By Joe LaGuardia
Here at A Tapestry of Love, we have seen many families who care for a loved one who has to move to a new facility because of declining health or loss of independence.
Yet, the timing of the caregiver and the care receiver may be off–conflict arises when a decision as to when to move has to be made. Sometimes, a care receiver just doesn’t want to move at all: he or she does not want to leave a home, memories and neighborhoods behind.
What can help the transition process in a move or relocation?
There is no “right” answer for families going through this type of transition, but here are some things to think about when making any transition:
- While you are consulting doctors, family, and friends about a possible move for your loved one, don’t forget to blanket everything with prayer. Prayer fashions us into people who are receptive to God’s will, understanding and compassionate regarding the needs of others (and us included), and builds in us a Spirit-inspired patience that only God can give (a “peace that surpasses all understanding”).
- Do not transition to a new home or relocate without (mostly) everyone being on board, even if it means compromise: Sometimes the compromise comes in the timing of the move. One caregiver wants to move Mom now, while the other caregiver doesn’t think Mom is ready. Make a timetable with which everyone is comfortable. Seek advice from friends and doctors. If Mom doesn’t want to move at all, then set up goals to move in that direction as appropriately as possible (do a “pros/cons” list with Mom, etc.).
- Help the care receiver celebrate the memories or “sacred” spaces in the home by being intentional in the move: Don’t just pack everything and move; instead, go through things category by category (like, books or albums one day; furniture the next, etc.). With each “category,” celebrate what those items mean to the whole family. If the circumstances allow it, do not rush the move and let your loved one be a part of the moving process.
- Share a meal or throw a party for friends and family to gather around the loved one and vocalize memories together. Share what will be missed, but also provide opportunities for the new “blessings” that might be a part of your family’s new future as a result of the transition. Cry together if it brings healing and closure.
- Surround your loved one with a support system who can help you all make the transition. Don’t try to move Mom or Dad alone, bring friends into the conversation.
- Help your loved one recognize that although they are grieving having to leave behind all of the “gifts” they have been afforded in their home (like memories, raising children, etc), that this transition means they will now become a gift for others: like spending more time with grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or focusing on the future of the family by passing down memories and stories rather than holding on to the past.
- Recognize that any transition requires some grief work. Make room for your loved one to express the range of emotions that accompany grief, such as bargaining, anger, and sadness. If your loved one continues to express these emotions up to three months after the move, then partner your loved one with a grief counselor or a therapist who can help in the healing process. You just moved your loved one–budget a little cash on the side to pay for that intervention if necessary!
- Celebrate the new beginning of making new memories and gaining new friends. Although change is hard for everyone, there is something to be said about coming into new places. This can be invigorating and rewarding. God is with us everywhere, and we should not overlook either the power of sacred space (“home”) in maintaining that relationship, as well as the new adventures to which God calls us–even when unfamiliar.
As you and your family transition your loved one to a new home or setting, keep in mind that prayer should be the basis for everything. There is no “right” way of doing things, and let us know how you have struggled or helped make for a smooth transition in your care receiver’s life.