Moving to a new place can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for an older person who is moving away from a comfortable, long-time home to a new assisted living community. One of the things you can do to help your loved one with the transition from the known comforts of home to their new environment is to help them decorate their new space. Filling their new space with the special items that remind them of home will help them ease into this new stage of life.
Before you decorate, understand that this move is not an easy one. Your parent or loved one is moving away from their past, from the only home they have known for most likely many years. Their new space may be smaller than their old space and will feel foreign to them at first. When considering items with which to decorate the new space, remind them that you can store some of their old things at your house, such as seasonal items or larger family heirlooms. Knowing that they have a place to keep certain items that will not fit in the new space will help them downsize. If later, they change their mind and ask you about an item they used to have, you can pull the item out of storage and bring it to them.
When decorating your loved one’s new space, the goal is to reduce some of the clutter while still maintaining that feeling of “home”. They cannot take all of their things with them, so consider what is of utmost importance to them: pictures of family and other loved ones, favorite pieces of furniture, other mementos and knick-knacks that have special value to them. Also, consider the items that they might not think of at first: pillows and linens, rugs, drapery, furniture and other items for hosting guests at their new home.
Your loved one is going to want storage for smaller items like photo albums, framed pictures, and books. Get them shelving and cabinets for these things. Help them arrange their special items the way that they want them. Make sure their photo albums are easily accessible to them. Perhaps place those items in a low drawer or low shelf, not on the very top of a bookshelf or in a high cabinet. Help them hang their favorite photos on a wall in their new living room or bedroom so they can see them often.
Chances are, your loved one has some pieces of furniture that they will insist on having in their new living space. Perhaps they have a favorite chair, television, clock, or dresser. Try to move as many pieces of important furniture as you can without overcrowding the space. Furniture is heavy and awkward to move, so help them arrange it in their new space. Perhaps they want their favorite chair near their books or their tv, because that is the way things were at their old house. Do your best to arrange things for them so that they are comfortable and happy with the way the space looks.
Fill spaces on shelves and table tops with any other small mementos that are important to your loved one. The more items they have from home, the easier the transition will be. Framed photos, special books, awards, and hand-made items are all good decorative things to consider.
While your loved one is focused on photos and special knick-knacks, remember that they will need other comforts of home as well. They will need pillows, sheets, and a comforter for their bed. Ask them if they want their old ones or if they would like new ones. If they ask for new ones, it might be a good idea to store the old ones in case they change their mind. Consider buying rugs and drapes for their new space, or bring the old ones if they have them. These simple items can warm up a living space and make it feel more like home.
Once your loved one is settled, they may start to think about hosting guests in their new space, and they will want a few items for those purposes. A few extra chairs, some serving dishes, or a special candy bowl are all great items to add to their new home for when they have guests over. They may already have all of these items from their old home. If not, go on a fun shopping adventure with your loved one to help them find what they need. This will be an opportunity for them to think of others while they are also considering their new space. It will help to create that “home” feeling in the new environment.
Finally, remember that while you may see this new space as far superior to the old one, your loved one is most likely grieving what they have lost. It is completely normal for them to see this transition as a kind of death. Respect their feelings. They are moving away from the space and the comforts that they have grown accustomed to for many years. Do not push them to accept the new space immediately. They will need time to adjust, and there may be times where they are not happy about the transition. Throughout the move, continue to refer to their new space as “home”. Hopefully, with a few comforts from their old home and the help of someone who loves them, they will grow to accept and enjoy their new environment.
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