
How can you help a senior you love cope with relocation stress syndrome?
Here are some ideas to help make this transition go more smoothly.
5 Tips for Making a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living
- Empower: It’s easy to get busy and rush through the decision-making process without including your senior loved one. When you don’t include them, however, you take away their sense of independence. Unless your family member has a health condition that limits their ability to participate, include them when making important decisions. For example, make initial visits to assisted living communities to narrow the options, but bring your family member with you on second visits and listen to their feedback. Try to balance your desire to diminish your loved one’s anxiety with a need for them to feel empowered and involved in the process.
- Respect: The process of downsizing and packing up a home can be stressful. It can also lead to disagreements between you and your senior loved one. It’s important to remember that what you may see as unnecessary junk might be of sentimental value to your family member. Consider renting a storage unit temporarily to help treasured items find a new home with friends or family. Knowing a keepsake they love is in a child or grandchild’s home can help reduce moving anxiety.
- Continuity: Adult children sometimes hold an estate sale to get rid of everything, especially if their loved one is moving a great distance. Not only can this experience be traumatic for an older adult, it also prevents them from keeping their treasured possessions. Being surrounded by familiar furniture and belongings can help a new environment feel more like home. Providing that continuity is one more way you can help manage moving anxiety and sadness.
- Prepare: Moving day, and the weeks leading up to it, can be extremely stressful. Take time and create a plan to make the transition easier for your loved one. A few days before the move, pack a suitcase with your loved one’s personal care items, medications, and other necessities. Also, prepare a supply box with items needed on moving day, such as a coffee pot and supplies, snacks, towels, and washcloths. Set aside any valuables that your senior wants to keep close. Be sure to place everything in the car instead of sending it with the movers.
- Laugh: Try to maintain a sense of humor throughout this process and encourage your loved one to do the same. Things will go wrong no matter how carefully you prepare. Do your best to overlook the small inconveniences and find humor instead of frustration. Always focus on the end result—your senior loved one will be thriving before long!
Answering Questions about Moving to Assisted Living
Preparing for a move to an assisted living community can leave both seniors and their family members with many questions. To help make things a little easier, we created “Frequently Asked Questions about Moving to Assisted Living.” This resource addresses many issues ranging from moving anxiety to hiring a senior move manager. We hope you find it useful!