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Moving Elderly Parents to a New Home

December 22, 2019

Moving elderly parents can be a challenging and emotional task for all parties involved. Here is how you can approach the move with care, sensitivity, and organization.

The largest group of homeowners in the United States are 65 years of age and older, and according to a Berkeley Economic Review, baby boomers are both living longer and decidedly staying longer in their homes. Perhaps your parents are among those who have lived in their homes for decades. Here, they have raised children and spent years building a collection of art, furniture, and collectibles. They have also made lifelong friends. 

Today, mom and dad are having trouble keeping up with the two-story, four-bedroom house you grew up in. Navigating the stairs to the bedroom is now difficult, and the area rugs they have collected over the years have become trip hazards. You think they would be better off in a smaller, one-level home where they would be safe and have less to manage. Assisted living or moving in with an adult child may also be considerations.

Relocating aging parents from their memory-filled home to a smaller place in a new community can be a challenge. Particularly when mom and dad may not be ready to embrace the idea just yet, even when their adult children think it’s the best thing for them! 

A Thoughtful Conversation

The prospect of downsizing can be difficult for seniors to wrap their heads around. The thought of leaving a family home can be emotional to discuss. Broaching the topic early, and before your loved one(s) are in crisis, will make for a smoother process in reaching a conclusion your mom or dad will feel comfortable with. 

If siblings are involved, discuss ideas together before approaching your parents, so everyone is on the same page. Research alternative living options and affordability so they don’t have to come up with viable options on their own. It will be necessary to know whether they can stay in the same neighborhood to be close to friends and what’s familiar, or if they’ll need to move a distance to accommodate needs.

Present your parents with ideas and information without actually implementing anything, or saying “We think you should…” It’s important that mom and dad feel like they are in control of the decisions. Putting pressure on them will most likely be counterproductive; guiding them rather than directing them will make propositions less intimidating.

Downsizing for Seniors: Task of Decluttering and Organization

Whether your parents are downsizing to a smaller home, moving to assisted living or have decided that there really is no place like home, decluttering and organizing will be necessary. Downsizing is no small task, and doing too much at once can be overwhelming for anyone, particularly your aging parents. 

Here are some tips for keeping organized while moving elderly parents:

  • Create a calendar to outline all aspects of each project, with dates for completion. This will avoid confusion when moving from one task to another.
  • Plan on tackling one room at a time. Start with the rooms that are seldom used; this is usually where most of us store the stuff we use the least.
  • Sort closets and belongings into categories and label boxes: Move, Sell, Toss, Donate, and Pass Along. Use different color stickers for each category for easy recognition later.
  • Break big projects down into three-hour sessions to avoid “decision fatigue.”
  • Make culling a social event. Play music, have drinks and snacks available and be sure to entertain your loved ones with a walk down memory lane if they want to reminisce. 
  • Collect and keep important papers in one location, such as: deeds, wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, medical records (including contact information for medical caregivers, medications, and dosages), birth certificates and passports. Be sure all family members know where they are kept.
  • Have grown children claim their keepsakes. This includes diplomas, photo albums, trophies, and any items they may have stored in the home over the years.
  • Create a home inventory on a spreadsheet, or take photos of family keepsakes mom and dad will want to pass along to their children (ie. furniture/antiques/china). Put this information in a shared location like Google Drive or Dropbox. This will help when siblings decide who will take what.
  • If your loved one wishes you to have a certain piece of furniture or china, take it happily, whether you want it or not. It will make your parents happy for you to have it. 
  • Save the more emotional items for last, like photo albums and loose photos if they haven’t been scanned. This kind of decision making can be draining and takes time and can be saved for a rainy day. 
  • Make a floor plan with measurements of the new space. Determine which pieces of furniture have the most sentimental value, and where they will work in the new location.

Making A New Home Feel Like Home

Recreating the feel of the home they are leaving can ease the strain of moving to new accommodations. Offer assistance in unpacking and settling in by hanging pictures and arranging the furniture so that it has a warm and welcoming feel. Unpack boxes with bedding and bathroom items first, and prioritize these rooms so they are able to continue routines uninterrupted. 

  • Enlist close friends and family to help move them in. This will expedite the process of unpacking, organizing, removing boxes, and will make settling in easier for mom and dad.
  • Or, arrange for a friend to entertain your loved one on moving day. While they’re out, unpack as much as possible to ensure that your loved one’s new space is ready when they return.
  • Make sure the TV, Wi-Fi, and all utilities are up and running before the move.
  • Fill the fridge with necessities and have dishware and utensils ready. This way, mom and dad do not have to worry about shopping and preparing meals immediately.

Wherever your parent(s) are moving to a smaller home, a retirement community, assisted living, or with an adult child, the hope is to make the transition as seamless as possible. Make the move manageable by breaking the process down into increments, being patient with your loved one(s), and being prepared will minimize stress for your parents and the family involved in the move.

Think positively! Once your loved one(s) are moved and settled in, they may feel downsizing at this point in their life was the best decision to have made.

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