The last few months have been difficult for my family. Due to significant short term memory loss my Dad has had to enter an assisted living. It’s a very emotional time for a family, and there are lots of details to be taken care of. One of the mundane, but important ones is getting the new living quarters set up for Mom or Dad (or Grandma, or Uncle. . . )
It’s a big job, moving someone from a house down to a small suite or even a single room. What’s allowed? What should you bring? What should be left behind?
Right about the time I was struggling with these questions Walmart asked me to to write a “Home” post for spring. Since they are always awesome to work with, I asked if instead of talking about my own home I could concentrate on my Assisted Living dilemma. They agreed!
So here are 9 tips for Preparing a room for Mom or Dad at the Assisted Living.
1. Tour the facility. Sure, this seems pretty obvious, but before you make any assumptions about what is and is not needed, or what will and will not fit in the space. . . actually GO to the facility and tour a room/suite that is set up the same way as the one you are furnishing.
2. Measure/get a floor plan. You don’t want to guess on whether or not something will fit and then have a rude surprise on moving day. Get the measurements for the room ahead of time! You may want to snap some photos of the space from different angles to help you with your planning
These are a few of the photos I took of my father’s little suite of rooms to help with planning. They were actually the “show” rooms, so had been staged with a bit of furniture to give folks an idea of the space available. The weird little shelf thing is the “Shadow box” they use instead of a room number to identify residents rooms in the Memory Unit. You fill it with things that your loved one will identify with to help them find their room.
3. Find out what’s included. The rooms may come completely unfurnished, or you may have the option of the facility providing some of the furniture.
In my Dad’s case the facility had items to lend. We were unsure whether we should try to squeeze his double bed into the space or go with a twin–so we decided to borrow the twin bed from the facility until we were sure. I mean why have the expense of buying a twin bed and then decide in a few weeks to replace it with a double. Although a double will pretty much take up the whole space so unless he really is unhappy we probably won’t change it.
4. Account for the basic functions they perform most often. Of course everyone will need a place to sleep, somewhere to sit, a dresser for clothes…but after that look at their individual lifestyle. Do they like to have a nightstand by the bed for glasses, alarm clock and some books? Do they need a small table to sit and write letters? Will they need extra storage space in the bathroom for grooming supplies? Do you need a hook on the back of the door for their coat or bathrobe? As much as possible involve your loved one in these decisions–after all it’s going to be their home. (Of course in some cases that may not be possible or advisable)
My dad always hangs his bathrobe on the back of the bathroom door. My local Walmart had an entire selection of “command” products made especially to withstand damp shower and bathroom conditions. They were back in home improvement in the section with all the bathroom shelving and accoutrements. So I was able to put a nice big fat hook on the back of the bathroom door for him.
In his old bathroom there was a small wire corner shelf I was able to repurpose for the new bathroom–my local Walmart had similar small wire shelves in the same area as the bathroom Command hooks.
5. Less is more. Start out with the essentials–you can always add more later. It’s harder (especially for the elderly) to give things up once they are there. This is especially true if your family member is suffering from memory loss–too much clutter can be difficult to navigate and agitating.
6. Bring comforting items from home. A favorite recliner (if it fits) can take a space from “dorm” to “home”. A comfy throw to wrap up in will provide psychological comfort as well as physical warmth. Family photos and treasured artwork will remind them of their loved ones and create a pleasant atmosphere.
My Dad LOVES a big family portrait photo we had taken in the late 1980’s. The rest of us could do without the unfortunate reminder of hairstyles past. I knew that he’d love having it in his room. I didn’t want to put holes in the walls, so I picked up picture hanger command hooks from Walmart.
7. Make it comfortable. Make sure chairs have good cushions and are of a height that is easy to stand up from–you may want to add seat cushions on top of what is already there to help. Good sleep is important for the elderly–so if you are downsizing from a larger bed to a twin make sure you have a good mattress and/or add a comfortable topper.
My dad was downsizing from a full to a twin, so we purchased a 2 inch memory foam topper, and some decent quality 300 thread count white sheets at Walmart (although those were in the wash when I took this picture so you are seeing some old sheets I had) Of course he didn’t have a twin sized comforter so we picked up a classy looking one.
8. Make it easy to find. Even for a loved one who is only showing normal signs of aging, it can be difficult to remember where everything is in a new space. In the case of someone with dementia it can be extremely challenging. Consider labeling storage bins, drawers and boxes.
Even before moving Dad had been having trouble navigating his dresser drawers–so I went ahead and used my DYMO label maker to label all the drawers.
9. Help them keep track of time. Days can all run together sometimes–and if your loved one is suffering from memory loss keeping track of the date and time are very difficult. Consider putting up a calendar to help track the days, or purchasing a clock that has not only the time but the day of the week and date.
I bought this Better Homes and Gardens digital clock at Walmart for my dad because it has the day of the week fully written out (“Wednesday” instead of “Wed”) along with the date. This helped a bit with the “What day is it” questions that he would ask over and over again.
So those are my tips on how to get a room at the Assisted Living ready for your loved one. I hope it was helpful for anyone going through the same thing we just did. If any of you have additional tips, I’d love for you to share with everyone in the comments!
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.