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Transfer trauma when moving to a facility

What is transfer trauma?

Transfer trauma is a physical, behavioural, and emotional reaction to a sudden change in your surroundings. This can happen with a move from a hospital to a care facility, from a care facility to a hospital, or even from one room to another.

Transfer trauma can happen with the loss of things you know well, like your surroundings, people, and routines. Sudden moves tend to be the hardest. Transfer trauma can be even worse when someone has problems with thinking, concentration, or memory.

What are the signs and symptoms of transfer trauma?

Signs and symptoms may be easy or hard to notice. These include:

  • withdrawal from others
  • sadness
  • not feeling hungry or wanting to eat (loss of appetite)
  • changes to sleep
  • worsening health
  • feelings of being treated unfairly (resentment)
  • loss of hope (despair)
  • worrying about what will happen (insecurity)
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • confusion
  • frustration

How can you help someone prepare for a move into a facility?

It’s normal to worry about important changes. It can help to:

  • Think about what has helped them cope with a change in the past.
  • Encourage them to do activities they enjoy, like reading, listening to music, knitting, or puzzles.
  • Have family or friends drop off personal items or things they find comforting.
  • Have virtual visits.
  • Record video or audio messages and send notes and cards.
  • Have any medical aids they need, such as up-to-date prescription glasses and working hearing aids.

You may also find it helps to talk to the healthcare team about:

  • rearranging the room or belongings so they feel more comfortable
  • what they like and don’t like
  • the routine they have and when is the best time to have care
  • their health information, usual mood, or behaviour, so the healthcare team can watch for changes
  • any information, changes, or concerns you have that will help the healthcare team better support them

Having a detailed plan for care can help lessen the impact of transfer trauma. Go over the care plan with the healthcare team and ask them for a copy.

At any time, you can ask to talk to the case manager or leader of your healthcare team. They can answer any questions or address any concerns you have.

Current as of: October 28, 2020

Author: Provincial Seniors Health & Continuing Care