If you’re reading this post, you’re probably stressing over your parents’ or grandparents’ health, safety, finances and possibly social isolation. However, your parents and grandparents are most likely focused on how to fight to keep their home and how they’re going to manage. For many seniors, their home has been their home for decades. After all, “Home is where the heart is!”
Make no mistake about it; even with a full list of logical reasons to make a move, it will be a difficult and emotional life transition. The most important issue to consider when helping your senior family members prepare for a move is their emotional state.
1. Talk It Over
Before you begin making all the decisions and changes, find a way to have a sit down chat. Be real with them and allow them to discuss their fears and sorrows about transitioning. Help them process through the decision by discussing the challenges as well as the exciting possibilities of making a move. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little research before having this conversation. Check out possible locations and their amenities. You’ll be better prepared to comfort and answer your parents’ questions if you know the basics. What type of community does the place have? Are there social activities? Is there local transportation? How much space will they have?
With this said, you don’t want to show up with a brochure in hand. Don’t make it seem like you’ve made the decision and already researched everything. They need to feel like they are making their own decisions. You are simply helping your parents get on board and prepare emotionally for the change. Help them get excited for new opportunities and adventures – dream new dreams! If they’re prepared and on board, they’ll be able to help make decisions and take ownership, which will make things a lot easier for you!
2. Scout & Plan
After your favorite and beloved seniors are on board, help them come up with a list of questions they can ask prospective housing centers. Maybe they have a pet that would be too difficult to part with. Make sure they ask if pets are allowed. I was surprised by how many places allowed pets! Or maybe they are worried about taking their favorite recliner or china hutch. Make a list of non-negotiables – financial limitations, for example. When you’ve narrowed down your list of possible locations, you can begin focusing on the smaller amenities – which has the most room, social activities, etc.
After your parent makes a decision, you can begin creating a game plan. Look at the floor plans and housing rules. Help them understand their options for which of their belongings will fit and work in their new place. Remind them about the exciting things their new digs will offer so they aren’t overwhelmed by the belongings they won’t be able to take.
It may be hard to think about, but downsizing is inevitable. Your parents have countless memories of you and their grandkids wrapped up in their home. A doorway probably has marks of you and your siblings’ heights as you grew up. Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases and every celebration in between has happened in their home. It will be hard to let go of your 3rd grade art projects and the rocking chair that’s been in the family for generations. Not only is this emotional but it’s often a very daunting task! Even those of us who have moved out of a college dorm room understand the work and stress involved in moving. Imagine living in one place and accumulating possessions over the course of fifty years or more! Dang.
Option 1 – Family Affair
If you’re able, find a way to help with the downsizing. Maybe you can spend a few weekends or weeknights talking over the options – donation, passing valuables down to the next generation, auction/sale possibilities, etc. Help them go through and separate items into those categories. It can be a meaningful time between a parent or grandparent to pass family belongings down to their child or grandchild. If it’s important enough to hand down, there is typically a story with it!
Going through and organizing everything will be a major task but pick out certain days/weeks when you can really dig in and just knock it out. Make a game plan as to what you want to accomplish. Have your parents make decisions about what to keep or pass along while you provide the muscle. Keep a positive attitude and make the most of your time together! Things will keep moving if everyone is positive and excited about the adventure ahead.
Option 2 – Hire a Pro
For those of you who are thinking “seriously? I live across the country!” or “I have no vacation days left at work. How will I accomplish this?!” don’t worry. There are actually people who specialize in helping seniors organize and pack up for moving. Those services come in handy when it is more beneficial to have a third party assist your loved one with their downsizing. Another issue you may need help with is the financial burden of the move. Some places will help you out with a senior discount. Always ask!
If you are able to help your loved ones organize and pack up but need assistance in the muscle department, there are companies who do just that – bring the muscle. They load the rental truck at the original location and unload at your destination. All you have to do is rent the truck and organize!
4. Ongoing Support
After the move is done and everything is unloaded, your parent will need a bit of encouragement as they adjust to their new world. Don’t treat them like infants but make sure to call and visit. Check to make sure they’re doing alright and adjusting to their new location. Make some memories in their new place and it will quickly become home.
I hope these suggestions will help you as you walk your seasoned loved ones through a tough transition. Please share any helpful tips of your own! We believe it’s incredibly important to return the kindness and generosity of those who took such great care of us over the years.
About the Author: Victoria is tearing through her graduate studies in Nebraska. This summer she is enjoying a restful time of sunshine and working with amazing co-workers at HireAHelper’s revolutionary moving labor marketplace.