how to help seniors adjust to an RCFE

8 Tips to Help Seniors Adjust to an RCFE

If you received assisted living certification and manage or work for a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE), you realize the residents of your community all have different needs, emotions, and temperaments. This becomes evident when you welcome seniors to their new assisted living home. 

While backgrounds and circumstances  may appear similar, no two residents take the same amount of time or assistance to adjust to this new period in their lives.

Acclimating  your newest RCFE community members to their new home and way of life not only benefits them but helps to create a better living environment for existing residents and an improved working atmosphere for staff. Implementing  an adjustment protocol reduces anxiety for residents and gives staff a replicable process to follow. 

Daily routines and activities continue smoothly, and happy residents and their families often become ambassadors for your facility. This article presents tips to ease seniors into their new life in a successful RCFE.

Undertake These 8 Strategies With a Positive Mindset

While some people naturally embrace change more readily, moving from a beloved home to a group facility is difficult for most individuals. 

Remember this important fact: new residents are often mourning losses that not only include their home but also friends and neighbors, health problems, and even their independence. As you take these measures to help seniors adapt, encourage them with an upbeat attitude but also show respect for their grieving.

1. Offer a Pre-Move Meal and Visit

A prospective resident and family may visit your RCFE and several others before deciding to join your assisted living community. Once they make a selection, however, some time may pass before the actual move. 

Inviting the future resident and a guest to meet community members and staff, share a meal in the dining area, and learn where everything is located can accomplish several purposes.

pre-move in meal for RCFE residents

A pre-move meal and visit gives future residents a chance to get comfortable with your facility before the actual transition. The resident can meet neighbors who inhabit nearby rooms, get acquainted with the activity director and administrator, and ask questions about move-in procedures. Since moving day is inevitably fraught with emotions and stress, a preview of the facility can relieve tension.

2. Present a Welcome Basket on Move-In Day

This may sound expensive, but it doesn’t cost much to show your newest resident you care. Include some appropriate snacks, a few travel-size toiletries, a word search or other puzzle book, some postcards to send friends the new address, and an activity schedule.

3. Help Make the Individual’s Room a Personalized Retreat

An adult child or family member often helps the new resident move in and set up the room to include treasured items brought from home. Even in these cases, make sure to stop in during the first weeks to see if the resident needs help rearranging anything or adding an item to feel more comfortable.

better living environment for RCFE residents

If the new arrival doesn’t have anyone to set up the room, ask a staff member to help. Choose an employee with the interest and skills to create a better living environment for residents. Making a new resident feel safe and comfortable in their private quarters is an essential part of this new transition.

4. Let the New Resident Make Decisions

Seniors often fear moving to an RCFE means loss of independence and the opportunity to make their own decisions. The best way to allay these concerns is to allow them to make choices right away. While staff can help a new community member set up personal space, for instance, the final decisions should rest with the resident unless safety is an issue.

When possible, give the resident several options rather than asking yes or no questions. For example, instead of asking if the person wants to watch the group movie, ask whether they would rather watch the movie, take a walk outdoors, or work on holiday decorations with the craft group. If the individual chooses to stay in the room to read, accept that choice graciously too.

5. Match the New Resident With Mentors Where Possible

Providing an entering resident with a mentor can give the newbie a sense of security. If questions arise, the unfamiliar person knows exactly where to go for an answer. Just as you may have needed assistance with RCFE application processes or help to make your RCFE eco-friendly, new residents often need someone to guide them too.

successful RCFE with happy residents

The feasibility of a mentor program can depend on the size of your facility, but asking an established resident or employee, or both, to help an incoming community member makes adjusting easier. As a staff mentor spends time getting to know the new resident, the employee can also inform other caregivers about any concerns or interests the recent arrival expresses.

6. Find Ways To Keep the New Resident Connected to Favorite Activities

Even in larger RCFEs with a dedicated activity department, it is impossible to plan programs for every hobby or special interest.

This does not mean, however, that you can’t still provide some ways for the new resident to stay linked to a previous pastime. You can harness the power of the internet through YouTube videos, online classes, virtual clubs, and discussion groups.

You may learn, for instance, that a new resident was active in model railroading or weaving rugs before moving to your facility. Perhaps the individual could carry out a limited version of the activity by painting small buildings for railroad layouts or weaving placemats on a small loom. If that isn’t feasible, the hobbyist can still watch videos, participate in online hobby groups, or read library books on the subject.

7. Involve the New Community Member With a Worthy Cause

Helping others or embracing a social movement is one of the best ways to get through a challenging personal situation. If a new resident experiences difficulty adjusting to assisted living, enlist the person’s help with a worthwhile project.

The possibilities are endless, so try suggesting several options that might provide a good match. These could include knitting cozy hats for newborns, writing encouraging letters to prisoners, volunteering at a nearby food pantry, tutoring children in reading, or even spearheading an effort to make your RCFE eco-friendly.


8. Stay Patient and Respect the New Resident’s Timeline

A warm welcome to all new residents when they move into your California RCFE is an important first step. Being available to the new resident as they learn to adjust to living in assisted living is also important. However, each new resident has an individual timetable for adapting, socializing, and getting involved. Be patient and positive but never pushy with recent arrivals.

Wherever You Are in Your Assisted Living Certification Journey, We Can Help

Whether you already have a successful RCFE or need assistance with RCFE application procedures or assisted living certification, we encourage and support you every step of the way. Assisted Living Education provides certification classes, CEU classes, test preparation, manuals, license application services, and other consulting assistance. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.