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Easing the Anxiety About Senior Living

Easing the Anxiety About Senior Living

Easing the Anxiety About Senior Living

Learn more about Sunshine’s Easy Move Program for more ways to make moving easier on seniors

How you can support your parents during the tricky transition phase

Congratulations if you've talked about downsizing with your parents and they’re on board with moving to a senior living community. But don’t be doing a victory dance quite yet! Although one set of uncomfortable conversations may be over, downsizing is a huge deal, so don’t be surprised if the process brings up yet more pesky little emotions--like fear, loss, and anxiety--in your parents.

In fact, the real question is not whether mom and dad will have feelings about the impending move, but how can you best support them during this transition.

The biggest mistake you can make is pretending that nothing is happening when you see signs that your parents are feeling upset. Instead of avoiding the issue, offer your parents a listening ear. Give them your full attention as they spill out their anxieties, validating their feelings and acknowledging their concerns. If your parents tend to clam up about their feelings, wait for a calm moment, then initiate a conversation. Let them know the signs you have noticed, and, if they seem open, ask how they are feeling about the transition.

Familiarize them with their options

On a more practical level, ease your parents’ anxiety and help them make an informed decision by asking them about their needs and preferences and involving them in decision making. Help them out by researching senior living options and setting up visits with the various communities. In addition to viewing apartments, drop by for lunch and chat with other residents (be sure to ask them what they like--and don’t like--about the community.) Keep in mind that some places will allow your parents to partake in a recreational class and others can arrange short-term temporary stays, which will allow mom and dad to get a real sense of the community.

When your loved one has dementia

If your one or both of your parents has Alzheimer's disease, moving into an unfamiliar environment can be even more anxiety-provoking. Unless their dementia is advanced, talk to them regularly about the move, involve them in the planning and include them in visits to the various senior living communities.

Closer to the move, talk to staff about your parents’ background, medical history, and preferences. You can also reduce anxiety by booking the move during their best time of day. Another tip: Try and recreate the home environment in their new apartment as much possible.

Unfortunately, your loved ones may still be reluctant to move when the time comes; in fact, they may be out of sorts for the first few weeks or longer as they adjust to their new living arrangement. During this phase, try to be patient and visit your parents often, encouraging friends and family to do the same. Extra care and attention can go a long way.

Focus on the positive

Finally, no matter your parents’ medical condition, don’t forget to remind them that senior living will improve their quality of life, especially if they can no longer drive and feel isolated. Here is a short list of some of the benefits of senior living:

  • Companionship
  • A wide array of recreational activities
  • Healthy cooked meals
  • Less house and yardwork meaning more time to focus on other meaningful activities
  • No costly repairs to worry about

It may take some time, but once your parents feel part of their senior living community, they may discover that community living suits them even better than home ownership.

About the Author

Katherine O'Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.

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