Moving out of a well-loved home can be a difficult time for anyone—you’ve probably experienced your own bitter sweet moments when you moved out of your very first home to start a family—but it can be especially trying for seniors who are downsizing into a senior living community.
Former Congressman Martin Frost points out that moving a parent from a house to an apartment is a practical choice both financially and physically.
But even if downsizing is the best option, the idea of change can cause stress. Just the thought of going through stuff that has accumulated over decades of living and raising a family in one house is overwhelming enough to make you feel anxious.
So what can you do to make downsizing easier for the senior you love?
It is important that you understand the sense of loss that goes with downsizing. Relocation to a senior living in the Cincinnati community is a side effect of growing older, and therefore, difficult to accept.
Recognize that your loved one is giving up a place he or she has called "home" for years, too. It is a lot of change all at once. Avoid offering platitudes such as “You’ll like the new place just as much” or “This is how it has to be.”
Keep your own moving experiences in mind and allow them time to adjust to the reality of the situation.
Arm Yourself with a Floor Plan.
Make a scale drawing of the layout of the new home and take pictures of each room from various views to arm yourself and your loved one with powerful tools to use when deciding what furniture to take. Walk from room to room identifying the big items your parent wants to keep and finding a place for them in the new apartment. Setting up each room will add a sense of adventure to the project, but help keep the space options realistic.
Get a Head Start on Packing.
Start preparing for the move as early as possible, because there may be a lot of stuff to go through. To keep things organized, set up bins or create a sticker system to categorize everything in the house:
- Take it to the new location
- Give it away to family
- Donate it to charity
- Put it in the garbage
Items with sentimental value should go to family members, but send clothing and stuff no one wants to a local charity to get a tax donation. Provide labels that parents can use to designate gifts meant to go to someone in particular.
Create a Solid Plan of Action.
Homecare.com suggests the basement, attic and closets are good places to start. These areas are likely to have things that are the easiest to classify. Develop a working schedule to cover the entire house one small section at a time. Spend one afternoon clearing out and cleaning a walk-in closet, for example, and the next decluttering the den. Keep the tasks small, and move slowly through the house so the process doesn't become overwhelming
Use this Time to Rebuild Connections.
This is a good time to reconnect with family, too. Talk to your senior about each piece and listen to the stories that go with them. Write out the history of significant pieces and tape them to each item. This way you can pass that history on to the next generation.
Change can be difficult for everyone, but as you get older, it seems like everything starts changing at once. Just yesterday, mom was cooking dinner and dad was watching football. Today, you are helping them find a senior living community in Cincinnati to call home. Ask the senior in your life how you can help make this transition easier.