Moving an aging parent from their home to an assisted living facility is a difficult and emotional choice for adult children and their parents to make. When parents suffer from diseases like stroke or dementia that may affect their ability to directly assert their preferences, the process can become even more burdensome. Children may be left feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and guilt-ridden. Involving the parent in the decision-making and respecting their choices is one way to help alleviate some of the burden and to help ensure the parent's satisfaction in their new residence.

Communicate Effectively

It is easy to assume that because someone can no longer speak that they can no longer express their wishes. Getting used to talking with someone who can't speak back takes a little practice as it can be unsettling, but it can be done:

  • Always speak directly to the parent and make eye contact
  • Ask questions that can be answered with a 'yes' or 'no' when possible
  • Use both verbal and visual cues – for example point to or pick up the object that you are discussing
  • Offer limited choices if the parent is struggling with decisions
  • Be alert to subtle signs of confusion and/or distress – looking at the floor, teary eyes, crossed arms, body turning away from you, furrowed brow, etc.
  • Use positive language and phrases – emphasize all the things that they will be able to do in their new home rather than outline the things that they can no longer do
  • Recognize that things that seem like trash to you may be their treasure and don't ridicule their choices or ask for explanations
  • Choose words carefully – refer to their new residence as their home, not their care facility, nursing home, assisted living residence
  • Remind them that you will continue to see them regularly – many aging parents fear isolation more than anything else

Plan Ahead

Find out before the move how many and what type of personal items are allowed. Whenever possible, move cherished items into the new residence ahead of time, so that their favorite things are there for them to see and hold on arrival. Optimally, the parent can decide what these will be, but if they are unable to, look around to see what things are closest to their favorite areas in their home and choose from those. Instead of asking what the person wants to take, offer a choice between two similar items in order to minimize distress and be compliant with the facilities guidelines on personal belongings. Include as many photos and personal mementos as possible. Also consider placing fresh flowers or other decorative items to enhance their welcome and sense of comfort.

Hire Professional Help

There are many moving and packing services that specialize in helping older adults move into smaller residences. They will have useful ideas on what to do with items that are no longer practical to keep and they are sensitive to aging parent's needs. They are also generally able to execute the move over several days, which is often more palatable than an abrupt transition. To learn more about packing services, contact a company like Bekins Van Lines Inc

With some forethought and planning, this potentially distressing change can be made a lot more bearable for everyone.