Test the Waters
Moving to a new home will make anyone uncomfortable for a period of time; it is the same with seniors moving to a retirement home. Many stressors come along with moving and settling, such as packing and purging your home, adjusting to a new environment, meeting new people, and figuring out the lay of the land. It could very well take a toll on your parent. The important thing is to make sure to wait before making an abrupt decision to switch homes. Generally, it should take about three to six months to adjust to the change. Between that time, help your parent or parents ease into their new lifestyle.
There are a few easy processes you can go through to work with your parents to make their life better at a retirement home. First of all, make sure they have familiar items available and displayed in their new home. Photos of family, comforts from their old home (favorite chair, pillow, kitchen appliances, handmade items from kids or grandkids), and house plants can make even the smallest space feel welcoming. Along with these homey additions, make sure you are there for your parents in person. Visits from loved ones are often welcome and a comfort from the newness of a retirement home. Bring your kids, close family members, maybe even an old friend to make the place feel more like home. Participating in the provided calendar events is a wonderful way to immerse your parents into a new lifestyle. The variety of planned events caters to lots of hobbies and social groups. Try joining your parent on one of these activities; Bingo is always a popular game among retirees, and crafting exercises, like quilting and crocheting are also great ways to have some fun. With these social events, your parents should feel right at home in no time. They will be able to connect with the other adults in the community and enjoy themselves.
Unfortunately not all retirement homes provide such loving support and encouragement to seniors; there are sometimes cases where people are underfed, neglected, and abused. This is awful and absurd, but it does happen. Please be aware that it could happen to your parents or parent, although unlikely, especially if you thoroughly vetted the establishment. Neglect is a serious issue and you should remove your parents from the facility as soon as possible if you notice the obvious red flags. Here are a few red flags to look out for when assessing your parents’ desire or need to move.
- Injuries and Sores - Although it is likely that your parent will injure him or herself as they age, there are certain conditions you need to look out for. When the injury is unexplained, or your parent is not able to to explain the issue, this should cause worry. Ask your parent’s caretaker about the injury to try to connect stories or find out more information. Along with unexplained sores, be on the lookout for bruises, broken bones, or swelling that have been unattended. In a proper retirement home, these will be dealt with immediately.
- Change in Personality - If your parents were once happy and outgoing, but their moods have changed drastically, this could signal abuse and neglect. They might be living in fear of their caretakers or other residents. Shutting down emotionally and distancing themselves from others, including family and friends, is also a common sign that something is going wrong.
- Dirty Living Area - This one is obvious; if your parent is living in a pigsty, that is not beneficial to their health. These facilities are required to keep living environments clean as to avoid infection and disease.
- Personal Hygiene - Coming hand in hand with the last one, personal hygiene is essential as a necessity of healthy living. If your parent looks uncared for, it’s time to dig deeper into the facility’s care. Look out for basics like combed hair, general cleanliness from bathing, clothing, and brushed teeth. Sometimes residents are unable to do these tasks and physically need help. If they are being left to do these tasks alone, that is neglect.
Time to Move
If your parents are still unhappy after a general period of waiting, or if you notice that they are being neglected at their retirement home, it is probably time to move on. This time around, make sure to properly vet the establishment of choice. Bring your parents with you and tour the new facilities; it is helpful to bring a checklist with you to make sure your requirements are being met and a list of questions to ask the staff. Here are just a few quick questions to get you started:
- What type of care is provided at this facility? Are your staff members on site 24 hours a day? Are they prepared for all emergency situations?
- What is the routine for residents as to hygiene and personal care? Do you follow a strict routine for the patient as needed?
- How quickly are you able to attend to injuries, sores, and broken bones? I assume the issue is handled as soon as possible.
The new move will still be a process, so apply those same steps of moving a parent into a new home. Make it familiar, visit regularly, and get them involved in the community with events and interactions between neighbors. Hopefully this new environment will lift your parents’ spirits with an environment full of compassion and fun.
If the issue continues, even at a new home, consider other options. A lot of the time, a retired parent will live with sons or daughters. They are able to care for their parent with background knowledge of their health and have more empathy than a retirement home employee. This change can come with stressors and joys, but it may be the best situation for your parent. There is also the option of living at the original household, but with assistance, like an on-site nurse or caretaker. Either one is a great option for parents who just can’t get used to life at a retirement home. Whatever you decide, you are the one who has your parents’ best wishes at heart and will be able to make the decision in their best interest.