Many of us are members of the sandwich generation—the generation caught between raising our own families and caring for aging parents. For a while it’s a doable situation, but as each week passes the stress of caring for two groups of people at opposite ends of life (and equally needful) begins to take a physical and emotional toll on the person in the middle.
As parents continue to age, weaken, and become more dependent on medication, the time will come when they need daily assistance beyond that which you can provide. Hopefully, the decision to move to an assisted living facility will be made together. Oftentimes, it’s not. Parents feel forced into giving up the family home and their independence while adult children feel guilty for not being able to do change their lives sufficiently to car for mom and dad. Sometimes, hard feelings develop between parent and adult child.
Even if the decision is mutually made, fear and apprehension are common and normal feelings during the moving process and those first few months of transitioning into a new place.
One way to alleviate the stress of living in a strange place is to make the new home similar to the old one. While an architectural overhaul is not possible, there are ways to decorate that will give the new place some of the charm of the old homestead.
Custom drapes in a particular color that is significant to mom and dad will make them feel more at home. Perhaps, the drapes will be the same shade of yellow as the sunflowers that grew by the backdoor. Maybe, they’re the periwinkle blue of the old kitchen wallpaper or the color might complement the warm wood tones of great granddad’s rocking chair.
Assisted living homes are typically much smaller so moving into one requires a substantial downsizing. A second tip to make the transition easier is to let mom and dad choose pieces of furniture that are comfortable or have sentimental value. If dad’s old recliner has seen better days, then have it reupholstered—maybe to match the new drapes! Don’t worry if things don’t match. It’s more important that your parents have reminders of their old home life to carry with them into their new future.
A third element to ease the transition is photographs. If wall space is tight, then invest in photo albums or start scrapbooking. It will be a good hobby, and will provide a link to their past that can be shared with family members as well as the new friends they’ll meet. Reminiscing over photos about days gone by with people their own age will help them make new friends with common interests.
Fourth, take advantage of the social activities offered. If mom or dad are hesitant to sign up for activities, then sign up yourself and them for the ice cream social, the sing-a-long or a day trip. Once they’ve done a few activities, they might even suggest a few new ones like a scrapbooking club or perhaps poker night!
Last, but perhaps the most important tip is to call and visit often. Showing your parents that you’re interested in them and what they are doing will go a long way toward mending any fractures in your relationship caused by moving, and if there were none, spending time with your parents will only strengthen the relationship you do have.