Whether you're helping older adults move to a retirement home or helping them move into your own home or downsizing to a smaller place, take extra care and try to consider the following tips when supporting them through what can often be a difficult move.
Being kind may seem like a given. However, when helping to sort and pack their things, keep in mind that their eyesight and an inability to do everything they used to do can result in poor housekeeping habits. Instead of commenting, offer to clean as you pack and try not to criticize. Also, remember that it's difficult to change the older we get and moving is a huge change for everyone. Be patient. Ask how they're feeling and let them know that you're there to help.
Like all of us, seniors tend to keep things they don't necessarily need or will ever use. Be gentle when suggesting to get rid of possessions. Ask them if they use the item and if they would mind if you donate it. If it's a treasure or something they'd like to keep but the new space can't accommodate it, suggest keeping it in the family by giving it to a grandchild or another sibling. It's often easier to give away items if they're are going to a good home.
Take Pictures of the Inside of Their Home
As close as possible, try to place objects in a similar way so that their new home will feel very much like the old one. Be as detailed as you can from arranging the bedroom furniture to placing the family pictures on the bureau. This will help make the new place feel like home.
Find out before you move, how much space the new place has. If your parents are moving from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom condo, then together you'll need to decide what will fit and how much can be kept. Again, offer to keep the pieces they can't move or try to keep them in the family if possible.
Take a day to spend with your parents to talk about the move and what to expect. Give them small tasks to do such as going through a desk drawer or a box from the attic. Ask them to spend only 15 to 20 minutes a day on one task. Let them decide what they'd like to do and what they might find hard to do. Taking small steps will help your parents get used to the idea of moving.
Pick a Room That Has Less Sentimental Attachment
Have your parents start sorting through the bathroom or kitchen drawers; a place in the house that doesn't hold the same emotional attachment as the bedroom or living room or a photo box kept in the attic.
Allow enough time that your parents don't feel rushed. Sorting through years of stuff is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. Give them time to absorb the change.
Hire Outside Help
Sometimes it's easier for your parents to work with an outside party than with their children, especially when it comes to sorting and packing. There are many companies and professional packers who specialize in moving seniors, offering comfort both to your parents and the rest of the family.
Allow your parents time to say goodbye. If they take longer to clean out the desk drawer because of a stack of pictures they found, let them take the time to remember. This is a very important part of the process. Be patient. Listen to their stories.
Get Them Involved
If you have access to the new home, take your parents there, introduce them to the new space. Do this on their own time, when they're ready. Let them tell you how they'd like it to look and make a plan to prepare the space accordingly.