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Effects of relocation on elderly people

There’s no place like home and for the elderly this could ring even more true when the time comes to relocate.

There comes a time in old age where it becomes necessary to move and this comes with its own difficulties. Elderly people generally relocate because of age, health, space, family or finances.

In many instances elderly people have been living in their house for decades and moving is often a very emotional experience. It could also be that they are moving from a larger place to a smaller one and, in this instance, they may need to get rid of a lot of personal belongings which can also be a very traumatic experience.

Ailing health is another reason why elderly people may need to move to a different house or to an assisted living facility where they can get the necessary care. They may need to move in with family who can take care of them or if they cannot afford their own house any longer.

The stress of relocation

Moving to a new home or facility or even just moving in with family can lead to a feeling of losing control as you suddenly find yourself in an unfamiliar environment.

Moving can, regardless of the reason for the move, lead to relocation stress syndrome or transfer trauma which may occur before, during or after the relocation. The elderly are especially susceptible and this can have physical and psychological effects.

The common symptoms can include sadness, anger and anxiety. It can also lead to different behaviour such as withdrawal or even refusing to take medications. In extreme cases it can also lead to psychological symptoms such as sleeplessness or mental confusion. 

Preventing stress and trauma

The stress and trauma involved with moving can be minimized by doing a number of things to mitigate the transition.

Time and patience are very important aspects. This involves amongst other things to involve the senior citizen in the planning and decision-making when it comes to the move and to answer their questions and discuss their concerns.

Something else that could change after a move is daily routine. It is imperative to try and maintain daily routine as far as possible and to assist senior citizens in adapting to their new surroundings. It takes time to adjust and patience is needed to ensure a successful relocation and transition and to make someone feel fully at home again.

Hannelie Fourie