Boulder-Based Senior Living Center Aims to East Stress on Seniors to Avoid 'Transfer Trauma'

Share Article

Golden West Offers Tips On Transitioning Parents To Long-Term Care Facilities

Golden West, a not-for-profit senior living community in Boulder, aims to ease stress on seniors and offers tips to help create a smooth transition for parents transitioning to long-term care facilities. Golden West care providers have learned that when parents move to long-term care settings, the effects of transfer trauma can ripple through their family, affecting everyone as they try to assist their family member adjust to community living.

While an elderly parent adjusts to their new surroundings, they may show symptoms that indicate increased stress and are red flags for family members and caretakers. “Becoming informed and planning ahead can go a long way toward controlling the stress of a big move and easing the transition for your loved one,” said Heidi Marchi, Director of Community Relations at Golden West Senior Living in Boulder.

Marchi said transfer trauma is similar to the “root shock” experienced by a plant when transplanted from its pot to a permanent home in your yard. It takes a period of time for the transplant to get used to its new surroundings, and during that time, it must be carefully nurtured and tended. “Our elders are no different,” she said. “They too need loving care and attention during their transition to their new home.”

Moving can be especially difficult for those in the early stages of dementia, but any elder can experience disorientation and fear during the course of such a change. Often our elders are not fully aware of their own challenges and safety risks, Marchi said. They may not understand the need to be moved from independent living to an assisted care situation. They may be angry or sad at their loss of independence, she added.

Transfer trauma can cause family discord and is typically difficult for everyone involved. In the new environment, no matter how beautiful, many of the familiarities of daily living are gone. The sights, sounds and people, even the food, are different. There are people to get to know, staff to learn to trust, and unfamiliar rules to learn.

Interestingly enough, not everyone exhibits the symptoms of transfer trauma. Reactions vary, even among those that do. The length and severity of symptoms is unique to the individual. Some elders breeze right through, quickly adapting to their new lives. Others struggle to adjust, but these symptoms are often temporary. They generally improve as the elder finds new friends and relationships, gains trust in the new environment, and develops a new sense of belonging and purpose.

It is important to address the symptoms of transfer trauma. If left untreated, elders are at risk of developing anxiety and depression, can become resistant to care, and develop other behavioral issues. But as caretaker caregiver, there are things you can do to smooth the path and make things a little easier, according to Marchi. In particular, she said you can be proactive in developing plans to assist your elderly loved ones in making the transition to a community living facility.

“The best way to assist your elder loved in one in transitioning to a new home is to thoughtfully plan ahead,” Marchi said. “We insist that all new residents and their families come in for a visit and go to our orientation. If the elder’s health is compromised in any way, we need to be extra gentle during the transition. Family can make a huge difference by taking a few days to spend with their loved ones as they learn the ropes of their new home community.”

What are other ways that family members can help?

  • As you prepare for a move, take your elder along to tour the facilities. If he/she is too frail for this, bring home literature for them to peruse. If allowed, take photos or make videos of the facility so that they can take a virtual tour.
  • Prepare and bring a list of questions for the facility directors.
  • Once you have chosen a facility, visit often as you prepare for the move. Stress the benefits of the community atmosphere and assist your elder in getting acquainted with staff and residents.
  • Prepare a “book of life” for your elder and share it with the administrators and staff. Include photos of friends and family so that they can better know your elder as an individual and can recognize the important people in their lives. (If the facility’s employees are disinterested in this type of information on your family member, you might want to reconsider your choice, Marchi said.)
  • Encourage self-reliance and autonomy
  • Work with the staff to create a daily routine that is interesting and has meaning and purpose
  • Build your own relationships with the staff and residents so that you can stay informed
  • Educate yourself about elder issues and be proactive about addressing issues before they become problems

Change is never easy, but armed with knowledge and some advanced planning, you can ease the transition and hopefully reduce the chance that your loved one will experience transfer trauma.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Erich Kirshner
Kirshner Communications
Email >