Settling into Aged Care: A new Way of living
“We couldn’t believe how Nan changed when she went into Aged Care. When she was living by herself, she wasn’t eating properly and was nervous to go out alone. She was spending so much energy trying to cover the fact that she wasn’t coping. Once she was placed into aged care it was like she was a changed woman! She would go to all the activities and outings, play mah-jong every day and was finally eating properly. She was so much happier. Of course, she missed her own home, but we were all shocked to see how she thrived in the facility.” Felicity
It is quite normal to worry when your loved one enters Aged Care. You worry how they will settle in and how they will adapt to the change. It can take some time for new residents to settle into care so be patient and supportive with them. You may both be grieving a little; your loved one for the loss of independence and you for the change in your role as a child.
The first three months are a time of transition as your loved one adjusts to the new way of life. There are things you can do to help during this time.
1. Stay Positive
It is easy to be negative about the change because the facility will not be like home. It will take some getting used to for all of you. Try to stay focused on the positive aspects of the move. For example, no longer having to cook their own food, regular and quality meals, lots of company, perhaps a nice room mate or easier access to services such as physiotherapy which may have been difficult before. Remember, your loved one is still trying to settle in so it’s up to you to set the tone and stay positive.
2. Be part of the team
It’s important that you don’t suddenly ‘let go’ when your loved one enters Aged Care. You will want to stay involved and your loved one will need the contact and support. Families can also provide great support for the resident and staff, especially during these early days. Be prepared to make decisions about care. Be involved in care planning and allied health access.
You know your loved one well and understand the likes and dislikes. So, remind the staff if you notice something needing attention. For example, if Dad likes to wear a singlet every day, let the staff know if he doesn’t have one on when you go in to see him. These details make a big difference to your loved one’s comfort and feeling of security. Be on the same team as the staff so together you can make your loved one’s new life a great one.
3. Get all the family involved
Sometimes the journey as a carer can be lonely so make sure you are not the only one caring. Get as many of the family to visit as possible. Some families do a roster so your loved one has regular visitors throughout the week. This respects your time as well as the energy of your loved one. Too many visitors at once can be exhausting, but even worse is no visitors at all. When you are planning your visits, be aware of the facility’s timetable. Try not to visit during activity time or in the middle of meals.
4. Take them for outings
If your loved one is well enough, it is a great idea to take them out for special occasions and outings where possible. They need to feel as though they are still a valued member of the family. Sharing an outing helps them stay connected but also helps them feel like they are not alone.
5. Encourage Connection
By entering Aged Care, your loved one simply has a new address. They don’t have to stop seeing people or doing things they used to enjoy. It’s important to help them maintain their connection with friends and activities they did before their move.
Consider your loved one’s spiritual needs. Some facilities have visiting ministers, but you could also ask your local church to help them with their spiritual needs, such as Communion or prayer.
If your loved one belonged to a club or association, encourage members to visit and stay in touch. Perhaps they could bring a newsletter to help keep your loved one up to date with what’s happening.
Think about the activities your loved one engage in before that they could still do now. Think about the different ways your loved one could be transported to those activities so he or she does not have to give them up. The Aged Care facility may be able to help you work out how to do this. Of course, there are many activities available right there in the facility, so encourage your loved one to join in.
While transitioning into Aged Care can seem difficult, with your support and encouragement, your loved one should settle well into the new way of life. The first three months will require your patience and a positive outlook to help your loved one become comfortable and confident in Aged Care. As always, if you have a question or concern, talk to the Director of Nursing straight away.
You will find more information about settling into aged care in our articles “Settling into Aged Care – The First Week” and “Settling into Aged Care – Dementia.”