Caring for Aging Parents: Relocating & Downsizing
If the time has come to move your elderly loved one from their own home into an assisted living facility, senior housing, or a smaller place near you, the process can feel overwhelming and stressful.
Here are a few tips to get you thinking about the process and what might be involved:
Chances are, your loved one will see this move as a loss of independence and therefore not a completely positive change. Rather than trying to “sell” them on the solution, listen openly to questions and concerns and create an open channel of dialogue so that they can feel like they are being heard. This can help shed light on the real issues at hand and also build a stronger level of trust between you. Perhaps there are compromises that can be made to put your loved one back in a position of feeling in control.
Whenever possible and appropriate, let your loved one be involved in some decision making during this process. For example, while you may need to choose the facility, perhaps they can pick favorite items to take with them.
Get Professional Help
Consider hiring a professional, skilled in dealing with the emotional and physical realities of downsizing and relocating seniors. Many professional organizers, such as the team at Living Peace, are experienced, skilled and compassionate and can be an invaluable member of your team. You can find a professional organizer near you at www.napo.net or a Senior Move Manager at www.nasmm.org.
Chances are, the move will come with some needed downsizing of belongings for your parent. The sooner you can start the process the better so that you’re not faced with making decisions in a rush.
Try to engage your loved one in the game of finding the most valuable and meaningful “treasures” amongst their belongings. Listen as they retell the stories and honor their memories. Sometimes sharing the history behind something one more time is enough to move through the process of letting it go. And if they know that they have retained the most important things, then sorting through the rest becomes easier.
Preserve Memories with Photographs
Take pictures of their home, and of belongings that can’t come to the new place. You can create a photo album of the trees in the yard, favorite furniture, and the house itself so that they can remember what things looked like and what memories were created there.
Identify New “Homes” for Belongings
Does your parent have a favorite charity or organization in need of donations? Knowing that their possessions aren’t going into the trash but rather to someone who can use them is usually helpful in making the decision to let something go.
Be Realistic about What Can go to the New Space
If possible, ask for a floor plan of the new space so that you can help identify available space for furniture and storage space for personal belongings. This will help guide decision making about what can go along for the move and what needs to be re-homed.
Create a Moving Checklist and Timeline
Share this (or a simplified version) with your parent, if appropriate, so that they know what to expect and when. This will help them prepare and avoid any surprises along the way.
Take the Stress Out of Moving Day
Hire professional movers to carefully bring the belongings in. Carefully label boxes with their contents, and include an “Open First” box. Pack medications and critical documents in a bag that stays with you. Focus on unpacking bedroom and bathroom first so that your loved one can settle in quickly. And finally, consider planning a fun activity for your loved one to distract them from the stress of moving.