Guest Post by Karen Weeks

Moving into a new home can be a very stressful experience, especially if you’ve lived in one location for any length of time. Relocating an elderly relative into a more suitable home presents another layer of stress, for you, and them. As we get older we tend to settle down in one location for years, and continue to acquire belongings. Downsizing on its own can be difficult, but that’s not all that will change for them. Their familiarity in their home will be gone, and they’ll need to start doing even their daily tasks in a different way. If ever possible, making it a slow process will help reduce the stress for everyone, and being organized ahead of time will make it go much smoother.

If everything goes well, you’ll be able to get a gradual jump on this process. Try gathering loved ones together and have a casual conversation about the idea of moving into a home. Don’t overwhelm them. If they haven’t thought about moving into an assisted living facility, it may be an unwelcome surprise. Even if they have considered it, it is still a very big step, so be sure to focus on all of the positives so they’re comfortable with the idea.

Once you’ve had a conversation with them, help them organize everything with some helpful checklists. Discuss what kinds of amenities and features that they would like to have in their new home. Maybe they look forward to someone else cooking for them three times a day, or even helping keep their medications organized. Even if it’s something more frivolous like a pool to swim in, or a space to garden, no matter what it is, write it down.

Here are a few ideas of facility features to help with conversation:

  • If they’re active, find out if they would like a fitness center, or even outdoor space to walk in.
  • Enjoy cooking? See if the rooms are like apartments with small kitchens, or if they are just rooms to stay in.
  • Are they social? See if having a roommate at the facility is something they would like, or if they would prefer to be in a space by themselves.

After you find out what they would like to have in their new home, start a checklist of all the necessities the facility must have. A lot of places have standard features, like community rooms and dining halls, but not all of them are suited for handling some medical needs. Be sure to address these thoroughly.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do they have a medical condition? The staff and facility should be capable of handling it. It’s important to know that your loved one will be taken care of if anything comes up.
  • Do they need assistance with daily tasks? Maybe they can’t do something like open a lid on a jar, or hold a pencil to write, is someone there to help?
  • Will they need transportation doctor’s appointments, or even just going to the grocery store?

Gather a list of potential future homes together, and start scheduling appointments for tours. Accompany them on the tour, help them ask questions and take notes along the way. They are going to be overwhelmed at first, and could even be excited when they tour a place, which can easily result in forgetting to ask all the questions. Not only do you want them to be happy with where they live, but you want to feel good about it as well.

The next step is to start the decluttering and downsizing process. Going through years of accumulated items can seem daunting, but when you break down the process into a few steps, and know what to keep and get rid of, it will go much smoother.

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  • Go room by room, and start small. Focusing attention in one space at a time, rather than an entire house, can make it a little easier to go through.
  • Try to take it slow and start by asking yourself questions like “Do I need it or want it?”, “Do I use this item often?”. Be sure to assess what is most important about each item. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of cherished belongings, so if something incites a lot of emotion, slow it down and come back to it later.
  • Clear out items that will not be needed. Some places supply furniture like beds and side tables, but some do not. Be sure to hold onto items that will be making the move with them.
  • Plan to hire movers for the big day. Movers can take a lot of the stress out of the equation. Not only will they make the move itself less physically demanding, but they can make it less emotional. Allowing someone else to come in for the heavy-lifting gives your loved one a chance to part with what has been so familiar for so long, and an opportunity to start their new life with a fresh outlook.

Moving into an assisted living home is a lot of work, but staying organized and taking it as slow as possible will will help ease this stressful experience. Knowing what to do and what to ask will make everyone involved more confident in the move.

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