Moving is always stressful and it can be especially so for the elderly. For many, if not most, letting go of stuff also signals the letting go of life. If you are faced with relocating a parent, relative or friend into an assisted living or retirement community – it can be a difficult downsize. Here are my top tips for helping to ease the process for everyone involved:
- Comfort – It can be very unsettling to see personal belongings being handled by others. Reassure them often with a warm smile and gentle squeeze of the hand. Make sure they have physical needs attended to during the process. Keep their hygiene items, medicines, etc. close by and continue with their regular routine as much as possible in terms of meal schedule and exercise.
- Include – allow them to be a part of the decision making process. Even a simple, “Which of these vases is your favorite?” can go a long way in easing their fear of no control. If possible, let them select the charity/relative to receive whatever is not going with them. If they have to part with something especially dear, take a photo of it so they can have the visual memory to enjoy whenever they want to.
- Pace – whenever possible go slow. If they are active in the downsizing, don’t overwhelm them with the chore of clearing out a dresser … take it one drawer at a time. Same with file cabinets, bookshelves and closets. Allow for trips down memory lane. Help them sort and stay on task but honor their need to revisit – treat their “treasures” with respect.
- Orient – it’s important to keep clocks, calendars and newspapers current and in view during the move. It helps them stay oriented in the midst of confusion. Make sure those things, along with their favorite items, greet them in their new place. Beloved artwork, a piece of pottery, their stuffed bear … whatever says home to them.
Need more guidance? Have your own tips to share? Contact ACP.