There are many things that happen in life that causes stress. Getting married, starting a new job, or having children are a few examples of stressful times, but over the past two decades, psychologists have found there is another life event that can cause stress, especially for seniors–and it is moving.
Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS) is a formal nursing diagnosis characterized by a combination of psychologic and physiologic disturbances that occur when a person is moved from one environment to another. Symptoms of RSS include sleep disturbances, anxiety, grief, depression, and disorientation, to name a few. Symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome can be exasperated by dementia, poor health, or a lack of support. Click To Tweet
Seniors and Relocation Stress Syndrome
Anytime there is a move there is a risk for RSS. However, the risk of relocation stress syndrome is higher for individuals who can not participate in the decision making. This includes many seniors, especially those suffering dementia, who might be moving to an assisted living center. Here are five useful tips for helping manage relocation stress syndrome when moving your senior loved ones.
1) Watch Your Language
Be careful with your words. Don’t use phrases that make your loved one feel trapped or institutionalized. Make sure to skip wording choices like “Who is working with the patient in room A?” or “She will be on lockdown all night.” Instead, use language that conveys feelings of warmth and security, and well-being.
2) Get Them Involved
There is nothing worse than having a major change happen in your life and not being involved in it. Make sure to keep all family members involved, especially the loved one you are moving. Make sure they know exactly what is happening and be sure to get their feedback and honor their preferences. Make sure to involve them in setting up their new room so they feel like they are a true part of the change and relocation.
3) Build Friendships
It is vital that seniors and their families build strong friendships and relationships with those at their new home. Take your loved one around to meet other residents in the assisted living community and get them involved in social activities. Communicate to the staff the importance of them recognizing and welcoming your senior loved one into their new home to help prevent transfer trauma. Share with the staff their stories, daily routines, and activities they enjoy so they can learn about them and help them better transition.
4) Acknowledge Their Fears
Moving to a new home is not only stressful but can be scary, too. Make sure to acknowledge your loved one’s fears and validate their feelings. Stay positive when talking to your loved one, and let them know that all their feelings are normal to have. Continue to let them know how valued and loved they are.
5) Recreate Their Home
If possible, try to recreate a bit of their family home at their new place. Bring along pictures, wall-hangings, or even their favorite chair so they can have some familiar items to make them feel more comforted. Again, make sure your senior loved one is included in setting up their new living space. This will help make them feel needed and a part of the move.
Managing Relocation Stress Syndrome
Relocation stress syndrome typically shows up within the first three months after moving, causing stress, irritability, and other issues. If unaddressed, the consequences can be severe, further eroding cognitive and physical functions. If your loved one seems to be suffering after a move, make sure to seek advice and help from their wellness provider for further assistance, and continue communicating with the staff and residents at their assisted living center to help them better transition.
To learn more about how to prevent and handle relocation stress syndrome, Contact Us.