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Setting up the room for your loved one

05 Mar 2008
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - March 2008

A move into a care facility can be eased with proper room preparation. Most care facilities will offer you the choice of having a furnished room or of bringing in your own furniture. I suggest personalizing the room. This includes bringing in familiar furnishings such as a favorite easy chair, bedding and decor.

Ask for a floor plan and measure what furniture can be moved to fit the room. It should not be overcrowded but should resemble their present bedroom/sitting room. Arrange a nightstand in the same way as the person is used to; this includes such items as a lamp, pictures, and tissues.
The room should be set up before the move. This is an emotional time. Let family members and friends help out.

Hang family photos around the room. Some residences have photos of the residents on the outside of the door. Keep in mind that too much decoration is over-stimulating.

Rooms can be called apartments to give the feeling of a larger and more private space.

I visited two Sunrise residences in Toronto and was impressed to see “shadow boxes” outside each resident’s room. A shadow box, sometimes called a memory box, contains articles that document the history of the person’s life such as family photos and mementos of hobbies — knitting needles, a captain’s hat, or books for a librarian or teacher.

I suggest that you go back as far as possible to schooling, occupations, and marriage mementos for such boxes. I visited Sunrise model suites in DDO and was pleased to see the same concept. Photography and art or crafts by the resident or grandchildren provide a homey touch.
Memory boxes are not just for the resident. Family members are also reminded of their loved ones as people with whole lives and not only as someone with an illness, and staff may refer to these boxes to get to know the resident better.

If your loved one enjoys certain music, equip the room with a CD player.

Avoid decorative items that may cause disturbances or confusion. A bowl of plastic fruit may be enticing and cause them to take a bite. Liquids such as perfumes with wide openings could be mistaken for drinks. As the caregiver it is important for you to help the staff understand who your loved one is, his life history, his family, his likes and dislikes, daily routines and habits, and tips on how to respond to certain behaviours. The life history of your loved one is as important as his or her care needs.

Your level of comfort in your loved one’s room will be felt by them. Make yourself at home in the room; try to have a relaxed manner. Do not make a fuss over pointing out different things in the room, rather try to give the impression that it is not unusual for the two of you to be in this new room together.

Moving your loved one can be difficult for everyone involved. Setting up familiar surroundings will ease the transition.


Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775