Apr 30, 2024

Easing Senior Relocation Stress

Moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. In fact, a poll from Move.org found that 38% of Americans say moving is more stressful than going through a breakup. For seniors, moving can be especially distressing. However, moving is also sometimes necessary so seniors can receive the level of care they require. Assisted living facilities can help ease senior relocation stress.

Relocation Stress Syndrome

Many seniors want to remain in their homes as they age, but health concerns may make this impossible. In addition to leaving the home they love and the people they know, seniors who have to move into a facility may feel like they are losing their independence.

Ultimately, moving can be very traumatic. When seniors move into an assisted care facility, they may experience “relocation stress syndrome” as a result. Stress can also occur when seniors need to move to a new facility because their level of care has changed.

Identifying the Factors of Relocation Stress Syndrome

Some seniors may be happy to move into an assisted care facility, especially if they already have friends there or they’re excited about the community and activities. However, other seniors may be at risk for relocation stress syndrome. Assisted care facility staff can look out for high-risk individuals.

According to South Dakota State University Extension, individuals who have limitations getting around independently or impaired cognitive function may have a higher risk of experiencing relocation stress syndrome. Women and widows may also be more likely to experience these challenges. Other high-risk factors include residents who have to move into a facility due to a natural disaster.

Watching for the Signs of Relocation Stress

Although some individuals are more vulnerable to relocation stress, it can impact any resident. Research published in the National Library of Medicine found that relocation stress should be considered a risk factor for depression in long-term care residents during the first year after relocation.

Assisted living care facility can help residents by watching for signs of relocation stress. According to the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care, common characteristics include the following:

  • Depression, despair, sadness and crying
  • Confusion, anxiety, apprehension and indecision
  • Restlessness and sleep disturbance
  • Dependency, insecurity and distrust
  • Withdrawal, isolation and loneliness
  • Expressing concerns or negative comments about staff
  • Being upset, resistance, unwillingness to move, anger and aggressiveness
  • Change in eating habits or weight
  • Stomach problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Falls

How Assisted Living Facilities Can Reduce Relocation Stress

Assisted living facility leaders can take steps when new residents arrive and when residents need to move out in order to reduce relocation stress:

  • Host activities and encourage residents to participate. Although you want all residents to participate, it’s especially important for new residents to join in on the fun and meet other residents. Some activities may not appeal to all residents, so you can increase participation by hosting a variety of events.
  • Assign individual staff members to pay extra attention to residents at risk for relocation stress. South Dakota State University Extension suggests this is a way to help new residents. In a busy facility, the additional needs of vulnerable residents may be overlooked. When a new resident comes to your facility, assign an individual to check in on the new resident and help the transition go smoothly.
  • Involve the residents’ families. New residents, in particular, may miss being close to their family. You can encourage ongoing family involvement by communicating with family members through social media, e-newsletters and other channels, and by inviting family members to your facility for events.
  • Engage with the community. Seniors may feel isolated from the community. Facility leaders can address this by planning community outings, such as trips to the local zoo or theater. Alternatively, you can invite community members into the facility, for example, by asking a local youth choir to perform for your residents.
  • Help residents prepare ahead of moves into other facilities. When seniors have to move into another facility with a higher level of care, they may be leaving behind good friends and memories. This may be difficult for them. The Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care recommends informing the resident of the need to move promptly and while maintaining an optimistic attitude. Other actions that can help include discussing all options while assessing the resident’s needs and preferences, listening to what the resident says, providing tours of the new location and maintaining the resident’s daily routine.

By watching out for the signs of senior relocation stress and taking steps to help seniors overcome it, assisted living facility leaders can create a happier, safer environment. However, because incidents can occur despite your best efforts, you still need assisted living facility insurance. Tangram provides insurance for residential care facilities through the Personal Care & Assisted Living Insurance Center (PCALIC). Learn more.