There are many risk factors for relocation stress syndrome, including age, dementia, lack of mobility and a sudden change as a result of emotional or physical loss. Seniors may also experience move-related stress when they feel like they’ve lost control of the events going on around them.

Determining the risk factors for relocation stress syndrome, which is sometimes called “transfer trauma,” is vital to ensure the health of seniors who may not have the awareness or cognitive ability to understand why they’re being asked to move from their family home.

When Seniors Cannot Age in Place at Home

Most elderly adults remain hopeful that they will be able to live in the family home, even as they develop chronic illness or mobility issues that can make it more difficult to live alone. Some seniors may have family willing to move in and help them with housekeeping or meal preparation; others may qualify for household management and personal care assistance through local social service agencies. However, many seniors need more supervision or specialized medical care than they can get at home. These seniors often find themselves moved from their family home to a senior care facility with little advanced notice.

Aside from seniors who are moved to a nursing facility due to a decline in physical or cognitive health, there are seniors who must move from their homes for other reasons, whether through the death of a loved one or a sudden tragedy such as a natural disaster or fire. These seniors are especially prone to experiencing relocation stress syndrome, which can lead to psychological distress and a decline in their general or cognitive health.

Tips to Combat Relocation Stress Syndrome

Relocation stress syndrome can be devastating for seniors who may already have significant health issues. In some cases, it can even lead to premature death. Fortunately, caregivers and families can follow a few simple tips to help reduce the impact that sudden moves can have on their senior loved ones. One simple way to combat transfer trauma is to discuss the move with seniors before it happens. Sometimes, all it takes is a little time to process the move and the opportunity to voice their needs, choose favorite possessions and discuss the logistics of the relocation.

Seniors who have dementia or generalized cognitive decline may not be able to communicate the implications of relocating. In this case, it becomes important to try to maintain some semblance of a routine or familiarity for their family member. Move valued personal possessions into the new setting and try to make it look as close to the family home as possible. Ensure that the staff and caregivers know the senior’s routine and keep it running smoothly while the senior adjusts to their new surroundings.