We know that it can be difficult when prospective residents and their loved ones are trying to decide whether and where to transition the older adult from his or her home into a senior living community. The decision requires complicated planning, tough family conversations and a lot of research. Managing those family dynamics, finding the right community and handling the move itself all can lead to stress.
Thankfully, senior living professionals can help ease the process. At my community, The Kenwood by Senior Star in Cincinnati, we take several steps to help soon-to-be residents and their families navigate this difficult period in a way that reduces stress and sets the stage for a meaningful life in our community. Here are three steps we believe may be helpful in your community.
1. Get organized
Organization is crucial for planning the transition of a loved one to a senior living community. One of the simplest ways to help families streamline the process is to advise them to designate one person to lead the decision-making. Dividing responsibility among a handful of family members can muddy the waters, lead to conflict and slow down the planning process.
Also, encourage caregivers to gain guardianship, not just power of attorney, of the family member. It’s important to stress to future residents that a move into a community isn’t a mark against their character but a way to improve their lives by reducing stress and responsibilities. Even still, older adults often struggle with the decision. Gaining guardianship allows family members greater flexibility to make the right decisions for a loved one — even if the older adult may have a difficult time accepting the choices.
And before a family commits to living in your community, encourage them to hire a healthcare attorney. These specialists can be extremely helpful in helping families who are dealing with the complex language of Medicare and Medicaid and can have a major, positive effect on residents and their caregivers.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Open, honest communication is perhaps the most important part of the transition to senior living. At the Kenwood by Senior Star, we encourage families to create group emails to keep lines of communication open and to save time when updates need to be provided.
Denying problems only will make for a more difficult transition later on, which is why senior living professionals should encourage families to be forthright with the older adult and with each other. This principle should be applied to all conversations, including difficult ones about challenges, costs of care and healthcare needs. To help with the most difficult of these conversations, you may consider hosting family meetings at which staff members can serve as moderators and explainers.
3. Stress the benefits of moving in early
Moving into a senior living community before it is a necessity has major benefits. It allows residents to more easily build a network of friends within the community. It also removes the stress of dealing with a new environment while also managing declining health. An earlier move can be especially beneficial for couples. Often, one partner experiences health problems earlier than the other. Moving into a senior living community removes the burden of care from the healthy partner and allows both to enjoy more meaningful time together. Be sure to explain this reality to potential residents, encouraging them to make a move sooner than they otherwise might have considered.
No matter how you help new or potential residents deal with the challenging process of a transition to senior living, the most important things to remember are to be patient and be supportive. Both of these qualities go a long way and are crucial for helping a family ease the loved one into life in your community in a more seamless, happy way.