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6 Ways to Help Residents Be Open to New Things

By Heather Brown
September 09, 2016

Individuals move into assisted living facilities to gain assistance with daily living activities while maintaining a quality of life they can be proud of. Moving and relocating is stressful for many residents. Some residents will embrace their new home and try new things – meal options, communicating with others or new activities. Others will shy away or refuse to participate. In the latter situation, administrators and caregivers are faced with a serious dilemma. How do you get them on board without taking away their resident rights by requiring they participate? It’s a difficult road to navigate.

Navigate Carefully

Your interaction with the resident fuels the possibility for them to step outside of an existing comfort zone. They need to understand your facility offers a safe place to try new things and you will be there to guide them through the fear and frustrations along the way.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy

If their choices are simply ignored they will avoid these new choices. Avoidance is an unhealthy choice in life. They have a much better chance of facing these fears with you at their side.

Ways to Help

1. Each resident is different.
Every resident that comes into your care is different. They have different backgrounds including work, family, and daily activities. Some residents may feel abandoned by their families and others are excited about new opportunities. As you admit residents, take the time to talk to them and their families about their past experiences in the assisted living model and what their expectations are in your assisted living facility. Understanding this, in the beginning, guides you through the rest of these suggestions.

2. Acclamation period.
Give new residents time to get acclimated to their surroundings. Take them on guided tours of the facility and grounds. Give them time to explore on their own so they feel like it is their home.

3. Offer alternative options.
Residents will be hesitant about different things in their new life. Some will refuse to make choices about what to wear and others may refuse to participate in activities. Make the choice less overwhelming in these instances. Give them 2 clothing or activity options to choose from. Narrowing down their decisions decreases the initial stress. If they don’t want to participate in group activities initially, offer an individual activity until they feel comfortable.

4. Make a step-by-step plan.
Try creating a step-by-step plan with the resident if you notice they refuse to participate over a great length of time. Sit down one on one and break the activity down into manageable steps. If a resident doesn’t want to participate in group activities, you can break it down to these steps:

  • Day 1: Offer an individual activity in the same area.
  • Day 2: Offer an individual activity at the same table.
  • Day 3: Participate in the group activity for 15 minutes with the option to transition to an individual activity.
  • Day 4: Participate in the group activity in its entirety.

5. Build routine.
Be consistent in the schedule of activities and meal-time. Routine helps build comfort over time. Residents refusing to eat or interact with others will learn over time when to expect these events and accept them.

6. Build relationships.
Relationships play a vital role in gaining trust. Residents need to trust you and other caregivers to feel comfortable in a new environment. Encourage caregivers to sit with residents and talk. Let the residents lead the conversation to topics they are comfortable with. Once trust is built it is easier for them to accept new activities, foods, and concepts suggested by you.


Every resident is different and not all will want to participate in your daily offerings. Be patient with these residents and give them time to adjust and acclimate to their surroundings. Contact their family and physician to create a more detailed plan of action if their decisions are impacting their overall health.

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