Senior Scene May 29, 2017

For the next couple of weeks I will be providing some helpful information about a dreaded subject – downsizing and moving.  I have spent the last month staying with my sister half the time while we assisted my 80+ year old Mom pack up a 2 bedroom duplex with a full basement and move into an accessible 825 square foot apartment.  While everything eventually worked out, there were occasions when our thoughts turned to … Let’s Throw Momma from the Moving Truck.
Whether you are helping an older adult(s) 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.
Be kind.  Being kind may seem like a given, but occasionally stress can interfere with our ability to be a doting offspring.  Remember that it is difficult to change the older we get and moving is a huge adjustment for everyone.  Be patient.  Ask how they are feeling, encourage rest periods and let them know that you are there to help.
Help sort.  Like all of us, seniors tend to keep things they do not necessarily need or will ever use.  Be gentle when suggesting they get rid of possessions.  Ask them if they use the item and if they would mind if you donate it.  If it is a treasure or something they would like to keep but the new space cannot accommodate it, suggest keeping it in the family by giving it to a grandchild or another sibling.  It is often easier to give away items if the senior feels they are going to a good home.
Start small.  Take a day to spend with your parent(s) 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 would like to do and what they might find hard to do. Taking small steps will help your parents get used to, and adjust to the idea of moving.
Pick a room that has less sentimental attachment as your starting point.  Have your parent(s) start sorting through the bathroom or kitchen drawers; a place in the house that does not hold the same emotional attachment as the bedroom or living room or a photo box kept in the attic.  In some areas, such as a basement or storage room it is beneficial to tackle the task on your own.  Many items have been packed away for years and forgotten so sorting and disposal is a fairly fast process.
Be patient.  Allow your loved one 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 and reminisce.  This is a very important part of the moving process.  Listen to their stories and share their emotions.
Stay tuned for more information next week, and in the interim you might want to start sorting through your own possessions.