1) Decorate their apartment/room very similar to what their home was like. Assisted Livings often feel like “Home Away from Home” instead of “Home Sweet Home.” There are many ways to help your family member feel more at home in an assisted living and one of the best ways is to recreate their apartment/room to look and feel like their old home. Use older furniture that they had like a baker’s rack or a china cabinet. If space is limited try adding old throws/quilts to a couch or bed that were passed down or that they made. One of the absolute best ways to decorate your family member’s apartment is with pictures! Pictures help recall memories, people, or places. A good atmosphere can evoke a positive attitude in your family member about the transition to assisted living.
2) Encourage social activity with other residents like playing games or visiting other neighbors in their rooms or apartments. Most assisted livings have Activity Directors. I just so happen to be very fond of this position because I am the Activity Director for Stonehaven Assisted Living. Humans are by nature relational beings and we respond to relationships with others 1 of 2 ways. We either enjoy being with certain people, or we don’t. Extroverts generally enjoy being with lots of other people and get satisfaction out of meeting new friends and being social. Introverts are typically more reserved and are fine with minimal contact with others, only in close relationships. Understanding this is vital to finding out what type of social life your family member needs to have. Do they gain energy and feel cheerful around a lot of people? Or do they feel more comfortable in a small setting with 2 or 3 close friends? One of the most beautiful things about retirement is that you get time to enjoy yourself, whether that be through playing games or making new friends or learning new information. There’s always a way to be social-even if it’s just in small quantities. The important thing to realize is that without some kind of social life, introverted or extroverted, your family member could become depressed, lonely and/or inactive and not thrive as well as they could if they participated in social activities.
3) Visit your family often. Family participation and visitations are crucial to boosting your family member’s spirits when going to an assisted living. Family visits are so meaningful. After all, when they were in their other home family would come over, so why not now? Plan fun things together like taking your family member out for ice cream or a movie or go to the park to get some fresh air or showing them new scenery. Another big way to visit your family member is to take them shopping and out to eat. The little things are the most basic to keeping them lively and okay with going “home” after trips or feeling like they’re at home when they get to invite someone in. Another tip during visitations is to not make your family member feel like a burden. If you enjoy your time together, so will they.
4) Encourage your family member to eat with other residents during meal times. Food is a unifying thing. It brings people together. Often times when residents of assisted livings eat together, they make new friends, tell stories and have greater recall of special times in their lives. They tend to eat more as well because they are happy. This helps maintain physical and social health.
5) Get to know the staff at your facility. The staff at assisted facilities are your friends, not just employees of the company you’ve entrusted your family member with. If the staff doesn’t enjoy what they do, is it really a place you want your family member? Quick Tip: If the staff doesn’t want to be there, neither will your family member. One of the best parts of working in an assisted living is getting to know not just the residents, but the families too.