Living 50 Plus

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Helping a loved one adapt to a nursing home

Many older men and women find the transition to a nursing home somewhat difficult. Men and women tend to see a move to a nursing home as a step toward surrendering their independence, and this can be a difficult hurdle for seniors and their loved ones to overcome.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that many men and women move into nursing homes because their physical or mental status requires the help of a professional nursing staff, leaving family members with little to no recourse when aging relatives protest the move. But there are ways to ease a loved one's transition into a nursing home.

* Keep a positive attitude. The stress of moving an aging relative into a nursing home can be significant for all parties involved. But focusing on the positives of nursing homes, such as around-the-clock care and daily activities, can help aging relatives look at nursing homes in a new light. In addition, family members who familiarize themselves with nursing homes will begin to see they are often great places for aging men and women to socialize with others their age while receiving the care and attention they need. When discussing the move to a nursing home, focus on these positives and your relative will be more likely to follow your lead.

* Choose a nursing home that's close to home. One of the more difficult parts of transitioning to a nursing home is the notion that men and women are leaving their lives behind once they move into a home. Choosing a nursing home that's close to home and makes routine visits from friends and relatives possible enables men and women maintain a connection to their current lifestyle. A home that is miles and miles away from a person's support system can foster feelings of isolation and loneliness.

* Plan trips with your loved one. Just because an aging relative lives in a nursing home does not mean he or she can no longer travel. If a relative is healthy enough to travel, include them on family trips and outings. This includes more routine events like weekly Sunday dinners, kids' sporting events and other extracurricular activities. The more involved your aging relative are in the daily life of your family, the more likely they are to see the advantages of living in a nursing home.

* Encourage your loved ones to take some personal items with them. When moving into a nursing home, men and women must leave behind many of their possessions. This is a simple space issue, as the rooms in a typical nursing home cannot accommodate a life's worth of keepsakes and possessions. But that doesn't mean men and women have to leave everything behind. Encourage your loved one to bring along some possessions, such as his or her family photos, a favorite chair or smaller mementos from places he or she visited throughout his or her life. Such items can make a nursing home seem less antiseptic and more like a home.

* Set up an e-mail account for your loved one. If your loved one still has his or her mental health, then set him or her up with an e-mail account. This allows your loved one to maintain daily contact with family and friends. Many of today's nursing homes provide facilities where residents can access the Internet. If not, speak to the staff and ask if your relative can bring his or her own computer. If your relative will be able to routinely access the Internet, consider purchasing a digital subscription to the local newspaper so he or she can further maintain a connection to the community.

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