Ability to adjust after relocation, whether to nursing home, assisted living or a retirement community depends largely on a fit between the older person and the environment, known as person-environment fit. Carefully considering who this person is and what is most important to them will help you determine whether an environment will be a good fit. Some things to consider:
Independence and autonomy: If the person highly values their independence, can they continue to be involved in decisions about their life? Even small decisions can make a big difference. Can they have visitors whenever they wish? Can they opt in or out of meal plans? Are there meal options? Can they lock their door to control who enters and when?
Social relationships: Is the older person outgoing? Can they make friends easily? Who is currently residing in the community? Are there people who the older person is likely to feel comfortable with? Do they share similar backgrounds? Do they know people who are currently living there? Is the older person a ‘loner,’ wishing to keep to themselves? Will that be supported, or will they be pushed to socialize?
Meaningful activities: What sort of activities are offered in the community? How much input do residents have in selecting activities? Will the older person be able to continue past hobbies and activities they enjoyed? Are activities offered at times that are consistent with the older person’s daily routines? For example, is it offered only in evenings or in the mornings and the older person is accustomed to a different activity (taking a bath, nap, favorite television program, visitors) at the same time?
Connection to community outside: Does the older person have friends and relatives who live locally? Can they visit any time? Is there reliable transportation to community events or locations that are important? Is there a transportation fee?
Physical functioning: Does the person’s functional level, such as what they can do physically, allow them to participate in important activities either inside or outside the community? If they experienced a decline in physical functioning, would they be able to continue these activities?
Religious practices: If participating in a religious service is important, would an all-denomination service be acceptable? (This is common practice where residents have many different religious affiliations.) If not, is there reliable transportation to religious services outside the community?
Safety and security: Is the environment safe and secure? What sort of security is in place? Is the surrounding environment safe enough to be outside such as going for a walk?
Reciprocity: Is the older person someone who has valued and participated in service to others? Being able to help others is important to many older adults. Being in a setting where others are always ‘doing for you’ and there are few changes for reciprocity, to ‘give back’ can be very stressful. Are residents invited to help other residents or staff with doing things around the community? What activities could a person engage in that would be fulfilling if helping others is important?