What is relocation stress syndrome?

Over the past two decades, increasing attention has been paid to relocation stress syndrome (RSS), which is also known as transfer trauma. RSS is a formal nursing diagnosis characterized by a combination of physiologic and psychologic disturbances that occur as a result of moving a person from one environment to another. RSS can affect those who have chosen to move, been involuntarily relocated, or been placed in a care facility for mental or medical needs. Symptoms of relocation stress syndrome include exhaustion, sleep disturbances, anxiety, grief and loss, depression and disorientation. In seniors, these symptoms are exacerbated by dementia, mild cognitive impairment, poor physical health, frailty, lack of a support system, and sensory impairment. For these seniors in particular, the resulting confusion, depression and agitation have led to increased falls, undesirable weight loss and self-care deficits.

Well-meaning family members may make decisions on their elderly loved ones' behalf, not soliciting or listening to their concerns, or simply need to move the seniors faster than they can handle. In short, family members often focus on the details of the move rather than on the person who is moving.


What You Can to Help Offset Relocation Stress Syndrome

1.Certain actions are successful in minimizing RSS. They include:

2.Helping the senior become acclimated.

3.S Involving the senior in the decision and planning process.

4.Providing the senior with an opportunity to ask questions and discuss his or her concerns.

5.Honoring the individual’s preferences and allowing him or her to maintain control.

6.Paying attention to details and maintain the senior’s daily routine as much as possible.

7.Safeguarding the senior’s personal possessions.

8.Involving the senior in setting up the new room or apartment.

9.Making the new home resemble (as much as possible) the old home.


It is not surprising that seniors do better after a move when they are involved in the decision, have an opportunity to voice their concerns and be heard, and are able to maintain a sense of control. Anyone, regardless of age, would do better under these circumstances. Nothing can entirely remove the pain of relocation, but this team approach helps everyone focus on what is truly important.


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