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Relocating is usually stressful, but moving elderly people can create its own unique set of issues. Sometimes creative problem-solving is needed to work around the lack of physical mobility or to address needs caused by a specific condition. Physical issues can usually be easily resolved, though, especially with the help of a medical professional, medical alert system or an elder care advocate. It’s managing the emotional aspects of moving the elderly that often requires the real skill.
Moving elderly parents into an assisted living facility or nursing home can be one of the most difficult decisions a son or daughter has to make. In some ways it can be just as hard on them as on those who are actually moving. There can be feelings of remorse and guilt for taking people they love away from an independent lifestyle and moving them into a more structured environment. This can weigh especially heavily if the family members want to be the caregivers but aren’t able to do it mentally, physically or financially. Although they shouldn’t lay the burden of guilt on them, family members owe it to themselves to be honest with their parents about their feelings. Open and frank discussions will allow for everyone’s tensions to be eased, which can smooth the moving process.
It’s also a good idea to talk about all that’s entailed with the actual move and the new location. Elderly people moving into assisted living or nursing home environments have access to intake specialists or ombudsmen, so it’s wise to take advantage of their services. They can help by explaining the facilities, services and activities offered, and give everyone a chance to have their questions answered so there are no surprises. There are often also print materials that detail all the particulars, so these can be taken home and consulted later if there are questions.
Above all, it’s important to be sensitive to emotional changes created when moving elderly people. The loss of independence can create severe reactions in some people and they can act out in a variety of ways. Anger, depression, crying and withdrawal are all normal symptoms and should be handled with as little reaction as possible. Although these emotions can be frustrating and even scary for observers, they’re sometimes an essential part of such a large transition. The best approach is to stay calm and be as compassionate as possible. Honesty from family members about their feelings is important, too, but if there are severe emotions in play during the move, it’s best to save any discussion until the move is over and everyone has calmed down.