When a loved one is preparing to enter a long term care facility like The Woodleigh of Baton Rouge, it’s natural for them and their loved ones to consider this a move from their home. But at facilities like ours, we work hard to create a community for residents, so that everyone here truly feels that the nursing home is their new home.
That, of course, is easier said than done. The transition to a long term care facility can be difficult to process. In many cases, our residents are leaving homes that they’ve lived in for decades, homes where they raised children and played with grandchildren. It’s not easy for them to adjust to the idea of having a new home, especially when they never thought they’d be moving again.
But that’s where friends and family come in. By helping your loved one to pack up some essential items, you can ensure that they are surrounded by things that help them recognize home in their new environment.
First and foremost, there’s clothing. Make sure that whatever you pack, it’s easy to get on and off. How many outfits to pack depends on who will be doing your loved one’s laundry, and how often it will be done. It’s typically a good idea to pack a week’s worth of clothing, with spare outfits in case residents need to change. If possible, try to assemble outfits, and see if whoever is laundering the clothes can re-assemble those outfits and hang them in your loved one’s closet. This will alleviate stress on your loved one, as they won’t have to worry about pairing different tops, bottoms, and accessories.
Accessories are a way for your loved one to continue their personal style. When moving from their home, residents sometimes struggle with losing a sense of their own independence and identity. A favorite scarf or hat can help them feel comfortable. If your loved one prefers to carry a purse or wallet, it’s a good idea to pack that as well. Even if they don’t have plans to travel in the foreseeable future, these items can give your loved one a sense of control. Just make sure to remove items like credit cards and insurance cards to prevent them from being lost or misused.
You know that smell your father has had since you were a kid? The one that comes from wearing the same cologne for decades? Make sure you pack that cologne for the nursing home. Do the same with favorite body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste—anything your loved one would recognize and appreciate. Their routine will change, and they may require help bathing, but these items bring some sense of their routine and identity back to them. Often, it’s a scent that puts us in mind of being in a certain place, and for our loved ones, it’s familiar scents that will go a long way toward making them feel at home.
Bedding and Warm Clothes
Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to pack a couple of sweaters or cardigans, or maybe a light jacket. And while bed linens are provided, who doesn’t love having a warm, cherished blanket close by? A small blanket for your loved one to keep on their lap or over their shoulders can also be a great help. Once again, if you can bring something that your loved one will recognize, that’s ideal. Just make sure it can survive being heavily laundered in industrial machines. A handmade quilt or crocheted blanket may be too delicate.
Electronics and Entertainment
Part of being at home is being able to relax and enjoy yourself. It’s important for residents to have access to favorite movies, shows, and music, and well as books or magazines. These days, it’s easier than ever to provide these comforts, as many residents are familiar with and comfortable using smart devices like tablets and phones. If that’s the case, make sure to check the Wi-Fi availability at the nursing home, along. It’s also a great idea to invest in easy-to-use headphones. Consider wireless headphones if your loved one is watching a television across the room.
One important note: Consider things your loved one is comfortable using. In your mind, a single tablet may be the perfect thing to pack. Your loved one can use it to access movies, television shows, music, magazines, newspapers, books, and more—all in a single location! But if your loved one has never used technology like this before, expecting them to learn how as they transition into a completely new living situation may not be the best idea. If they become confused or frustrated, they may avoid using the device altogether, and suddenly they’ve gone from having all of their favorite entertainment items to none of them. If a CD player and a few books are what your loved one is comfortable with, then that’s what will enable them to relax and enjoy themselves.
For most of us, it’s the decorations, mementos, and photos around us that make us feel at home. That’s why we decorate our spaces at school and work—to bring a sense of home with us. The same is true for the nursing home. Work with your loved one to pick out important or cherished items. It’s also a great idea to assemble family photos, whether in an album, on a digital frame, or on a bulletin board.
We’ve found that it’s helpful to include labels of the names of the folks in each picture and their relationship to your loved one, especially for those who require senior care for memory issues. Residents love to show us pictures of family and friends, but they can become stressed and upset when they can’t remember the identity or relationship of someone in the picture. With labels, they can show off their family and friends proudly and without stress.
Lastly, don’t forget something small to adorn your loved one’s door. This will help them find their way back to their room, and help establish a sense of coming back to their place.