Moving into residential care can be a stressful event for an elderly person as well as their families. Facilities and families alike work hard to make the transition easier for all, from thoughtful design to allowing pets and other ways to make it feel like home.
These efforts are more than just a nice thing to do — the benefits of having a place that “feels like home” is supported by science. According to a thesis by Hanna Falk, nurse and doctoral student at the Institute of Health and Care Sciences, a sense of belonging strengthens a person’s ability to deal with the changes during residential care:
The thesis also examines how the elderly define the concept of “a sense of home,” and found that it covers far more than just a pleasant physical environment.
“There are other factors that come into play, for example that the elderly furnish their rooms exactly as they did when they lived at home, or that they make new friends who contribute to a greater sense of home,” says Falk, stating that actual attachment to the institution is vital if it is to be viewed as home.
When I was a young adult, we moved my maternal grandmother into a nursing home, and I was in charge of furniture moving. Though her room was small, there were certain things from her home that she was attached to, and I really think it helped minimize her confusion after the move.
When my own mother moved to a residential hospice, we also moved her favorite easy chair there with her, not only for a comfortable place to sit, just to give her a sense of home, and I believe it helped her with coping with the changes and her impending death.
I was recently talking to my boss who is moving his elderly mother into assisted living and he was pondering how he was going to get her large armoire full of photographs to her new place, because he believed it to be essential to her safety and orientation to her new place, as she is in the beginnings of dementia.
Have you had a loved one move to residential care? How did you make it feel like home for them? What were the benefits?