The relocation of an elderly person most often occurs when a family makes the decision to move an elderly relative from their home into an elderly care facility. Such a move can have long-lasting psychological effects, both positive and negative, on elderly patients. Family members can take steps to reduce stress in their elderly family member and avoid the worst of these problems.
Loss of Connections
The elderly value their hometown connections to friends and family. These connections can also include their acquaintances, such as the local grocer, pharmacist or mail carrier. These are people whom the elderly person sees regularly and who form part of a familiar daily pattern. Long-distance relocations force the elderly person to form new connections and to lose track of people who were important to them. Even smaller relocations, such as moving to a facility in a nearby town, restrict the patient's former mobility and sever familiar ties.
"Institutionalisation" means a person living in an institution eventually becomes accustomed to living in a restricted environment. While elderly care facilities work hard to reduce the impact of institutionalisation on their patients, the necessary dependency and reduced mobility of that environment forces the elderly to go through the process of institutionalisation. For some elderly patients, this process can be debilitating and causes severe, long-term negative psychological effects, such as depression or feelings of abandonment.
Institutions take on the responsibility of caring for the elderly -- including the financial repercussions of poor care. As a result, institutions restrict much of a patient's mobility in order to assure their safety. They may restrict their patients to specific areas and observe them regularly, in addition to providing for their medical needs. Patients are often unable to visit friends, go to the store or make simple life decisions, such as what to eat for dinner. Safety precautions are performed in the best interests of the patient, but can leave them feeling restricted and cut off from their former life. The result can be severe feelings of depression.
Close family members and friends provide the most significant means of reducing the impact of institutionalisation on the elderly. When an elderly patient moves closer to family members, they can visit the patient more often and help their elderly relative avoid the harshest feelings of institutionalisation. The psychological benefits of family closeness can offset an otherwise difficult time in the patient's life.
- "The Gerontologist"; The Effects of Relocation on the Elderly: A Reply to Borup, J. H., Gallego, D. T., & Heffernan, P. G.; Norman Bourestom; 1981
- National Institute of Health: Physical and Mental Health Effects of involuntary Relocation and Institutionalization on the Elderly - A Review; Stanislav KasIl; March 1972
- "Mental Health Care for Elderly People"; Ian Norman; 1997