A Family Caregiver’s Guide to Transitioning Their Loved One from Home to a Facility

Being a family caregiver is a work of extreme dedication and sacrifice, and deciding to pass on your loved one’s care to another is a heart-wrenching, guilt-loaded decision that you sometimes have to make for their own sake.

But the decision to move is just a small part of the story. Actually taking them to a facility and living those first days and weeks after the transition takes the most of the adjustments from both the caregiver and the family member.

Trusting your loved one's care to a nursing home is never easy. Your loved one may be resentful of the idea in the first place, so allow yourself some bad times in the early phase. How will you manage during this nerve-racking experience?

First, you have to know what to expect.

Transitioning your loved one to a facility is a lot of work, so you may need someone else’s help on the first day. You have to carry all necessary documents and medical information that the facility may require.

Take your loved one’s personal belongings and some things that they are fond of, such as a family picture or a photo album.
Your loved one will most likely be uncomfortable in their new environment so accept their negative feelings as part of the adjustment period.

When you go home, there will be a mixed feeling of guilt, relief, and worry. You may expect to have a good night’s sleep only to find yourself worrying if your loved one is doing fine in their new home.

Your first visit will be emotional. You have missed your loved one, but you know that they are in good hands. You listen to their stories. Expect complaints as part of the stories but just keep on listening. This is an important part of transitioning because you must keep communication intact.

Also, expect that they may insist on going back home. Be ready to explain why they have to stay. Be prepared to offer a comforting hug, and provide reassurance that you will see to their welfare even if they are in the facility. Always end the visit with a positive emotion, so think of short walks or some coffee time before you go.

By the end of two weeks, you would have become familiar with their routine, as well as the staff in the nursing home. Now the idea of your loved one staying somewhere else is not as blurry as the first day. You begin to calm down your worries because as you think of them within the day, you’ll have an idea of what loved one is doing.

The second consideration when transitioning your loved one is to make them feel at home in their new environment.

Ask the staff if you can recreate the feel and comfort of your home by redecorating or redesigning their room if at all possible. Do not forget to bring them the things they need for their hobbies, and most importantly, their favorite music.

Lastly, expect to have care plan meetings with the staff.

Care plan meetings will summarize your loved one's experience in their new home as well as the goals that will improve their health. Your loved one will sit with you during some of the portions of the meeting because they are the most important participant of the team discussion.

The care team will discuss activities and treatments, including medications. Your loved one’s concerns will also be a topic. Be prepared to answer their questions as well as asking some questions yourself.

Transitioning your loved one to a nursing home is beginning a new chapter in your life as a family caregiver. The best that you can do after the move is to take care of yourself, continue cooperating with the healthcare team, and plan for frequent memorable visits.