- Most seniors wait until the last moment to decide that they can't function independently. Usually, one of their children or another family member begins to broach the subject. If the move is to a nursing home, it often comes after a health emergency. In cases where the individual has a choice, the caregiver should emphasize the positive aspects of the move. Focus on the safety of being in a family or community setting and the additional social contacts. Avoid confusing the older person. Think ahead, do research and narrow the choices of living arrangements based on location, price and atmosphere. This way, the senior who is moving will not be confused by too many inappropriate choices. Bring brochures, photos and information to the senior to discuss the options, then follow-up with personal visits. Call the manager of the community first and arrange the visits. Staff will provide a guided tour and usually offer to have the senior and their family to lunch so they can meet some other residents. In fact, some communities will allow an overnight or temporary stay to try out the community. Help the senior go over the pros and cons of each community so they feel that they are making the selection themselves. Once they've chosen the community, let them pick the room or apartment and imagine living there. Take measurements and photos of each area for reference later when the actual downsizing process begins.
Downsizing & Packing
- Not everything will fit in the smaller space. The most emotional and difficult period occurs when the older person is faced with giving up cherished belongings. During this process, family members must be patient. If the senior is physically and mentally able, let them make selections. Provide small adhesive dots in various colors. Put green dots on those items that must be kept. Use yellow for things they'd like but that are not vitally important. Pick red for those they can easily give away or sell. Take into account the senior's energy level, and leave plenty of time for the senior to color code their belongings. At the same time, you might make things easier by discussing how you can arrange the furnishings that will move. Talk about what the new decorating scheme might be. Let the family member who is moving choose items that may be necessary in their new space. This may include new drapes, or buying a smaller couch to replace one that won't fit in the new residence.
- Visit the new residence as often as possible with the senior to decide where to place furnishings and take some special items. Even something as simple as taking a cherished plant to the new residence will help make the transition easier. Meanwhile, as the move goes forward, make it easier on the senior. Families should take on the job of selecting the moving company, preparing the change of address forms, canceling utilities and phone service and arranging for those services at the new location. Moving day can be very emotional. So, unless the senior objects, it may be best to have the person stay with a friend or family member during the actual move. At the new residence, help unpack and get rid of cartons to make it feel like home. But don't take over. Let the senior have a say in where they place items. Spend more time than normal with the senior so that they feel your support and do not feel as though they've been abandoned in the new location.