Settling into a new home always takes a bit of time. It can feel especially strange if you’ve been used to living independently in your own home, but have made the decision to move into residential care. And it can be an even bigger shock if you’ve had to move into residential care following a crisis such as a hospital admission.
With new activities and new faces, your daily routine might look quite different from what it was before, but there will be plenty of positives to focus on. In a care home, you’ll likely feel safe and well looked after. And it can be a relief to no longer have to worry about household chores or what could happen if you fall ill.
Although you will likely have less private space in a care home than in your current home, there’s much you can do to make your surroundings feel familiar.
Most care homes will be more than happy for you to bring belongings that will make you feel at home. Even small items can make a big difference to how comfortable you feel in your surroundings. Some people like to bring soft furnishings, photographs and books with them, for instance. You can also bring your own toiletries.
Some care homes will even let you bring furniture or large electronic items such as a television. It’s best to check what the policy is on furniture before your move-in date. Bear in mind that some items might need to be safety-tested.
If you’re considering moving with large items of furniture, think carefully about whether you will have space for it. Living in a cluttered environment can be unpleasant and even dangerous, so it’s best to avoid bringing too much. You could always ask the home to give you a floor plan of your room with measurements so you can plan in advance
When you move into a care home, the staff will draw up a care plan that’s personalised to your needs. Don’t be afraid of telling the staff what you like to do and when. If you have a routine you’d like to stick to, they’ll try to accommodate your wishes. This could include things such as what time you like to eat, or when you usually wake up in the morning.
If you have specific religious or cultural needs, staff will try to accommodate these. All care homes will have equality and diversity policies, so your wishes should be respected.
One of the most difficult things to get used to when living somewhere new is finding your way around. Spend some time getting to learn the layout of the care home. Don’t worry if it takes you a little while to find your bearings; that won’t last long. You can ask staff for help to find where things are until you become more familiar with your new home.
Moving into a care home is an opportunity to make a lot of new friends and social connections. If you’ve struggled with loneliness or isolation, this could be a huge advantage.
As well as looking after day-to-day needs, many care homes have activity coordinators who arrange regular activities for residents. These can include:
These might chime with interests you already have, or it could be an opportunity to try something completely new. Talk to the staff about how you’d most like to spend your time and see if they can accommodate this.
Although you will have more support than before in a care home, it’s still important to stay as independent as you can (if you feel able to). This could mean sticking to routines or activities that you've always enjoyed, helping around the home or in the garden, or having goals to stay fit and healthy.
Just because you’re moving into a new home, it doesn’t mean you won’t want to keep in regular contact with friends and family. If you're not able to see them as regularly as you used to, consider other ways of keeping in touch, such as with a phone or tablet. If you want a fuss-free device, you could buy without any complicated extra features. If you don’t use a mobile phone, you might be able to install a personal landline phone in your room. Check with the care home in advance if possible.
has become popular recently – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you like to chat to friends and family this way, see if the care home has the facilities to set up regular video calls with loved ones.
If your friend or relative is moving into a care home, you might well be feeling some difficult emotions. You might be worried about how they’ll cope, and how easy it will be to visit them regularly.
People often feel guilty when their loved one moves into residential care, but there are also many positives to focus on, such as knowing they will be well looked after and that any problems can be resolved quickly.
Some people find it difficult to see strangers caring for a family member – particularly if you played a large part in their care before. Speak to the staff and care home manager about how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask questions, particularly if your loved one has complex care needs such as dementia.
In fact, care home staff will usually be keen to hear feedback from families, whether it's good or bad, so don’t be shy about sharing your views.
Care homes often hold meetings with staff, residents and their relatives. Getting involved in this way can help you stay connected to what life in the care home is like for your loved one. It’s also an easy forum to express any concerns or suggestions for improvements.
Even if you can’t visit your loved one as frequently as you were doing before, there are lots of other ways to keep in touch. See what your loved one would prefer. Some people really enjoy video calls, for instance, but a normal phone call can be just as good. Don’t underestimate the power of an old-fashioned letter or card to let them know you’re thinking of them.
The pandemic has made visiting loved ones in care homes far more challenging than it used to be. Rules and restrictions have changed frequently since early 2020. Bear in mind that there might still be restrictions in place when you want to pay your loved one a visit.