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What Is Relocation Stress Syndrome?

Ask most older adults and they’ll say they’d like to age in place in their own home. According to research from AARP, 88 percent of adults say aging at home is their preference. Many seniors have paid off their mortgage and believe staying put is a financially sound decision. Because many seniors have lived in the same home for decades, it’s a place that represents familiarity and comfort.

But how realistic is this idea? For some seniors, it’s possible with the right care and support. For many others, however, the choice to remain at home may contribute to a health decline caused by isolation or a serious fall. In these situations, loved ones may encourage a family elder to consider transitioning to an assisted living community.

Moving During the Retirement Years

Moving is considered to be one of life’s major stressors. It’s right up there with the death of a loved one and losing your job. For seniors, relocating can be especially tough. Sometimes it’s the emotional attachment to a house that can be difficult. Especially if it is the place an older adult raised their family, or the last place they lived with a spouse who has passed away.

Even when a senior recognizes that change is in their best interest, the process of moving can be difficult. In fact, the medical community recognizes the unique set of experiences older adults encounter and use the diagnosis of relocation stress syndrome (RSS) to describe it. Also known as transfer trauma, the symptoms can include anxiety, confusion, and loneliness.

There are steps you can take to help make the relocation of a senior go as smoothly as possible, and to reduce the risk of RSS.

Planning a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

  • Don’t rush the process: Unless this move is the result of a crisis that necessitates making a quick transition, try not to rush it. Give your family member time to accept the idea and make decisions about downsizing. Rushing the process can add unnecessary anxiety to the situation.
  • Focus on well-being: Stress can be made worse when you don’t take time to eat well and get a good night’s rest. That’s true for you and the senior. Try to eat healthy meals, exercise, and sleep well during this time.
  • Get involved at the community: Moving to an unfamiliar environment where you don’t know many—or any—people can be stressful. One suggestion is to work with the staff at the assisted living community to get your family member involved in activities prior to moving.
  • Make the new place look familiar: Another useful tip for decreasing anxiety and loneliness is to make the new home look familiar. From placing family photos around the new suite to bringing in a favorite chair, create an environment that feels like home.
  • Encourage loved ones to visit: One fear that a senior might not be expressing is the worry that they will be forgotten. Help alleviate that by setting up a visitor’s calendar, at least for the first few months. This will ensure the senior has consistent visitors and has something to look forward to.

Despite your best efforts, there will likely be good and bad days. That holds true for both you and the senior. It’s a good idea to talk about this possibility ahead of time and agree to communicate openly with each other. Before long, you’ll likely find the older adult is settling in and engaging with all of the activities and events assisted living communities have to offer.

Tour Sunrise Senior Living

The best way to learn more about a senior living community is to visit in person. This will give you time to go on a tour, and have all of your questions answered. With over 300 locations throughout the country, you’ll likely find a Sunrise Senior Living community nearby. Call (888) 434-4648 to schedule a visit today!

Article By: Sunrise Senior Living

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