Moving is often stressful, no matter your age or the reason for relocating. When it comes to senior downsizing, however, the job may be more challenging, especially if downsizing is due to death, illness, or loss of independence.
First, it’s important to think the situation through and make sure that moving (such as to an assisted living facility, or the home of a son or daughter) is the right thing to do, suggests the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Sometimes there are other options that might help your Mom or Dad keep living at home – safely. That’s a different discussion than the topic of this article, but it’s an important one to have.
If your loved one is struggling with a move, whether it’s to an adult child’s home, senior community, or assisted living facility, the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) stresses the importance of calm, supportive discussions when preparing Mom or Dad for senior downsizing: The move might actually improve your parent’s health and/or independence, and quality of life.
As a caregiver, however, much of the practical downsizing work may fall to you, and the details can be overwhelming. Here’s a checklist based on FCA recommendations to help you plan the process, accomplish the move, and help your loved one settle in.
How should I plan for senior downsizing?
If at all possible, you should begin these steps several months before the move. Involve your loved one in the planning; it’s his (or her) life, and money, in most cases.
- Set deadlines for other family members to ask for—and claim—any items that won’t accompany your loved one to her new home. Let them know the date you plan to have the house emptied.
- Sort through personal and financial records; ask an accountant if you’re unsure what to retain. Shred anything you aren’t keeping. Store wills, power of attorney, and other legal documents in a safe deposit box or lock box you can store in your home (make sure you keep a copy of any keys or combinations).
- Sketch a floor plan of the new space and help your loved one visualize what she can bring with her.
- Begin de-cluttering, donating, or selling anything you aren’t going to keep. Consider transferring family photos and movies to DVDs to save space.
- To streamline the process, leave emotionally-charged items till last. As you declutter, you and your family may get less sentimental and more inclined to just focus on downsizing.
- At least a week before the move, file change of address forms with the post office, Medicare/Social Security, and financial institutions.
What are some tips for managing the downsizing move?
Some people find using a move manager or other professional company simplifies the downsizing process. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a professional, here are some tips the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) suggests
- Make an inventory of everything in your boxes. Use color-coded labels to indicate where boxes should go in the new place.
- Designate “open first” boxes so necessary spaces are ready to go the first night (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen if meals aren’t prepared for your loved one).
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of any daily prescription medications.
- If possible, move your loved one and her furnishings out of the house first and let other family members handle the remaining possessions and cleanup without her.
- Don’t forget to make arrangements for any pets before the move.
How can I help my loved one settle in after a senior downsizing move?
The days and weeks after a downsizing move may be difficult for your loved one, although some feel a sense of relief when they realize they no longer have the burden of maintaining a large home, especially if they are in a community where they can make new friends. The AARP suggests you keep these tips in mind:
- Put things in the same place in the new home if possible. Set up the dresser and artwork in the bedroom as it was in her old place, for example.
- Plan to visit often soon after the move and spend time letting your loved one reminisce if he wants to. Share a meal or take a walk around the new community together.
- Give your loved one time to adjust. It may take weeks or months for him to feel comfortable in his new surroundings, especially if the downsizingwasn’t his choice. Don’t try to rush the process and be available to talk and encourage him when he needs it.
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