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Relocation Stress Syndrome

A move to senior living or even between two different living environments can result in symptoms including anxiety, confusion, andmoving-box-1494493 loneliness. Medical professionals have diagnosed these symptoms in conjunction with a major move in living environment as Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS), commonly known as “transfer trauma.” Read more about seniors at risk for RSS and how to prevent the syndrome in your loved ones.

“Home is a Feeling”

According to an AARP study, 88% of Americans want to age in the home they have always known – the house where they raised their children, loved their spouse, and cooked meals for holidays for years. When people are removed from that concept of home, the results can be traumatic.

Moving can be just as stressful as losing a job, the death of a loved one, and divorce. It may be difficult for a senior to process leaving the house where they lived so much of their life and moving into a small room or apartment where they very well may see the end of their life. Often accompanied with a move to senior living is the death of a spouse, which increases the grief and depression associated with RSS. Added as an official diagnosis by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, many hospitals and insurance companies are treating it as a serious illness.

What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One Has RSS

The symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome include anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and somatic effects. They usually appear right before or within three months of a sudden move, according to Moves for Seniors. Often, RSS is misdiagnosed as dementia because of changes in cognition, eating habits, sleeping habits, insecurity, or a decline in self-care.

If you suspect your loved one may be suffering from RSS, help them to deal with the core issues resulting from the move. Get a therapist involved for an expert’s opinion. Help them to know that they are not alone in their fears and acknowledge the normal sadness and mixed emotions that go along with a move.

Ways to Prevent Relocation Stress Syndrome

Here are some steps you can take to prevent the issue of transfer trauma:

1.  If your loved one is being moved from a hospital, use the “navigator” on staff to help smooth out the process.

2. Allow your loved one to make the decision on which senior living community to which they will move. If they are in the hospital and want try out going home, let them try it out, whilst ensuring they will be completely safe at home.

3. Keep your loved one informed on the process. Be honest with them about their limitations and make sure they know where they will be moving.

4. Acknowledge and validate their feelings and fears about the move. Encourage them to keep an open mind, but tell them it is normal to feel nervous, excited, or even terrified.

5. Try to recreate the feeling of the old home in the new home. Decorate it with trinkets, paintings, or an old quilt that will be a comforting reminder of the love they had in their old home.

What Not to Do If Your Loved One Has RSS

Symptoms of RSS typically subside around 6 months after the move. After this time, they should be well adjusted and more comfortable with their new surroundings. While the symptoms are subsiding, do not move them again. If the symptoms have not reduced after 6 months, consult a doctor who can help you further assess the probable causes.


About Sacred Heart Villa

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.  The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, café and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day and is open to the public.

Sacred Heart Villa is now accepting residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit or visit us at