As the industry’s leading moving experts, we definitely understand the complications and stress that come with moving seniors. These moves are unique because the seniors making the move are often downsizing at the same time, and they’re usually experiencing a huge life transition. This is especially true when seniors move into assisted living facilities or into their children’s homes for the first time. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about how to handle these moves, from both the personal and business perspective. Here are five suggestions that we have for your family as you prepare to move your older family member:
1. Realize and respect their emotions.
Even when your family member has been expecting this transition for a long time and knows that the move is needed, they’re still approaching a huge emotional roller coaster. For many seniors, this will be the first large move they’ve ever made, or at least that they’ve made in a number of decades. Their current home has lots of memories, and maybe even belongings, that they’re leaving behind. Even though you know that this move needs to be made, let your family member know ahead of time that you understand how difficult it is on them, and that you’re there for support.
2. Try to lessen the trauma of downsizing.
Downsizing is a huge undertaking, because you’re asking your family member to leave much more behind than a typical move requires. When moving a senior into an assisted living facility or into their child’s home, they’ll usually only have one or two rooms that they can fit their belongings into. One trick we’ve learned to make the process easier is suggesting a bulk donation to a non-profit organization that serves a population they care for, instead of just throwing those items away or giving them to Goodwill. This makes the senior feel that they’re contributing to a cause they believe in, as opposed to just getting rid of items. Another suggestion would be temporarily moving non-necessities into a storage unit or into a family member’s garage for 3 months. At the end of the three months, donate everything that the senior doesn’t actively miss. (For example, if your elderly mother can’t remember a particular chest of drawers that’s been put into storage, it really isn’t a necessity that she’s likely to miss.)
3. Pick someone else to represent them on moving day.
If you know that your family member will have trouble watching their belongings being loaded onto a truck and then into a new home, it may be best to have their child, niece, nephew, or sibling on the moving site while you keep the senior preoccupied at a restaurant or shopping. The on-site representative can deal with handling the payment transaction with the movers, let the movers know which items will go to the new home and which will be donated, and direct the movers in staging the furniture in the new home. This will also help relieve the natural stress that your family member will be feeling on moving day.
4. On moving day, don’t shy away from talking about their current home.
Many people are afraid of distressing their senior family member by talking about the home they’re leaving, and they try to avoid that topic at all costs during moving day conversations. However, we’ve found that letting seniors talk about their happy memories in the home can help ease them into the transition. It can also help to talk about the new memories that will be made at the new home, and to refer to moving day in a positive manner rather than with a sense of apprehension.
5. Don’t talk to them like children.
We often feel as if we have to treat our senior family members like they’re children as they begin to age. This is because their memory starts to fade, and they need increasingly more guidance as they get older, or because they’re starting to lose flexibility and strength. Although we do sometimes have to direct seniors the way we direct children, it’s very important to never talk to them like they’re children. With all of their life experience and wisdom, our senior family members deserve all of our respect. Be sure to use a normal tone of voice instead of letting your voice become high-pitched (the way it might if you were speaking to a pet or young child) when reminding them to take their pills, bringing them back from a tangent into the conversation, or any other direction you may need to give them.
We’ve completed hundreds of moves with seniors, and we know that each one comes with its own stressful circumstances. If there’s anything we can do to be more sensitive or prepared for your particular move, please let us know these notes over the phone while booking your move!