Moving to a different home can be stressful for anyone. But when the move also involves a loss of independence, the transition can be even more difficult.
Kristia Bednarek, RN, director of nursing at Bon Secours Maria Manor Nursing Care Center, has plenty of experience helping residents and families in this situation. Maria Manor is one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the county with 274 beds dedicated to short-term rehabilitation, dementia care, and long-term care. Kristia has also worked in long-term care for eight years.
She shares some guidance for families who have a loved one entering a skilled nursing facility.
Adjusting to a new lifestyle
Regardless of the person’s previous living arrangements, moving into a nursing facility is a big change in lifestyle. For most, this means taking time to come to the difficult realization they need help.
“One of the biggest struggles for residents is the adjustment period,” Kristia says. “They’re losing control. They’re having to rely on others to have some of their basic needs met.”
Here are a couple of ways to make this adjustment period easier for your loved one:
- Familiar Items: Even if your loved one is not fully aware they’ve moved to a different place, they’re still not familiar with the people or surroundings. Kristia says one way to help with this issue is to bring familiar items from their previous residence. This includes photos, a favorite blanket, books or DVDs, and even a favorite chair or dresser. For someone with memory issues, this might mean packing older items.
- Keep Routines: Let the nursing facility staff know about any daily routines your loved one has. The staff can then try to preserve them as much as possible, creating familiarity for your loved one in their new home. For example, Kristia knows of one Maria Manor resident that loves hats and dressing up. He is encouraged to choose a different hat from his collection to wear every day.
Remember to take care of yourself
It’s not unusual for family members to provide at-home care for their loved ones for a period of time before they move to a nursing facility. Kristia says these caregivers are often exhausted, she even recalls a woman who hadn’t been out to dinner with her husband for months.
For these family members, the transition of their loved one to a residential facility can mean much-needed time to rest. This is especially true for families of residents who become agitated when they receive frequent visits at first.
“Go out, get a massage, take a weekend for yourself,” Kristia encourages.
If you’re wanting to check in with your loved one without stopping by, call the nursing facility and talk with a staff member.
Every individual is different
Each family’s situation is different. Be sure to talk through your loved one’s needs with the nursing facility staff. The goal is to help residents stay just as active in their new home as they were before. Family members are encouraged to visit and participate in activities with their loved ones too.
“When our residents first come in, we meet to get their likes and dislikes,” Kristia says. “We have a very robust activities program, everything from bingo to arts and crafts.”
Also, when a resident is having trouble adjusting to their move, families sometimes try to comfort them by taking them out frequently. However, it is usually more helpful to give the resident uninterrupted time in their new environment.
“Give them at least a month to get themselves acclimated and understand ‘this is my home now,’” Kristia advises.