Moving someone into a care home can be a very stressful and unsettling time. In this weeks’ blog, I look at what you can do before a move, during and after, to help settle a relative into their new home and how you can be reassured they’re safe and well.
Before you make the move
Communication is key throughout the process so that your relative knows what’s happening and feels involved every step of the way.
Imagine being in their shoes – someone tells you at the last minute that you’re going to be moving into a care home – how would that make you feel?
Just because someone is elderly, has dementia, has a learning disability etc., doesn’t remove anxieties caused by change. If anything, we need to be more communicative.
Make sure that your loved one has a copy of the menu, activity planner, newsletter etc so that they have time to adjust and foresee what’s coming. You should encourage them to join in with activities and meal times so that they don’t become isolated.
Small things will change and its important your relative know this. For example:
- Their clothes will be labelled (either by yourself or the care home)
- Electronics will be PAT tested and stickers added to plugs or wires
- Their GP may change.
These may seem like small changes but to someone who’s losing control of their home, it can feel like they’re losing control over their life as well.
You need to make sure your relative has enough clothes, toiletries and supplies, and come to an arrangement with the care home who will manage these going forward so that they don’t run out or have too many.
This process can be very unsettling and it can have an impact on both physical and mental health. It’s important that you remain positive and reassure your loved one of the benefits of their care home.
It’s likely that your relative may resent you at some point in the process but remember to not take this personally (although I know at the time it will feel this way). You may also feel guilty for a while afterwards and this may naturally take a toll on your health and wellbeing, so be sure to seek support.
Make their room a home
Familiar items can help someone feel settled and reassured, so make sure you take some of their favourite items, photos, bedding, ornaments etc., to decorate the room.
Depending on the care home, you may be able to decorate (and even paint) the room in advance, so that it’s ready for when your loved one moves in. If it isn’t going to distress the person involve them in this and ask what items they’d like to take.
Check over care and support plans
Make sure that care/support plans and risk assessments are detailed and cover all the needs that your relative has – you can always request changes. If you’re going to support alongside the home for mealtimes, bedtime etc, make sure this is documented as well.
Ask the care home if they create ‘About me’ guides for each resident. If they don’t, I’d highly recommend making your own. There are many different versions on the internet, however this one from the Alzheimer’s Society is a great one to use and covers cultural needs, family background, important dates, relevant people, preferred routines etc. This information will be in the main care plan that the care home has but these are often very lengthy and a quick guide can be handy for carers to get to know your relative quickly.
Arrange a trial period
I’d never recommend moving someone straight into a care home without trialling it first, unless you know that it’s going to upset them more with the uncertainty. Many care homes offer short-term care so you can test the waters and see if it’s the right choice. If you pick this option, be sure to communicate this to your relative.
On the day of the move
Spend as much time with your loved one as possible
Try and stay with relative as long as possible to ensure they’re settled. I always find exploring the house, garden and local area together is a great first activity. Being around allows you to answer any questions that arise from either the care home or your relative, complete any final paperwork, meet the staff etc.
Tell them when you’re going to visit
Make sure you reassure your loved one that you’ll be back and give them the date. I’d avoid giving a time in case this changes and could increase anxiety. It’s important to check with the care home as they may recommend a settling in period of how long before you visit so your relative has time to adjust.
When it comes to the time to leave, try to do so when your loved one is distracted, during mealtime or an activity, as this can make it easier for you and them.
After your loved one is settled
Visit and stay in touch
Most care homes have telephone for each resident, so you can always give them a call to see how they’re doing. If they don’t, you always ring the main phone number for the home and ask to speak to your relative. If your loved one is comfortable with technology, consider using mobile phones and tablets for video calls and messages.
Although video calls are a great alternative, nothing beats seeing your loved one in person. A cup of tea and a familiar face might seem like a small thing but it can mean the world.
Speak to staff
Have a chat with the care team to see how they feel your relative is settling in, whether they’re joining in with activities, how they’re communicating their needs etc.
Act on any concerns
Hopefully the move goes well, but if your relative doesn’t settle it’s important you speak to them to ascertain the reasons and address these with the care home manager. It may be that you need to speak to a social worker or someone at adult social care (part of the local authority).
An emotional time
At any stage of this process, you may feel overwhelmed with emotion – it’s a big change for both you and your loved one.
This is completely natural and a healthy response to what will have been a challenging time.
But remember, you’ve made this decision in the best interests of your loved one and you’re leaving them in safe hands.