1. Making the right choice is the most important part of the transition to an ALF.
That means choosing the right time for the transition (not moving too soon or too late) and choosing the right place. But, how?
So many times, the older adult is not ready for the move (or hopes never to make a move to an ALF). Meanwhile, their relatives may feel the time is long overdue. And, most likely both only have limited experience with ALFs as a visitor or via hearsay from neighbors or friends. Even if a family has had another loved one in a local facility, that’s only a limited window into what might work for the current situation.
The first step is to get an independent assessment. An aging life care manager specializes in just this. They’re the professional advisors of aging. They don’t work for the ALF, which rightly might cause the elder to be skeptical. Their role is to truly understand your needs. The assessment may offer resources to help the elder stay at home, even if temporarily. It will give everyone a full picture of the situation that is necessary to know the right timing and best options.
The care manager can match up the individual’s needs, wants, budget, location preferences, and personality to quality ALFs. Read more about how a care manager can help an elder make a smooth transition to an ALF.
The wrong choice can be disastrous, or at least stressful. Often, over the years, we’ve received phone calls from distressed family members or elders who regret their choice. When they tell us the story of how they chose their ALF and made the move, we can see the pattern. They didn’t have all the information and perhaps got convinced for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, a family member or trusted professional felt pressure to hurry and make a move. Often, their opinions swayed Mom...such as when the family gets impressed by the look of an ALF, the space, activities, or kind marketing staff. It is such a major transition, you don’t want to have to do it twice if it can be avoided.
2. Preparation prevents problems.
Anyone who has ever moved homes knows there is a lot involved. It takes weeks, if not months, of planning. The tasks will vary, depending on what level of belongings the person has, whether there’s a home to be sold, and the various factors affecting timing. Just some of the resources you may need (which our team can help connect you with or coordinate with):
- Estate Sales agents, appraisers, online sites, pawn shops, charities that pick up donations, etc. for dealing with downsizing belongings
- Financial Advisors
- Packers/movers (there are also companies that specialize in ALF moves)
- Doctors (to get forms completed, exams, updated prescriptions, etc.)
- Various benefits organizations (VA, Medicaid, etc.)--care managers can help you navigate these and understand eligibility and procedures
Check out our 10 Downsizing and Packing Tips.
3. First impressions matter: ALF move day.
If moving to an ALF is stressful, the move day is the height of that stress. It can honestly just be exhausting...the actual moving process but also the build up of emotions. Just imagine: leaving your home of many years, selling or donating many prized possessions, facing a new routine and new neighbors (perhaps more like roommates or dorm mates). Then, comes the big day where it all comes together--you might feel totally overwhelmed.
We often help clients and families plan this day out to reduce stress. We think about the timing and the plan for the actual day. Even the day one picks for the move can have a major impact on the experience. Understanding ALF operations and their schedule means you can arrive at the best possible time. There’s nothing worse than an elder leaving home without eating lunch, and arriving at the ALF where they’ve finished serving lunch.
Of course, that’s easy enough to plan around. Many times, we actually divide up and take (or have someone take) the elder to lunch at their favorite spot while the moving team gets the new apartment arranged. Or, we arrange with the ALF to have the person all set up for a lovely lunch and perhaps an activity that is something they love. They might go over to the ALF for all of this while the team is settling in their belongings. We strategize about what’s best for the person, not just how to get the moving tasks completed.
4. That’s not the end: the importance of the transition period.
We know families often feel stressed about the move too...and maybe a bit relieved when Mom makes it to the ALF. But, despite the wording we sometimes hear, families generally don’t “drop” their parents off or “place Mom in a facility” as if it were some kind of sneaky move. At least, we hope not. At the same time, family members may have limited time. They’ve likely been putting in a lot of time and effort to make the move happen. So, they may have competing demands they need to get to.
And, it is important that Mom or Dad start to make themselves at home at the ALF. If her daughter is coming and spending most of the day there or taking her home with her each day, Mom won’t have much chance to settle in.
So, how can someone start to settle in and feel at home at the ALF? This is where we work with the ALF staff to help the person transition. This might include making introductions to people with common interests. They can sit together at meals. We identify activities they’ll enjoy and help show them around. If the person had an EasyLiving care partner at home, we recommend they accompany the client to the new home and provide support. Having a familiar companion there can make the transition easier, but they can also be a “point person” to get questions answered and help with little tasks and errands. Read more about the role of care partners when someone lives in an ALF or long term care community.
You might assume this type of transitional support would automatically be part of a new resident moving in. But, in our many years of experience, we have found a gap between expectations and reality. This is why choosing the right place is so important and why an advocate in the process can make the best of the experience. Things happen and things might slip through the cracks at even the best ALF if they’re dealing with other residents’ issues or who knows what. Our focus is on the client and family we’re helping. Because we have done this a lot, we know all the details to take into consideration. We understand you are making a new home in a new community--most likely with mixed emotions.