Moving into a care home can feel like a big change and will inevitably require some adjustment. Whether you’re moving to the home yourself, or assisting a friend or relative with their move, it’s natural to have some anxieties. Taking time to think through the move and consider ways to make it a positive experience is a good way to set your mind at rest and ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
Any move is an upheaval, wherever you’re going. Moving to a care home is often particularly hard, partly because it involves a change of lifestyle, but also because people may end up moving in a crisis, for example following a hospital discharge, a fall, or a serious illness.
Plan the move
If you have the time, plan the move, as this will make the actual experience a lot easier. Prepare a checklist of what you need to do and put it in a schedule, which will help to break up the process and make it seem less daunting. Also, try to decide what you would like to take with you into the care home, but bear in mind that you will probably have less space than in your current home.
Ask the care home whether you can bring your own furniture and whether there are any limitations on this. For example, furniture will probably need to be fire retardant. Most homes are quite happy for you to bring items with you, as this does help you to feel at home sooner.
Think carefully about what you want to take with you and whether you will have the space for it. Taking some personal items with you, such as your favourite armchair or treasured photos, but you also need to be realistic. You won’t want to be living in a cluttered space, and having too much furniture in a small room could be dangerous.
- Select what clothing to take. Wardrobe space will often be limited
- Clothes will need to be machine washable
- You will need to label clothes, probably in advance
- Electrical appliances may need to be safety tested. (If the care home requires electrical equipment to have a portable appliance test (PAT), they or an electrician may be able to test it for you, but might charge for this)
- If you’re taking anything valuable, check whether it will be covered by the home’s contents insurance policy and take out your own insurance if necessary
- If you’re leaving your previous home unoccupied, check if your existing building or contents insurance will still apply or if you’ll need to get unoccupied home insurance.
Some homes accept pets or allow them to visit and some don’t, so if you want to take a beloved pet, or avoid a home with pets, check this when you carry out your first visit.
If you haven’t been able to find a care home that will take your pet – perhaps because you had to move in a rush – contact the Cinnamon Trust for help. They can provide long-term care for your pet and keep you in touch with regular photos, letters, and visits where possible.
There’s a lot to consider before the move. For example, you’ll need to:
- inform everyone you need to of your change of address
- pack everything you’ll be taking with you
- book a removal company, many offer packing services for a fee
Having a friendly and helpful removal company can make a big difference to how you feel on the day of the move. See if you can get personal recommendations or maybe the care home can suggest a company to use. Some companies specialise in care home removals.
Making the move work
It will probably take you a while to adjust to your new surroundings. You may feel overwhelmed to start with, but remember, this is your new home and it’s important that you feel comfortable there. Don’t feel that you can’t ask questions or request improvements if something doesn’t seem to be up to scratch.
Make your room your own by unpacking some of the familiar items you have brought with you. There may be a few things you’ll need to check with the home, e.g. homes will usually allow you to hang pictures on the wall but they might request that their handyman does this for you.
Getting used to the layout of the building will help you feel more confident in your new surroundings. Friends or family might want to help you find the dining room, lounge or garden before they leave. You might want to introduce yourself to some of your new neighbours, but take things at a pace that suits you.
Talk to the staff, they will want to know how they can help you and how you want to be looked after. Friends and family can also get involved in these conversations. If you’re used to getting up at a certain time, have particular food likes and dislikes, or want to dress in a certain way, let them know.
If there are things you need relating to your religion or culture, staff should respect this and try to accommodate you – for example, you might want to get up at a particular time to pray. You must be treated with dignity and respect. Good care homes want you to feel at home.
You might feel you have to fit in with what everyone else is doing, but this isn’t the case. If you’d like lunch in your room or to watch a particular TV programme, ask. Staff won’t know what you want if you don’t tell them.
Your care plan
Before you move in, the care home should have carried out an assessment of your care and treatment needs and preferences. You and the care home management will have then draw up a care plan together. The care plan should be personal to you and staff should know about your background, likes, hopes and needs. This includes any needs you have because of your age, disability, sex, gender identity, race, religion or belief, or sexuality.
The care plan should explain how the care home intends to meet your goals and preferences. The care home staff must make every reasonable effort to meet your preferences. Your care plan should be reviewed regularly, to make sure it reflects any changes in your needs or preferences.
Community life in the home
Joining in and taking an active part in the life of the care home will help prevent you from becoming isolated. The activities offered by care homes vary, but consider getting involved in anything that is going on.
There may be activities that tie in with an interest you already have, such as gardening groups. Your care home may be keen to use the expertise of its residents. If you’d like to play music for the other residents or give a talk on a hobby, see if they can accommodate this.
Whilst it’s important that you’re involved in the life of the care home, you should also be given enough privacy and as much independence as possible.
Maintain your interests and contacts
Stay in touch with life outside the care home. If it’s possible, go on day trips with friends and family or arrange for them to visit you. Having your own phone will give you greater independence. Consider getting a phone installed in your room; some homes will also allow mobile phones. Most homes have internet access, allowing you to stay in touch via email or Skype.
It’s likely to take a while for you to settle in and you might feel anxious, unhappy and angry at times. Try to focus on things that are good about life in the care home. For instance:
- you should feel safe and well looked after
- you won’t have to worry about chores you used to find difficult to manage
- if you fall ill or have an accident, someone will be around to help
- you’ll have regular company and activities to take part in
For the family, or friends
If your relative has dementia, it might be hard to talk to them about what is happening. If you’re finding it difficult to discuss their new life in the care home, you might want to speak to care home staff about the best way to approach this.
Communicate with your friend or relative. Keep an eye on how your friend or relative is doing. If there are small adjustments that you think could make a big difference to them, speak to staff about what changes can be made.
It may be that your relative hasn’t made staff aware of something that’s bothering them. It’s easy for resentment to build, so help them to communicate any concerns and encourage them to talk to staff about their preferences.
If there are any practical changes you think could help, speak to the staff about this. For example, they might be able to rearrange furniture to make it easier to get around the room.
What if the move doesn’t work out as planned?
It is not unusual if you don’t settle in to your new home immediately, it will take time to get used to the different way of life in a care home. However, if you feel that there is something about this care home in particular that won’t suit you, you may want to consider moving, but air your concerns and a good home will try its best to respond to them.
If you have concerns about your care, it’s often best to start by raising this informally with staff, but you can also make a formal written complaint. If you’re paying for your own care, raise this with the care home; if your council is paying for any of your care, you can use the council’s complaints procedure.
With the right research when you carry out your search, asking the right questions and making sure that you are happy with the answers, you will significantly increase the likelihood that your chosen home will be the right one for you.
To revisit our previous notes on the different stages of the transition to care, check out the following:
We hope you are finding this series interesting and informative and we will be covering the actual search process in our next posting, but, if you would like any more in formation on this blog, or any others in the series, please either contact us here, or telephone on 0345 853 0300.