I Want Mom to Be More Social In Assisted Living
"My mother is in her late 80s and was just relocated into an assisted living facility after the passing of my father two months ago. It’s near my home and a much better situation for my mother and me. I can now see her frequently, and she’ll have enough money for her care as long as she lives.
Mom has early Alzheimer’s, and round-the-clock supervision is essential, so the memory care situation works wonderfully for her.
The one thing that worries my brother and me is how to help Mom acclimate to her new home. She was quite comfortable in her family home living with my father. She now rarely leaves her room. We are a bit worried about her. It’s only been a month, but with her declining memory we would like to see her socialize more while she is still pretty strong and relatively alert. Any ideas on how we do that?"
My first thoughts are to lower your expectations for the short term. Your mother has gone through one of life’s most difficult transitions: the loss of a spouse. Even with memory issues, she’s grieving the loss intensely and is likely still a bit numb. She also experienced a move from the family home. Both of those events, for someone with impaired mental functioning, are quite disorienting.
Adapting to change is difficult for all humans. Just look around you in your work setting, in your family, and with yourself. Change is hard for us at any age. Even when a change is desired, it requires adjustment. Your mother’s changes were both out of her control and are two of the most difficult.
What you can do at this time is bring any normalcy to her that you can. You and your family are the constant in your mother’s life. You are her connection to the past. You know the history. Therefore, you are the key.
Just as you have been, plan to visit your mother regularly. Encourage family members, such as grandchildren, family pets (supervised of course), and great grandchildren to visit on a regular basis also. Bring along small treats that you bake. Take photo albums along and reminisce over warm beverages, such as coffee or tea. Plan outings, or just take mom for a ride to tour the countryside. Do your best to make this move a stronger positive than negative. It will not be easy to do, though you can make it less sad.
Do express your concerns to those who run the memory care facility. I believe it would be best if they slowly ease her into new group activities, as she is willing. It might help if just one neighbor stops by to introduce his or herself, maybe with a deck of cards or game to play for a short while. I would not recommend any forced interaction. Your mother needs time to adapt. Give her that time. Remember, she is not used to living in the same building with a group of unrelated people. It will take some getting used to.
I understand that she isn’t jumping into what you see as all of the activities available to her. Try to remember the situation she left. There were no planned activities, nor anyone in the next room. This is significant change and she needs time. Do let her ease into it on her terms.
Watch for signs of depression, or the need for grief counselling. Make sure that your mother is eating, sleeping well, and generally thriving. She has suffered quite a loss, and grief support is available for her. The folks operating her facility can connect you if you are unable to locate resources on your own.
Continue to be alert and supportive. Do what you can do. Your mother needs the constant that is you and your family.
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