8 Tips to Keeping Your Aging Parents Happy in a Nursing Home

Moving into a nursing home is a huge transition, not just for your elderly loved one but also for the whole family. Many older people are reluctant to move into a home and will resist the change stubbornly. Here are eight tips to help your loved one get and stay happy in a nursing home:

8 Tips to Keeping Your Aging Parents Happy in a Nursing Home

Make the transition easy.

A stressful transition into a nursing home will color your loved one’s opinion of it in a bad way right out of the gate. Do everything you can to make the transition easy on them, from sorting through their mens adaptive clothing to moving their remaining belongings. Give yourself more time than you need. Moving into a nursing home is a huge life change and difficulties are bound to come up, whether they are emotional or logistical. Volunteer as much as you can, get the rest of the family to help, and hire professionals if you need to. The smoother the transition for your loved one goes, the more they will be primed to have a positive opinion of the nursing home.

Visit as often as possible.

There’s simply no replacement for an in-person visit, so try to make them happen as often as possible. Your visits don’t need to belong or be involved. In fact, many elderly people don’t have a lot of stamina and aren’t up for long visits or lots of activities at once. They are often perfectly happy to sit down and have a calm chat with you for half an hour and then wrap it up. Try to time your visits for when their energy and mood are up, which is usually in the morning for most older adults. They get tired and cranky later in the day, which can make the visit unpleasant for both of you.

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Stay in touch with them.

While they’re no replacement for visiting in person, phone calls, video calls, and even snail mail are great ways to let your loved one know that you are thinking of them in-between visits. Every person’s level of tech-savviness differs, so tailor your communication to their comfort level and be prepared to offer tech support if needed. For instance, many elderly people love phone calls, but some of them may struggle with video calls, especially if there is no one on hand to help them navigate their smartphones. Try to keep your communications as upbeat and stress-free as possible.

Get the whole family on board.

One of the elderly loved ones’ biggest fears of moving into a nursing home is often losing contact with the rest of the family. Get your siblings and their kids to reach out to your loved ones as often as possible and schedule frequent visits to see them in person. Make it a point to keep your elderly loved one up to date on family gatherings by sharing videos and photos of the events after the fact. If they are tech-savvy enough, you can even give them a video call while the event is happening so that they feel included even though they aren’t there in person.

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Encourage their participation.

At first, your loved one may resist making social connections or participating in activities in order to protest being put in a home. When you can, gently encourage them to get involved in their favorite activities, which will help them realize the full benefits of the nursing home. Don’t push them too hard, though, or your efforts might backfire. You know your loved ones best, so use your judgment when encouraging them to get involved.

Send them gifts.

Nothing cheers people up like getting something fun in the mail. Sending your loved ones small gifts in-between visits, even if it’s just something small like a bookmark or a new adult bib, will let them know that you haven’t forgotten them. They are sure to appreciate gifts from the world outside the nursing home, such as spices from their favorite restaurant or a card painted by their favorite local artist. Just keep in mind space constraints. Since most nursing rooms don’t have lots of storage, smaller gifts or consumables are a better bet.

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Focus on the positives.

Whenever you talk or visit with your loved one, you may find them giving a laundry list of everything they hate about the new nursing home, from the temperature of the nursing home to the way the laundry staff folds their adaptive clothing for women. When this happens, try to re-focus them on the positives, even if it’s something small. For example, maybe the nursing home offers a class on one of their favorite hobbies, or the cafeteria offers their favorite cuisine one night a week. Gently nudging them to consider the positives will help stop them from dwelling on whatever they don’t like about their new living scenario (and there will probably be a lot they don’t like in the beginning).

Listen to your loved one.

That being said, sometimes your loved one’s complaints will be rooted in genuine issues at the nursing home. Eldercare neglect and abuse are real, and no matter how carefully you vet the nursing home, they might hire a bad actor who negatively affects your parents’ care. Know the signs of elder neglect and abuse and listen to your loved ones for signs that they are being mistreated. Don’t outright dismiss their complaints, even if they are cranky. Follow up independently to either confirm them or determine that they really are rooted in grumbling.

Follow these tips to help your loved one acclimate to a nursing home and start enjoying this new phase of their life.

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