Relocation Stress Syndrome

elderlyRelocation Stress Syndrome (RSS) is a condition brought on by the changes that result when one moves to a different living environment.  It is more often reported amongst the elderly, particularly when transitioning into a care facility.  Significant changes in living environment can bring on a variety of physiological and psychological symptoms including:

  • exhaustion
  • sleep disturbances
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • disorientation/confusion
  • hopelessness
  • social withdrawal

Relocation Stress Syndrome can be exacerbated by a difficult transition.  Factors that influence a person’s adjustment to a move include:

  • Degree of perceived loss of personal and environmental control (feeling forced to move or not having choices in deciding where to go to)
  • Degree of change (from a large family home to a single room care suite)
  • Lack of understanding of how the move will evolve and the steps that will be taken
  • Ability to maintain familiar routines, comforts of home

How Senior Move Managers Help

Senior Move Managers are aware of the stresses involved in the move process and the changes faced by clients in transition.  They are able to lessen the effects of the transition by being careful to involve and inform clients of the move process.  They are cognizant of the fears/disappointments/apprehensions clients may be experiencing and can relate these feelings and experiences to other clients they have moved.  Senior Move Managers are skilled at reproducing the comforts of home and use systems when packing so that clients new environments remain reminiscent of familiar and comforting spaces.  As much as possible, they engageclients in the decision making process and keep them apprised of the evolution of the move.

How Families Help

Families can support a family member through the transition by being mindful of the symbolic meaning of a late in life transition- especially to a care facility.  Care should be taken not to “plan around” the person moving, or make decisions on their behalf. Often well-meaning family members will take over too much of the move in order to be helpful.  Sometimes the result is that the family member feels confused and angry about being removed from the communication loop.  Loss of control further exacerbates the feelings of helplessness and anxiety.

Instead, engage the family member as much as he is able in the decision making process. Be respectful of the fact that some possessions will have deeply held personal value.  Try to combine the practical, everyday belongings with items of deep attachment.  Assist the senior to meet people in his new residence and learn the routines and procedures in place.  Set up his new home with family pictures and items that bring comfort and familiarity.  Know that RSS can set in as long as three months after the move.  Maintain an open conversation about how he is thinking and feeling about the move.  Acknowledge feelings of loss.  Encourage him to express how he is feeling and help him to also see the benefits of the move.  Above all, be compassionate and reassuring. The more support a senior has as he moves through the transition process, the greater chance he has of coming through the process with little difficulty.