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Helping Your Loved One Make the Transition to Nursing and Rehabilitation Care

What Am I Doing?
The resident and his or her family are certain to question their actions as they get close to the day of the move to a nursing rehabilitation center. Second thoughts are common and are to be expected. To deal with doubts and possible feelings of guilt, review the reasons for the decision. Remember, you already have carefully considered other options, decided on the best facility, talked with the staff, discussed finances, and applied for and been granted admission. You've done a lot of debating, and you've made the right decision.

With openness and honesty, stress the positive reasons for the move: security, comfort, companionship, professional care, and a concerned staff.

Admission Day
On the day of admission, family and close friends should plan to spend several hours in the facility helping the new resident set up the room, learn his or her way around, and meet some of the staff and residents. Family and friends might also plan to attend the first meal or a planned activity.
When family members depart from the facility, they may be faced with an emotional reaction from the resident. Assure the resident that family will call and visit often and soon. Remember that when you make plans, you should make every effort to keep them.

Also, remind friends and relatives in other cities and states that the resident has just entered a nursing facility. Urge them to send letters and cards, especially in the beginning of the stay.

Initial Reaction
Like any new living arrangement, life in a nursing facility may seem strange at first. The new resident may sense a loss of control over the daily routines of his or her life, and this may result in anger and depression. Some residents may be a bit reclusive initially. Other residents will ease into life in the facility without a problem.

Fortunately, facility staff are quite familiar with the wide range of reactions and make every effort to involve all new residents in activities and at meals. Often the nursing facility has a resident welcoming committee whose purpose is to introduce the resident to others and help him or her become accustomed to the new facility.

Keep in mind that nursing facilities have social workers on staff who monitor residents emotional and psychological progress. Social workers can offer counseling to residents as well as advice to families who hope to aid in the adjustment process.

A person with a major sensory loss who is either deaf or blind may have a more difficult period of adjustment. But the real key to adjustment is time. Adjustment can be helped along by frequent visits from family and friends and by invitations to join in family gatherings outside the facility whenever possible. The new resident needs to feel that although living arrangements have changed, your relationship is as vital and warm as ever.

Getting Involved
Although frequent visits are critical, your continued involvement also is very important. One way to stay involved is to join the facility's family council, if there is one in place. If not, you might suggest forming one.

Family councils generally meet once a month in the facility to address issues of interest and concern. Council meetings provide an opportunity for family members to raise questions related to care with facility management. Family councils also may organize special events for residents, or generally work together to improve communications between staff, and family with the ultimate goal of enhancing resident quality of life.

Certainly, problems will crop up along the way, and when they do, open communication among the resident, the staff and other family members will make the problem more manageable. Finally, the simple expression of love and concern for the resident will help him or her through the rough spots and make the good days even brighter.


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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide