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Making Friends at an Assisted Living

“Making Friends at an Assisted Living” is a new column written by Rick Weisberg   in the Jewish Journal.  The series addresses the needs of seniors and their families. Take a look:

Senior Solutions

by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal 

Q: My mom is considering moving to an assisted living in the Boston area, but I am worried that she will be lonely. She doesn’t play cards and is not one for participating in group activities. How will she make friends? The thought of leaving her there alone is making me anxious.

A: Moving one’s parent into an assisted living can be a traumatic experience for the entire family. Grown-up children often compare it to the first day of school – only this is a reverse scenario! Remember that feeling when you left your child alone at school or day care for the first time? It’s emotional and nerve-wracking, to say the least.

There are, however, strategies you can employ that will help seniors acclimate to a new living environment. First, enlist the help of the Executive Director, Marketing Director and Wellness Director in introducing your parent to other residents. They know all the residents well and can put your mom or dad together with other residents who share similar interests and backgrounds.

Meal times, of course, are key to making friends at an assisted living.  The  staff will place your parent at a table the very first day. If, after a few days, your mom or dad is not happy, do not hesitate to ask – even insist – upon changing tables. Meals are an important part of the socialization process and finding the right table mates is crucial. Sometimes it just takes a few weeks to get the right mix of individuals.

Making friends at an assisted living
Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience

Staff and resident relationships are an integral part of the assisted living experience. Often, these are the relationships that come first and mean so much to the elders and their families. Keep in mind that staff members visit with residents throughout the day, alleviating loneliness and fostering communications. They are also a terrific resource for the family. Most facilities encourage family members to call or email staff members so they can check-in on how one’s parent is adjusting to the transition.

Recreational planned activities are obviously a great way to make friends. Some people resist scheduled events and that is absolutely fine. But who doesn’t enjoy weekly spa and salon appointments? These routine events inevitably lead to friendships among both the staff and the residents themselves. Encourage your parent to go to the café for a light snack, read in the library or just sit outside on the patio. There are always people out and about.

All assisted livings host family days with special events for the residents and their families. This is a wonderful way to meet new people. Talking with other families who are going through the same situation can be extremely helpful.

Like any new situation, the transition to an assisted living is complicated. But you’ll be amazed how quickly seniors adapt to new surroundings, especially when they are relieved of cooking, cleaning and housekeeping responsibilities. Give it three months and I suspect one day you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see your mom or dad are introducing new friends. In fact, he or she may even cancel plans with you because of a busy social calendar. Now, wouldn’t that make you feel good?

Send questions about senior issues to rick@assistedlivingnationwide.com, call 617-513-7067 or mail to Senior Solutions, 27 Congress Street, Suite 501, Salem, MA 01970. Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria. There are no fees for his services. Rick is also a realtor and is affiliated Benoit Mizner Simon & Co.

Senior Solutions: When Parents Can No Longer Live Alone

JJ

 

 

by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal

Published February 18, 2016, issue of February 18, 2016.

“Senior Solutions” addresses what to do when parents can no longer live alone? The phrase “it’s complicated” probably sums it up best. Emotions can run high even in the most well-adjusted families when discussing senior living options, support services, health and financial issues.  In this column, we’ll address frequently asked questions by seniors and their families.

Q: We recently moved my mom into an assisted living facility close to my sister and me. She seems happy, but steadfastly refuses to participate in any of the activities. Should we continue to encourage her – or just let her be?

A: Activities do play an important role in an assisted living, but keep in mind they are only one component of the day-to-day routine. In fact, meals times are probably the most social activity and a great way to create friendships. (Reviews of the food are always a lively topic of conversation!) Talk to the Executive Director and/or Wellness Director and ask their opinion as to how your mom is adjusting to her new environment.

Q: What is the difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility? Also, how do I know if my father meets the criteria to live in assisted living?

A: Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide 24-hour, round the clock nursing care. Residents live in one room, often shared – as opposed to apartments. Assisted living facilities offer studios, one bedroom or, in some cases, two bedroom apartments with a support staff such as a Wellness Director (RN) and aides to help residents with the activities of daily living. In terms of eligibility, all assisted living facilities will conduct a medical assessment to determine if an individual qualifies to live in an assisted living.

Q: My mother and father are both in their early eighties. What should our family do now to plan for their future?

A: The first step is to organize a family meeting with your parents and discuss where they envision themselves living as they get older. It’s best not to wait until a crisis such as a fall or illness occurs and you are literally forced to make a decision within days. Of course, this is easier said than done. None of us really want to think about the time when our parents can no longer live alone.

Q: My husband passed away 10 years ago and I moved into a two bedroom condo. I am 85, live alone – and love it! The problem is that both my children live out-of-state and have been pressuring me to move into an assisted living. I know they worry about me, but I treasure my privacy. Are there steps I can take to reassure them while remaining in my home?

A: You sound like you are enjoying your life. Certainly there’s no reason to make a change if you’re able to live independently, but there are steps you can take to ensure your safety, and allow your children to worry less. For example, make sure your home is equipped with medical alert buttons, safety devices in the bathroom and activity sensors. Many families work out a schedule where family member(s) will call in the morning, at lunchtime and again in the evening. It’s important to check in often. Plus, hearing a loved one’s voice – even for a few minutes – can create a special bond for both the senior and the family member.

Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria, free of charge. “Senior Solutions” appears monthly in the Jewish Journal. Contact Rick at rick@assistedlivingnationwide.com.

 

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