The process of moving an elderly parent or loved one can be challenging both from a planning and emotional perspective. Sorting and dividing up a lifetime of possessions is bound to bring up old memories – and if you’re moving a parent, the shift from child to caregiver can feel abrupt, uncomfortable and even overwhelming.
Whether they’re headed to a retirement community, going into assisted living or moving in with you, a friend or a sibling it’s important to make your loved one’s transition as seamless as possible. The sooner you begin planning, the less stressful it will be for all concerned.
Plan Well Ahead
It’s wise to start the moving conversation well before it becomes a matter of necessity. Many experts recommend exploring options a year or so before the move takes place. Otherwise, you’ll risk responding reactively to a personal, health or financial situation – and scrambling to find any suitable options.
Get your loved one involved and interested in what’s going to happen. Start gathering information about different locations and facilities together and, if possible, schedule tours of them. Above all, do your best to make your loved one feel optimistic about this new chapter and the possibilities it affords.
Downsize With Empathy
Relocating an elderly person from a home filled with treasured memories and prized possessions is a challenge. In most cases, your loved will be downsizing and they’ll have to leave many things behind.
It’s not just sifting through stuff; it’s about being sensitive to the memories the items hold. Therefore, you’ll need to help your loved one balance sentimentality with practicality. Ask them to name five or six possessions they hold most dearly – and not necessarily what’s most valuable. These are the “keepers” – and what they are may need to be readjusted several times during the downsizing process.
Keep jewelry and other small things out of the equation. It’s more about floorspace in the new location and what it can accommodate in terms of furnishings, collections and other larger items. Measure anything you’re not sure about and be as diplomatic and patient as you can. Prepare for some back-and-forth, but always listen to and respect your loved one’s point of view.
Take Things Step By Step
Start with a space like a bathroom or guest room: they’ll contain items that have fewer memories attached to them. This will help your loved one ease into the moving process with a sense of control and feeling of accomplishment.
Offer to sort your loved one’s belongings into different categories and get their opinion about what should be discarded, donated or handed down to friends and family members. Try putting boxes in each room and attaching sticky notes to them labeled “Move,” “Sell,” “Toss,” “Donate,” and “Pass Along.” Get your loved one’s buy-in about any decisions, avoid saying things like “You don’t need that!” – and keep the momentum going.
It’s generally easier for a loved one to give items away to someone they know. Even if you don’t want your great grandmother’s rocking chair or a formal set of china, offer to take it – at least for the time being. Thank your loved one for their generosity and set the item aside for a few months. If no friend or family member claims it, quietly donate it or try selling it through a consignment shop.
Plan Any Transportation Needs Carefully
If you’re driving your loved one – and their new home is more than a few hours away – ask regularly whether they want to stretch their legs, enjoy a snack or use a restroom. If you’re covering a longer distance, flying may be a better choice. Whenever possible, book a non-stop itinerary, especially if there are any mobility issues. Contact the airline in advance with special requests such as boarding assistance, an airport escort, a wheelchair or accessible seating.
If your loved one is significantly mobility-impaired, uses an oxygen tank or requires medical assistance en route, there are companies that focus exclusively on transporting people with special needs safely and comfortably. Typically, they offer specially modified passenger vans or RVs and have trained caregivers on hand to help. If your loved one needs this type of service, ask whether a friend or family member can ride along.
Above all, keep your loved one informed about what to expect.
Use Checklists to Organize and Simplify the Details
Depending upon when the move is scheduled and the interval between your loved one’s move and when the new homeowners or tenants arrive, you may want to have a garage or porch sale either before or after move day. In certain circumstances, an after-move sale may be less emotional for your loved one – and less stressful for you as well. Here are some tips to make it all go smoothly.
Although moving an elderly loved one will have its own specific challenges, our moving checklist is a valuable tool to help you prioritize what needs to happen – and when. Also, keep in mind that your Move Coordinator is always available to help you throughout the entire moving process.