Moving is a stressful transition, even at the best of times, and moving to a nursing home brings with it a whole host of different emotions.
If you are the one moving, you are leaving behind a familiar place and memories. If the nursing home move was due to a hospitalization, the transition may have been abrupt and you may not have had time to even process what has happened. Add to that increased medical needs and decreased mobility, and it’s no wonder moving to a nursing home can be so stressful. You may even feel angry and abandoned by family members, even if you realize that they can’t provide the required level of care. Anger and grief are perfectly normal emotions.
If a loved one is moving, you may feel guilty for being unable to provide care, or sad that your loved one has to go through this transition. You may feel relief that your loved one is getting the care they need, tempered with guilt if caregiving has been particularly intense. Family members may have been arguing about whether a nursing home is necessary, where it should be located, and who should be the point of contact.
Easing the transition
Everyone needs time. Both the older adult and his or her loved ones need time to adjust to this transition and come to terms with their own their feelings. Trying to sweep anger and grief under the rug or refusing to acknowledge the difficulties of the transition will only intensify these feelings.
The older adult takes the lead. As much as possible, the older adult should be the one making the decisions about which nursing home is best. Whenever possible he or she should come along on visits when making a nursing home decision, and make the choices about what to take along and how to personalize the room. If the older adult is unable, loved ones should try to think about what his or her wishes might have been. A familiar blanket or favorite music, for example, may provide comfort even if the older adult is unable to verbalize it.
Tips for loved ones
Keep in regular contact. Even if you live far away, frequent calls, letters and emails make a big difference. Regular visits by family and friends help ease the transition. Keep your loved one in the loop about family events as much as possible.
Stay involved. Regular contact not only reassures your loved one, but allows you to serve as an advocate for your loved one’s needs. You want to make sure your loved one is cared for appropriately. If the nursing home has a family council, a group of relatives and friends who meet on a regular basis to discuss concerns and issues, consider joining.