One of the most difficult decisions ever to be made in life is the one which results in a loved one being placed into a nursing home setting. Regardless of the circumstances and reasoning, there is an unstated thought process that implies that when an elderly person moves into a nursing facility that the end of their life is near, and with that thought comes a considerable amount of sadness and regret. The distress that occurs not only impacts the elderly individual, but family members as well who wish the situation could have been resolved differently. In any case, there needs to be an understanding all around that the move is not a death sentence for the elderly, but rather a lateral move directed at more prompt and appropriate medical care and comfort.
For the elderly individual, it will take time and considerable assistance from family and staff to make the transition to nursing home life an easy experience. It is imperative for all concerned to create an atmosphere that is familiar and contains the comforts of home, which can be quite difficult in a medical facility scenario. The elderly person if ambulatory and mentally alert should be surrounded with personal possessions, photographs, and memento’s of their rich life. The living area that an elderly person occupies should be arranged and decorated to their liking within the rules of the facility. They should be encouraged to remain as independent as their health and mental state allows, and their input should be addressed respectfully and frequently.

The most important factor for an elderly person trying to adjust to life in a nursing home is be secure in the knowledge that they have the love and support of their family in their transition. Family members should call and visit frequently, and ask what they can contribute to make the move more simple for all concerned. It should be stated clearly to an elderly loved one that assistance and support is only a telephone call away, and is available at any time of the day or night. The family of a person living in a nursing home needs to recognize and accept their new roles as advocates willingly, and to become proactive to ensure that the level of care provided their relative is acceptable and proper.

Working together as a team, the patient, nursing facility staff and family members can collectively make the adjustment to a nursing home less stressful and more easily digestible for the patient involved in the move. Good communication is key, and together the combined efforts will have much better results than attempts made individually.