If you have a parent who’s lived happily in a spacious home for years, there will probably come a time when a change in living arrangements is in needed. You might notice your parent has a hard time keeping up with household maintenance. A small fall—even if it doesn’t result in an injury—could be a sign that a new living situation would improve safety.
Moving an aging parent requires more than just packing up boxes. There are both physical and emotional aspects of transitioning to a new home as we age that must be addressed carefully. Aging parents may find it difficult to leave their home, or to go to a situation where some independence could be lost. In addition, you may be having to sell, give away or store items. A storage facility may prove to be a good answer to temporarily store your parents items.
Here are six guidelines to help the transition go smoothly.
1. Communication and Choice
Seniors can be emotionally vested in the home they’re leaving, and it’s expected that there will be sadness and apprehension about the move. It can be a tough conversation to have with your aging parent, but give them time to grieve the change and talk about where they will be living and why they are moving, in order to help make the transition smoother. When seniors are asked to leave their longtime homes, a frequent cause of distress is their perceived loss of control, so give your loved one as much choice as possible as they plan and implement the move.
2. Find the Right Place.
Before making any decisions, you’ll want to look into the assisted living facilities or retirement communities in whichever areas are under consideration. Many assisted living facilities will set an appointment with you for a tour of the facility and to stay for lunch. If possible, encourage your parent to go along for the visit.
Be sure to check out amenities and services that each facility offers.
3. Sort and Organize
Moving your elderly parents will involve downsizing. Go through the house item by item with your support team. You can categorize objects to make the process easier: items to be moved, keepsakes to be left with family, items to be sold or donated, and items to be thrown out. Don’t allow yourself to become a packing robot lacking feelings. Honor the emotional attachment to personal belongings and allow your senior parent to reminisce as you help sort out their possessions. Remember, these are not just things you’re moving; they’re memories. Also, be open to your own emotions, especially if this was your childhood home.
4. Create a Meaningful Space.
For seniors moving to an apartment, try to model it after their home. If your parent has a favorite room or living area, bring the furniture from it and try to arrange it in a similar way. This is also a great time to ask your parent about meaningful things to take along. It could be a special photo, a favorite chair, or a vase that’s been in the family for years.
5. Schedule the Move at the Right Time.
If you’re moving your parent to a place with other residents, keep in mind that people who already live there could be disturbed by the noisiness of boxes and heavy furniture being carried in. Aim to move your parent into an assisted living or apartment at a quieter time of day. If possible, avoid moving in during meal times.
6. Envision the New Life.
Various programs and activities at the new place might align with your parent’s interests. Encourage them to get a calendar and join in on some activities or see a musical program that they would love. Also, other services could boost your parent’s independence. For instance, many assisted living facilities to provide transportation to theaters and shopping centers. These services can help your parent more fully enjoy living in his or her new place.
Of course, each family’s circumstances are unique, so we’re hesitant to give blanket advice — but we hope these tips help you better plan and execute your elder loved one’s next move.