How to prepare for your loved one's move into an Adult Family Home

It may seem like a simple move, but moving into an Adult Family Home has its challenges. But if it’s done right, it can be a wonderful and joyful transition. It pays to plan, though, and here’s why:

It might be the last move in a person’s life

We always want to feel that we will live forever, that there is always another stone to turn, or an opportunity to explore. We have lived in an extraordinary time of opportunity, unmatched in all of human history. We live twice as long as humans did only a half dozen generations ago, and we can expect to live in comfort and safety, generally speaking, for most of those sweet years of our lives. So it’s no wonder we want and expect it to continue. But even the longest living among us won’t live for two hundred years. By the time we do move into, for example, an Adult Family Home, we could consider it our “last chapter”, no matter how many exciting and joyful chapters preceded it. Without it being explicitly said, many Adult Family Home move-in residents will know fully what’s going on. It has become challenging for them to be looked after by their adult children or other relatives, and now it’s time for them to get a little extra care every day, a little more than can be provided in their last domicile.

Moving at any age comes with challenges. For pre-teens, it might mean never seeing their beloved school friends again. For the parents of those kids, it might be that great job in New York they simply must go for, even if it means disruption for all other members of their family. And for others, it’s a move out into college a thousand miles away. For each, there are challenges, and the older we get, the tougher a move is. Even a move in ones fifties means – probably – packing and hauling boxes of person goods. Unless you have money to pay someone to do the heavy lifting, you might have to move that grand piano yourself. But when you are old enough not to be able to take care of yourself, the emotional element of the move is probably the hardest.

It means moving away from loved ones, and in with strangers

Good Adult Family Homes understand and survive on the reality that their residents must be made to feel at home, and from the moment they walk in the door. It’s a big, big move, and the first moments are critical. For some, they will feel comfortable with living now with people their own age, and with similar challenges, perhaps. For others, the other residents are another reminder of where they, too, are in life.

Preparing for the move is worth every moment

Preparation is not just about packing belongings into boxes and labeling each correctly. The thing to consider your highest priority is the first hours your loved one will experience of the new place – they place they may live for the rest of their lives. That means bringing only those truly valuable things. To illustrate this, I want to tell you of an experience I had that made this clear to me. About twenty years ago, when my three kids were four, two and a few months, we went car camping in western Canada. On day, someone’s Winnebago rolled backwards into the small but deep pond they had in the middle of the campground. The water reach up to within about two feet of the top of the Winnebago, so everything in it was affected. Thankfully, no one was inside it at the time, so the loss was limited to things and not people. The staff and fire service who arrived to help asked if there was anything that needed rescuing from the vehicle. The elderly couple who owned it replied that the only thing they wanted was the photo album of their grandkids. Well, there was hardly a dry eye on the campground as the fire department staff dived into it with snorkels to get the album. From there, the couple carefully extracted the contents and set each up photo to dry out properly. They were not in the least bit bothered by the probably total loss of the Winnebago, but were overjoyed to see their precious photos. This taught me a lesson, of sorts, about what might be of importance when we get older, and it is why I always recommend that you make a big deal of family photos. Perhaps it’s simply a question of making sure your loved one has a complete set of family photos in an album, but it might also be a great idea to get an extended family photo framed and signed. Make it a gift from your own children to your aging parent. Make a fuss.

Bring everyone along

I used to detest it when my parents dragged me along to visit the very seriously old relatives we had. It wasn’t as exciting as a day at the beach, but in hindsight, those visits provided some of the most memorable events of my childhood. A visit to a retirement home or a nursing home is a good eye-opener for youth of any generation. It’s education for them, and it’s a act of great respect to the older generations among us. Get your children dressed up and make an event of it. Your own beloved parent will appreciate it, and ti will make for a very enjoyable day, as well as another photo opportunity for the family.

Take your time at arrival, but know when to leave

Arriving at the Adult Family Home with your parent is an emotional moment. Needless to say, you won’t be simply dropping them off and taking off. And neither would you consider sending them there via Uber or Lyft. What might be best, if you have two cars, is for one of you to drive your parent there, to be followed by the noisy kids in the other car shortly after. It will give grandpa a moment to adjust to the place before being overwhelmed again by the excitement of seeing his or own grandchildren again.

And as the afternoon slips by, it will come time to leave, and that can be the hardest moment of the day, but remember it is really nice to live in an Adult Family Home. There’s room, safety, company when you want it, excellent food choices, and medical safety. Stay a while and see that they get the complete introduction. Take note as it progresses, but when the time comes to go, go. It’s now up to your beloved parent to take the next step alone: The first night in their new home.

See you next week!

Image by Stephan Wieser