In his song, “Beautiful Boy,” John Lennon sang that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” This can be particularly true for the family members of a senior adult. Many times, a sudden illness or accident makes the need to move the senior to a safer or more supervised environment a pressing priority.
Despite the immediacy, careful planning is still key to making the move more efficient and with less stressful for everyone. Here are a few tips to help when moving your senior parent.
Discuss the Move
It is better to begin considering a move before it becomes necessary. Depending on your time frame, there are a number of things you can do to prepare.
A conversation with your senior parent should come first. Perhaps you as an adult child have been the primary caregiver, but keeping your parent in their home is not a safe option any more. Include other family members but, most importantly, the wishes, concerns, and opinions of your parent need to be heard.
Also, understand that your parent is leaving more than just a house. A new and, perhaps scary, stage in their life is beginning, and they will be giving up a home filled with treasured possessions and memories.
There are options about where to move: a smaller, more manageable home closer to a family member who can provide the needed supervision, moving in with a family member, or moving into an independent or an assisted living community. (It pays to explore and do your homework ahead of time when considering these types of communities. Space can be limited.)
The choice depends upon finances, a realistic assessment of having the parents in an adult child’s home, and your parent’s cognitive and or physical needs, which may necessitate professional supervision and care.
An efficient move into any one of these options requires some common steps.
Downsizing When Moving a Senior Parent
Parting with possessions filled with sentimental value and collected over decades is stressful for a senior adult (and perhaps for the adult child who shares some of those memories as well). However, your loved one is moving to a smaller place and cannot take everything with them. What will make the parting easier?
- Donate some items to needy people
- Make downsizing a time of sharing memories about items
- Start with the least-used room where items are not as treasured
- Select a limited number of items that are dearest to them
- Categorize, sort, and label the items: donate, keep, sell, pass along, etc.
- Tag items going to the new location with the room they will be in
- Stay positive about the move
- Don’t refer to items as “junk”
- Enlist family and friends to help with downsizing
- Take the highly treasured items (even temporarily) when your loved one offers them
- Keep your anger and frustration in check if things aren’t going smoothly
- Take frequent breaks while downsizing
- Sketch a map of the new home to see what will fit from the old home.
Details, Details, Details
Two months before the move, fill out a change of address with the United States Postal Service.
Unless you are renting a truck and making the move with the help of friends and family, reserve a moving company in advance. There are senior move managers who specialize in moving senior adults. Extensive services are offered.
A senior care manager also can help. These professionals are knowledgeable in a wide range of senior care, benefits, and resources. They can advise with downsizing and a host of issues that come with moving a senior adult. They can provide special assistance and insight if the move is to an independent retirement living community.
During the move, have the senior stay with a friend or relative to lower their stress.
When arriving at the new location, walk movers through the home, confirming where items should be placed.
When the move is complete, repair, clean and renovate the original home as needed to improve its marketability.
Visit your parent regularly in the new home, but don’t overwhelm him or her with constant visits. Let your parent adjust and discover what their new space has to offer.
Yes, this is a lot of hard work, but doing it right the first time will be well worth the effort. In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else”—you do not want your parent to just be “someplace else,” you want them to be in the best place possible.
Moving into an independent retirement living community can offer older adults convenience while eliminating the stress of maintaining a full house. Tour one of Bethesda’s Independent Retirement Living Communities in the St. Louis area to experience the ease that this flexible option has to offer.