Transitioning into residential aged care
Moving into residential aged care can be very challenging and it is important to recognise and acknowledge the multiple changes the resident and their family/ carer are experiencing. Often the resident will have experienced a significant decline in their physical health with associated loss of independence. The move to communal living and a change to every day routines can be very confronting1. Similarly the loss or dispersal of significant objects and belongings, change in the person’s sense of control and loss of place can result in relocation distress syndrome2.
However, it has been found that the older person’s resilience influences their ability to employ effective strategies to assist in adjusting to residential aged care3. Resilience is a psychological construct referring to the capacity to positively adapt despite experiences that are traumatic, stressful or negative4. Thus gaining an awareness of the persons past life experiences can be helpful in understanding the resident’s response and supporting their entry into residential aged care.
A number of strategies have been found to support people in their adjustment and transition to residential aged care, including:
- Effective communication that allows you an opportunity to get to know the resident5, 6
- Establishing friendships with other residents and encouraging engagement in recreational and social activities7
- Demonstrating respect and ensuring dignity of the resident8,9
- Maintaining autonomy by discussing options with the resident and allowing choice10, 11
- Empowering residents by ensuring they are provided with choice over as many things as is feasible12.
It is important to remember that our behaviour and attitude towards older people can have a positive or negative impact on their sense of dignity, self-worth and place in society13. Understanding how best to use the above strategies will help you have a positive impact if/when working in aged care.
- Lee D T F, Woo J, Mackenzie A E. The cultural context of adjusting to nursing home life. The Gerontologist. 2002; 42(5):667-675.
- Walker C A, Curry L C, Hogstel M O. Relocation stress syndrome in older adults transitioning from home to long term care facility. Myth or reality? Journal of Psychological Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2007; 45(1):38-45.
- Brandburg G L, Symes L, Mastel-Smith B, Hersch G, Walsh T. Resident strategies for making life in a nursing home: a qualitative study. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2012; 69(4):862-874.
- Bonanno G A. Loss, trauma and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist. 2004; 59(1):20-28.
- De Haes H, Teunissen S. Communication in palliative care. A review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Oncology. 2005; 17(4):345.
- Fraher A, Coffey A. Older people’s experiences of relocation to long-term care. Nursing Older People. 2011; 23(10):23-27.
- Fessman N, Lester D. Loneliness and depression among elderly nursing home patients. International Jouranl of Aging and Human Development. 2000; 51(2):137-41.
- Williams K, Kemper S, Hummert M L. Improving nursing home communication: An intervention to reduce elderspeak. The Gerontologist. 2003; 43(2):242-247.
- Chochinov H M, Cann B, Cullihall K, Kristjanson L, Harlos M, McClement S E, et al. Dignity therapy: A feasibility study of elders in long term care. Palliative and Supportive Care. 2012; 10(1):3-15.
- Phillipe F, Vallerand R. Actual environments do affect motivation and psychological adjustment: A test of self-determination theory in a natural setting. Motivation and Emotion. 2008; 32(2):81-89.
- Hollman C. Living bereavement: An exploration of healthcare workers responses to loss and grief in an NHS continuing care ward for older people. International Journal of Older People Nursing. 2008; 3(4):278-281.
- Tu Y C, Wang R H, Yeh S H. Relationship between perceived empowerment care and quality of life among elderly resident within nursing homes in Taiwan: A questionnaire survey. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2006; 43(6):673-680.
- Oosterveld-Vlug M G, Pasman H R W, van Gennip I E, Muller M T, Willems D L. Dignity and factors that influence it according to nursing home residents: a qualitative study. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2013: 70(1):97-106.