Many successful assisted living facilities recognize what makes their location attractive to potential residents, but what about after they move in? What can an assisted living facility do to help with the adjustment of their residents moving into a new home? Here are 5 things we see.
1. Keep Them Engaged
One of the most important staff members at an assisted living facility is the person responsible for scheduling activities. At top-notch facilities, residents have the opportunity to lead an active and stimulating lifestyle via numerous scheduled activities—both on-site and off-site—that range from card games to exercise classes to visiting local museums, stores, and restaurants.
When you’re conducting research about potential assisted living facilities for your loved ones, be sure to meet the Activities Director (or the person who fills that role) and request to see the activity calendars for the previous six months (or more), to make sure the facility is devoting enough effort to fulfill their important obligation to keep residents social and cognitively stimulated and engaged. For more information on this topic, visit these web pages:
- A Look at Social & Recreational Activities Provided by Facilities
- Easy and Creative Ways To Fill The Downtime at Assisted Living Facilities
- NotJustBingo.com: helping activity directors better the living experiences of their residents
2. Cater to the Family
Keep in mind that the daily assistance offered by the staff at an assisted living facility is much less than at a nursing home. Therefore, important aspects of caring for residents of an assisted living facility are frequently performed by family members, such as shopping for food and supplies.
Staff members at reputable facilities coordinate care and work hand-in-hand with family members. Likewise, staff members respectfully listen to a family member’s requests for procedural adjustments and provide thorough explanations about the reasoning behind their actions.
Even though assisted living facilities are legally prevented from providing medical care, many of them provide help by having medication prescriptions filled by a local pharmacy and receiving the packages when they’re delivered. A facility’s willingness and encouragement to have family members participate in residents’ social activities also helps make the transition easier.
3. Recognize Their Need for Independence
Most assisted living facilities see themselves as a place where residents can fully enjoy life without some of the annoying burdens of daily living. Because these facilities don’t see themselves as a place for the elderly to wither on the vine, they focus on making sure residents do not become dependent on the staff to take care of all of their needs. Instead, they encourage residents to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.
For residents, it can be a challenge to accept any loss of independence, which can cause feelings of helplessness and depression. That’s why, during the initial stage of transition for new residents, facility staff members focus on gradually easing residents into the community lifestyle. An example is meal time. Naturally, for the sake of efficiency and affordability, a facility will have set dining room hours. But if residents prefer to eat at other times or by themselves, the facility will deliver meals to their apartment or room. Some facilities offer lighter fare during extended dining room hours.
Many facilities have a committee comprised of residents and staff members that considers and addresses policies that restrict or limit resident independence. The challenge for the facilities is to balance the residents’ desire for independence with the facility’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment. Conversations at committee meetings are a good first step to finding that balance while accommodating the residents’ need for independence in a communal setting.
4. Have a Program or Process for Helping Them Make Friends
The staff at assisted living facilities understand that one of the biggest adjustments for new residents is socialization. It’s not much different than when a family moves to a new city. The first few days in a new social environment can make you feel uncomfortable and lonely. To alleviate those feelings, assisted living facilities usually offer many opportunities—some on a daily basis—for residents to interact and connect with one another. Staff members will usually take it upon themselves to learn about the interests of new residents and then introduce them to others who share those interests.
As mentioned above, the activities offered at a facility are an essential part of determining the lifestyle residents lead, so the activities calendar is geared toward providing as much socialization as possible. Many facilities will even send a copy of the activities calendar to family members, who can further encourage residents to engage in events that provide opportunities to meet peers with common interests, which will lead to forming friendships.
5. Make Their Apartment Feel Like Home
The staff at an assisted living facility will do everything possible to make new residents feel at home, as well as all they can do to make a room or apartment feel like home. But the process of making a place feel like home really needs to start when the downsizing process begins at the resident’s previous home. This is a specialty of Harmony.
We understand that home is where the heart is, so when we help people downsize their home and move into an assisted living facility, we take the time to listen and learn about which items hold special meaning. This enables Harmony to not only better assist with downsizing, but enables us to ensure that these items are put in a place of honor in their new apartment. From the furniture and artwork, to the knick-knacks and cookware, we make sure that the emotional value of each item is considered before a determination is made to keep or discard it.
Something as inconsequential as a piece of fine china handed down from generation to generation can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making a new residence feel like home. After all, the sugar in your morning cup of coffee isn’t as sweet if it’s not served from Grandma’s sugar bowl.