Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAY: Relocating an Elder Relative

As one of six adult children, my siblings and I recently had to make a hard decision, to relocate our Father to an elder residence . As a  retired Sergeant Major of the USMC, our 91 yo Father was the one who ran everything. Suddenly, we were faced with making the decisions; decisions we believed would provide closer monitoring and increased safety. Through this process, we became very familiar with the reality of the relocation stress syndrome.   


If you have ever moved (as we did often in our youth, as military dependents); you may remember the stress of the unknown and the many challenges a move presented.  That stress becomes exaggerated when an elder has to leave behind, not only their home, many f their belongings, but all that is normal to them.  In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the relocation stress syndrome (RSS), also known as transfer trauma.

RSS is recognized as a nursing diagnosis characterized by a combination of physiologic and psychologic disturbances occurring as a result of transferring a person from one environment to another. Symptoms of relocation stress syndrome include:
  • exhaustion
  • sleep disturbances
  • anxiety
  • grief and loss
  • depression
  • disorientation
With some elders, these symptoms are exacerbated by dementia, mild cognitive impairment, poor physical health, frailty, lack of a support system, and sensory impairment. For these elders, the resulting confusion, depression and agitation have led to increased falls, undesirable weight loss and self-care deficits.

Studies have shown RSS can be minimized if we:
  • Involve them in the decision and planning process
  • Provide an opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns.
  • Honor an individual’s preferences and allowing them to maintain control.
  • Safeguard their possessions
  • Involve them in setting up the new room or apartment
  • Make the new home resemble (as much as possible) the old home
  • Helping them become acclimated
If you are facing RSS for yourself or a loved one, reach out to your medical provider; or if you do not have a medical home, call our office for assistance 910-799-6262.