Settling into new surroundings and a new routine always takes time and this is particularly true if you, or a relative, are settling into a care home for the first time.
Worries about the future and any health issues, combined with the upheaval of leaving a home you love, can quash the excitement and benefits of moving somewhere new, meeting new people and having your care needs met.
Here are our top tips for making the experience as smooth and easy as possible:
1) Manage expectations.
Settling in anywhere and making new friends takes time. Expect it to take at least six months before you or your loved one is truly settled in. Remind them that they are doing well in coping with change and that everything will become more familiar in time.
2) If you have time to plan, choose the items that will accompany you or your loved one to their new home well in advance so that new clothes, cushions, slippers, nightwear, blankets etc become comfortable and recognised. New environments are easier to cope with when you are surrounded by familiar things.
Label absolutely everything that will accompany you or your loved one. It is distressing to lose a cherished cardigan or top and easily done if laundry is managed communally. Remember to choose a sturdy label such as a snappy tag so that they can withstand a boil wash and the dryer. This way your items will be instantly recognisable and you won’t be spending a fortune on new labelling every few weeks.
Don’t forget to apply name stickers to hairbrushes, glasses cases, the back of photo frames, the bottom of jewellery boxes and anything with sentimental value. If eyesight is a challenge, you can pick one of Labels4Kids bright and colourful range which are both eco-friendly and antibacterial.
Try to keep to a visiting structure to add to the weekly routine. Plan with family and friends who will visit but try not to overwhelm. It’s nice for everyone to have plans on the calendar and takes the last-minute stress away by planning ahead.
5) Take a few items of jewellery
Take a few items of jewellery but wear them every day. A 2, 4 or 6 photo locket filled with photographs of family can be such a comfort and a great way to keep loved ones close. Choose a 24 inch or 30-inch chain so that it can be pulled on and off over the head easily without the hassle of having to undo the catch. Add an engraving of a name or initials to personalise it. These make for a great settling in gift.
6) Visitor Book
Keep a visitor book and a supply of disposable polaroid cameras in the room and encourage all visitors to write in the book and take a photo of themselves with whoever they are visiting. This makes such a good aide memoir and family can easily see who has popped in to visit. Remember to label the visitor book clearly, replenish the cameras and keep some stickers handy to insert the photos.
7) Choose a favourite scent
Choose a favourite scent and wear it every day. Smell is the sense most associated with memory and a familiar scent is a real comfort. Spray a little on a handkerchief and keep it under the pillow.
Keep a tin of favourite treats in the room for when a little pick-me-up is needed. Add a different sweet or treat each week and mix the familiar with the new. Remember to add a name tag to the bottom so your tin doesn’t go missing!
9) Create a pinboard
Or even a picture book with lots of photos of family and friends taken over the years. Label the photos with the names of those pictured so that visitors can strike up a conversation around the photographs. Ask the younger members of the family to refresh the photo album or pinboard regularly.
10) Soft Toys
A soft toy may seem patronising, but it can be a charming addition to a room and a great source of comfort. Or add some super-soft faux-fur cushions and throws for a cosy, tactile experience. Choose machine washable and remember to label them. Aim to keep textures and colours within the room as cheerful and as stimulating as possible.
Moving into an assisted living facility or a residential home can be a stressful time for the new resident as well as loved ones. However, we hope these tips can make the transition as comfortable as possible. It’s important to be compassionate with yourself and family during this time. Researchers have shown that moving home is one of the most stressful times in our lives. So don’t worry if you feel a bit overwhelmed. You’re not alone and it will pass.
Let us know in the comments if you can think of any other helpful tips or hints.
by Gillian Crawford, managing director of lilyblanche.com