Relocation Stress Syndrome

Relocation stress syndrome is a condition that arises when an older adult moves from their long-time home to a different residence. While changing location provides many benefits, it also can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and confusion.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of relocation stress syndrome is a key component of providing quality senior relocation services. By taking steps to better understand what seniors experience during a late-in-life move, service providers and families can better deal with any issues that might arise.

Relocation Stress Syndrome Often Involves More Than Just Moving

Moving is stressful for people at all ages. However, this stress rises to the level of relocation stress syndrome when it begins to impact a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

With seniors, this often happens because a life changing event occurred, leading to the need for a move. For example, many seniors move after an injury limits their mobility. Other events that can lead to a move include a medical diagnosis, loss of a family member or a natural disaster.

Add any of these events to the stress of the move itself, and it’s easy to see how this can quickly become overwhelming.

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Relocation Stress Syndrome Symptoms

Relocation stress syndrome can manifest itself in many different ways. The symptoms for some may appear obvious, including changes in health, personality or disposition. Others may exhibit more subtle changes. 

It’s important for family members and anyone helping with a senior location to understand signs of relocation stress syndrome. They include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Apprehension
  • Confusion
  • Dependency
  • Depression
  • Insecurity
  • Loneliness
  • Withdrawal

In some seniors, the feelings of confusion and anxiety can lead to increased falls, self-care deficits and weight loss, according to the Board on Aging and Long-Term Care in Wisconsin. They also list body aches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, headaches and stomach problems as potential symptoms.

Some seniors are more likely to experience relocation stress syndrome than others. For example, those who live alone may be more set in their routine than others and may experience more difficulties in having that routine disrupted. This can especially become an issue with men and women who lost a spouse or those suffering from cognitive conditions.

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Reducing Risk of Relocation Stress Syndrome

Staying involved with the life of the senior can make relocation stress syndrome less of an issue. This is especially important at the beginning, as they can help seniors establish daily routines until they become accustomed to their new surroundings.

Another key is keeping seniors involved with the transition process, making sure that you try to meet their needs. Rather than ignoring their fears and concerns, give them a chance to voice them as many times as it takes. Work with them to find solutions. Doing so accomplishes a very important goal: validating their feelings.

Some seniors may also want to recreate their old home in their new place. If so, helping them set up their belongings to match where they used to live is a great way to provide them support. Families should also encourage seniors to get involved with activities and hobbies at their new location.

Relocation stress syndrome is a real issue that families should remain aware of and prepare themselves to manage. It can make the difference between a move that goes smoothly and one that causes trauma for seniors.

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