How to deal with cliques at your retirement home

“It broke my heart to hear Mom talk about feelings of rejection the first few days in her assisted-living complex,” says Cheryl. “Mom’s voice cracked as she told me the other women were ‘ugly’ to her. They have cliques here, she said, and I can’t break into them.”

Cheryl explains: “We had spent the first week with Mom, getting her settled. Everything seemed perfect. All the furniture she selected to bring fit exactly as she had imagined it would. She liked her little kitchen and found her bedroom and bath comfortable. The screened-in porch overlooking the courtyard was a delight. Mom loved that she could go swimming in a heated pool and get her hair done after, right on the premises. We were all impressed with the dining room -- the food was good and elegantly served.“

Moving in was a great decision

“When we left her, she was looking forward to going to a newcomers’ social. We felt relieved to see her happy and in a safe environment. All the way home, we talked about what a good decision the move was and how wonderful it would be to no longer worry about her living alone. So, when I received Mom’s call, it made me want to cry.”

Cliques just like in high school

“Evidently, when she went into the dining room alone for the first time and sat down at a table with a free chair, the women at the table coolly told her it would be okay for her to sit there now, but their friend would be returning tomorrow. She had taken his place at the table. “

“I feel as I did when my family moved and I had to go to a new high school, Mom said. I’m too old to have to do this all over again -- walking into a room where everybody, but me, knows everybody. They’re all talking and laughing. I can’t just break in and expect to be accepted.”

Cheryl asked her mom about the newcomers’ social. Hadn’t she met people there? Mom said, Not really. She was the only newcomer at the social, and the only people who talked with her were staff members.”

Going it alone

“I was especially worried when Mom told me she did not plan to use the van service to go shopping and had decided to drive herself. I knew I needed to return to see her, but couldn’t leave work until Friday, so decided to call the Resident Coordinator.”

“She told me my Mom’s experience is a common one and promised to take Mom under her wing. When I talked with Mom the next day, she had used the van to go shopping and to the bank. She also joined a church group and met a woman who will be moving into an apartment across the courtyard. We seemed to click, she said.”

Adjustments are common

Adjustment problems occur whenever your loved one’s circumstances change. Assisted living, as wonderful as it may be, represents a major change. Expect a new set of challenges, and you won’t be disappointed.


Dr. Amy



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