By Leslie Quintanar
As some of you may know, I took a new job in April with an amazing senior living company (yes I'm throwing in a shameless plug) and that meant that our family would be relocating from north San Diego County to the suburban Dallas area. As a family, we were all on board with a brand-new, exciting adventure and we were jumping in headfirst. However, logistically, it was not that simple.
It's been eight weeks now since we arrived in the Dallas area, and here's what I've learned . . .
The Road Trip
After saying a tough goodbye to our oldest son -- now on his own for the first time -- we were prepared to leave. We made the drive -- two youngest children and dog in tow, with a pitstop to replace our hybrid battery -- and arrived safely at our new home five days later. Unfortunately, our possessions did not arrive for two more weeks. This, of course, kicked off a full-scale battle with the moving company over customer service standards and contractual agreements. It took several weeks to resolve. Even when the dust settled we were still missing items and unable to come to a satisfactory agreement with the company.
Once everything arrived, we began the arduous task of unpacking, changing banking accounts, updating addresses, finding our way around the neighborhood, registering the kids for school, and a host of other things that I had forgotten go along with this monumental undertaking.
In between all of these tasks, there is also the idea that we would like to get to know some of our neighbors, explore our new "neck of the woods," and enjoy some of what the Greater Dallas-Fort Worth area has to offer. Oh . . . and find a great new church to replace the one we'd attended for over 10 years.
Finding Our New Normal
In the ten weeks that we have been here, I can report that we have done a whole lot of the tasks associated with moving, but very little of the other things -- like meeting people, getting to know the area and really enjoying the reality that this is our new home.
I would love to be adventurous and do all sorts of exploratory things, throw a dinner party, and wholeheartedly enjoy this new adventure. But with work, and all the other things that have gone along with the move, I'm finding that making it through one day at a time is the best I can do right now. I'm very aware that this is a new season and with that comes adjustment, change, and transformation as we as a family come into our own in this new time in our lives. We are finding our new normal.
I know that at some point I will wake up and it will feel like home. I'll stop bumping into things in the middle of the night. I'll find my favorite cozy spot for reflection and prayer in our lovely new home. I haven't done that yet. I remain hopeful. I know that it will happen. I just have to be patient with the process.
A Move-in Plan
But because this is a blog about seniors, I want to bring this experience around to those who choose to move into our communities. Some leave homes they have resided in for decades, some move after the death of a loved one, and some move because their family tells them they have no other choice. We spend time putting together a move-in gift, getting their apartment ready, and training our staff that they must engage with them immediately. We then monitor their progress, see that they join activities, and get concerned if we don't see them assimilating successfully within a few days.
If I, a pretty healthy and well adjusted human being, struggle with a move, how much more do our residents struggle with a move into our communities? In many cases they went from being independent, to not being able to cook their own meals, decide the time they will eat, the time they take their medicine, and even when they bathe. Is it any wonder then that when our residents move to our communities there is a period of adjustment?
For many there is a finality to this move, as it could be the last place they live before their life ends. They may have had to give up familiar possessions that they had for years and years, and the sense of autonomy in making every-day decisions. Those are no small things to grapple with, and yet we often expect that they will jump right into activities and socializing and if they don't adjust accordingly we wonder if they are depressed.
Patience Rather Than Pestering
I propose that rather than a barrage of activities and things to do, we approach our new residents with wisdom and sensitivity, gauging their level of engagement in a new community, and encouraging them to try their hand at community life on their terms, not ours. Let's give them as much flexibility as we can, and be patient if they don't feel like jumping into a cutthroat game of bingo within hours of arriving. If they ask for a peanut butter sandwich at dinner, because it's one of their favorite things to eat, let's accommodate that request. There are so many things we can do to ease the transition and help them feel more at home in their new environment. Most of all, I think it involves a deliberate approach, a willingness to look beyond our community expectations, and to focus on each person as an individual.
As with most things that happen in my life, the experience of moving gave me a new appreciation for what our residents experience when they move into our communities. I'm hopeful for the new normal we are moving toward in our family, and I know it will come in time. Let's try to look with that same perspective at every resident who walks through our doors.
Let's welcome them with open arms and let them know that we are ready to engage and share our great communities with them on their timeline, not ours.