Stress is common when moving from one location or environment to another, but most people get over it relatively easily. When moving affects an individual’s physical and mental health, it is known as relocation stress syndrome (RSS) or transfer trauma. RSS can go beyond normal stress, causing health complications. It is common when moving senior loved ones to personal care communities. There are ways to handle relocation stress when moving to senior living.
Relocation Stress Syndrome
Relocation stress syndrome (RSS) can affect senior adults as they move to retirement communities. Individuals with a history of anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain and other health problems are especially susceptible to RSS. Seniors who have experienced traumatic events, those who experience neuroticism or tend to avoid stressors, and those with existing health conditions often develop RSS. People experiencing acute stress disorder or chronic pain are more likely to suffer from relocation stress syndrome.
Symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome
Recognizing signs of RSS can help to prepare the individual for the move. Symptoms of RSS usually occur in the first month after moving. Ongoing symptoms can be minor or severe, depending on the individual. Minor symptoms include changes in sleeping and eating habits, while major changes include anxiety and depression. Other symptoms include anger, apprehension, confusion, dependency, withdrawal, insecurity and loneliness. Physical symptoms include headaches, body aches, falls, stomach problems and weight changes.
Tips for Handling RSS in Senior Living
There are measures you can implement to reduce the chances of developing RSS. The hardest part of the move is feeling at home in the new environment. The following steps will make the transition easier.
- Involve your loved one when making decisions about moving to a retirement community.
- Choose a retirement community that will fit your loved one’s interests and values.
- Consult the senior lifestyle counselor and team members to make the transition easier.
- Ensure that your loved one knows what is happening by keeping them in the loop.
- Acknowledge your parent or loved one has fears and listen to their concerns.
- Validate your loved one’s feelings.
- Use personal belongings to recreate the old home in the new apartment.
- Discuss the benefits of moving to the community.
- If possible, arrange for your loved one to meet with seniors living in communities before the move.
- Encourage your loved one to get involved in social activities in the new community.
Treating Relocation Stress Syndrome
If you suspect your loved one is experiencing RSS, contacting a professional can help. A therapist can help them to work through the underlying issues causing the stress. Retirement communities have therapists who work with new members and encourage them to interact or socialize with others. How you address the issue of moving can determine how your loved one reacts. Acknowledge that the relocation is a big change and understand the sadness and fears associated with it. Involve other family members and friends in the preparations.
Learning to recognize the signs of RSS will go a long way in preparing your loved one for senior living. The stress usually subsides over time, but you should not hesitate to get professional help where necessary.