Helping a senior adjust after moving to independent living

by Anne-Marie Botek

Moving is a notorious source of stress, regardless of an individual’s age or life situation. Disrupted routines, the challenge of finding a new home, and the hassle of packing and unpacking all of one’s personal belongings are just a few factors that contribute to the overwhelming amount of work that goes into a major move.

For older adults who are vacating their long-time homes to take up residence in independent living (IL) communities, these normal stressors are often compounded by feelings of anger and sadness due to a perceived loss of freedom and vitality.

While it’s common to feel nostalgic and a sense of loss when moving from a cherished home, there’s far more powerful emotions at play for older adults who are moving to senior living. Leaving their home in the community is a symbolic end to the life they worked for years to create. Things will certainly be different in independent living, but it’s important for a senior’s family members and close friends to ease this transition by reminding them that they still have their independence and there are many new opportunities and friendships awaiting them at their new home if they are open to these things.

Making sure the move itself goes smoothly can also help reduce stress to a senior. This is why you should look for highly rated moving companies Chicago, or indeed wherever they are based, before proceeding onwards. After all, the move to independent living can seem like a slippery slope for seniors. Logically, the next steps are assisted living and possibly even a nursing home. Acknowledging and accepting this reality is challenging, but the emphasis should be placed on the present rather than the hypothetical future.

A move to independent living is not the tragic ordeal that many older adults believe it to be, argues Wallace. Unlike assisted living facilities and nursing homes, IL communities don’t accept seniors who need skilled nursing care or assistance with activities of daily living. The men and women in independent living settings are still capable of maintaining a relatively active and autonomous lifestyle.

These communities are settings that offer enhanced independence for residents. The services available at IL are meant to support an elder’s ability to remain self-sufficient and take mundane responsibilities like home maintenance, transportation, meal preparation and housework off their plates. Ideally, the additional free time these services create can be used to explore community amenities, pursue social opportunities and focus on enjoying a happy and healthy retirement.

While much of the success of this transition lies with the seniors themselves, there are things that family members can do to ease the adjustment before, during and after the big move. Here are a few tips for family caregivers to keep in mind:

Acknowledge your loved one’s loss. Realize what your loved one has left behind by moving out of a home they’ve lived in for many years.

Be prepared for the move. Avoid unnecessary stress by packing well in advance of the move-out date so you’re not rushing through this delicate process.

Help them get settled in their new home. Wallace encourages relatives to assist with the unpacking and decorating of an elderly loved one’s new home.

Let them go. Knowing when to step back and let a loved one get on with their new life in independent living can be tricky—there’s no one sign that will tell you it’s time to let them figure things out on their own.

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