Settling into Aged Care: Helping your loved one through the first week.
Transitioning into a care facility is an unsettling time for new residents and families. It is important during this time that the facility and resident be given time to get used to each other and adjust to the new routine.
When is the best time to move in?
To create as smooth a transition as possible it is best to arrange for aged care placement to begin early in the week. During this time the facility will have full staff available, including physiotherapist, so the resident can be assessed during admission. With a full staff and a week of activities ahead it gives the new resident the best chance of getting used to their new surroundings.
When is the best time to visit in the first week?
During the first 48 hours we suggest no family visits to allow the resident to acclimatise and begin settling into their new routine. They will most likely be unhappy during this time, but this is part of the settling in process. During the rest of the first week it is advisable not to visit for more than approximately 20 minutes and that visits occur just before the resident has something to do such as an activity, lunch etc. That way they are not feeling alone once you leave as they are occupied with the activity or lunch etc. If you are in attendance at lunch time they must attend for lunch and cannot miss the meal to remain with you. Spread visits out every two to three days to help them learn the new routine in their new home.
For residents with dementia they start to recognise spaces after 4 weeks i.e. know which hallway to walk down, where meals are served etc. Understand that this process takes time and be supportive of them during this time.
How can you stay in touch when you’re not visiting?
When you are not visiting you are always able to phone and leave a message via the staff i.e. ‘your daughter rung just to let you know that she is thinking of you, and she will be in +2 days – so you only have 1 day to go’. It is all about creating a routine that lets them feel comforted and not abandoned.
What should I pack for them?
To create a sense of home in the resident’s new surroundings, it is important to bring some favourite things with them when moving in. A favourite sitting chair goes a long way to creating their own space, familiar rugs, blankets, pillows and family photos or knick knacks they usually have around them at home. Keep these things on display so the staff can interact with your loved one about the items and create the sense of belonging in the new space.
What about food?
Aged care facilities will provide full means. If you are wanting to bring in special treats for loved ones it is important to discuss this with the Director of Nursing to make sure they are suitable. If the resident is to have vitamised food under doctor/dietician instruction, then this is the way it must be, and the facility cannot deviate from that as this is for the resident’s safety.
Whilst it is okay at times to bring alcohol into the facility, please speak to the Director of Nursing before doing so in case it is contraindicated. Keep in mind the resident doesn’t have the ability to monitor the quantity they are drinking so please refrain from excessive amounts.
What clothes should I pack?
With personal belongings coming into care we suggest that seasonal clothing is brought in and then with the season changes new clothing can be swapped over by family members. Clothing will need to be replaced regularly for a variety of reasons including regular wear and tear and weight changes in the resident. Practical clothing is advisable including comfortable footwear and slippers, so the resident has the choice of footwear – no high heels! All personal items need to be labelled with the resident’s name prior to bringing into the care facility.
Will my loved one need money?
Residents that can attend outings will need their own pocket money to spend during outings including visiting the hairdresser/barber or shopping. Most facilities have a petty cash system for residents, and we recommend discussing this with the Director of Nursing. Please remember this is not a one-off event as regular outings are part of your loved one’s life and as such, they are required to have their own pocket money.
What about appointments in the first week?
During the first week it is recommended that no outside appointments take place to allow the resident to get used to their new home and routine. Once settled, family members can plan outings as required. With appointments such as medical appointments, a family member will need to be in take them to their appointment and be in attendance as residents cannot attend without a responsible person with them. If a designated family member cannot attend, then there will be the requirement of the family to pay the cost of a carer to attend with the resident.
Throughout the transition to care period it is a trying time for many reasons and for all involved. It is a major life transition and needs to be treated as such. Be patient, discuss any concerns and seek support for yourself through this time.
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