Sometimes, caring for an aging parent can go above and beyond helping them with physical tasks, like bathing, dressing and cooking. These physical tasks are can be challenging, but the emotional aspects of caring for an aging parent can be daunting at times. Especially when it comes to navigating difficult topics, like when it might be time to move mom or dad to a smaller, more senior-friendly space. And however challenging bringing up the conversation may be for you, it will almost certainly be harder for your parent.
Downsizing for seniors can be especially difficult because of the complicated emotions that become attached to a lifetime of collecting objects and things. They can often be hard to part with, which only adds to the stress of moving elderly parents. But don’t despair, with so many seniors needing or choosing to downsize in the past few years, there are some helpful bits of advice to consider through the process.
The Reality of Downsizing for Seniors
Although AARP found that close to 90 percent of seniors wish to age in place, growing older in their own home is unfortunately not a reality for all of them. Whether it’s due to financial, health, or safety reasons, moving to a smaller home does create a quandary for your loved one: what do they do with all of their treasured belongings that won’t fit in their new home? While most older adults plan on giving family heirlooms, such as dining room and dinnerware sets, to their adult children, this is not always an option, either.
According to a recent New York Times article, “Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Don’t Want It,” adult children often don’t have enough space in their own homes to inherit all of the belongings that their moving elderly parents want them to.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the way we view material belongings has changed over the years. While Baby Boomers are part of a generation that see possessions as a sign of a successful career, millennials take a more minimalistic approach by purchasing ‘disposable’ household goods from online retailers rather than inheriting family heirlooms.
So if you don’t want or don’t have space for your parent’s momentos, how exactly do you go about downsizing for seniors?
Help for Moving Elderly Parents
The topic of downsizing your parent’s belongings can be a sensitive one, and knowing how to handle this difficult conversation is essential. After all, your loved one most likely has emotional ties to their keepsakes, especially if they were given to them as wedding gifts or were handed down to them from their own parents.
That’s why many families are turning to senior move management services, such as Caring Transitions, that help you and your loved one organize belongings before the move and even help prepare the house to be sold. Depending on the service you hire, they could help you with everything except the actual move, making the entire process a lot less stressful.
While convenient, you could pay as much as $50 to $125 an hour for this service, which can quickly become a hefty price depending on how much stuff there is to go through in your parent’s home.
Luckily, there are more cost-effective ways to go about downsizing for seniors, including these tips from AARP that will help you and your loved ones make it a smooth transition:
- Be an early bird. AARP recommends beginning the process of de-cluttering your loved one’s home at the first signs of declining health or at least one month before the home is to be listed for sale. Starting early will eliminate the added pressure of working under a tight deadline.
- Tackle one room at a time. Start with the room that is most cluttered first, and don’t move onto the next room until all items are organized into four bins: one for keepsakes, one for donations, one for passing down to family members and one for trash. Once you know the dimensions of your parent’s new home, measure all of the furniture you plan to bring to ensure that it will fit.
- Keep memories, not clutter. Take some time to get creative on how you can help your loved one preserve their keepsakes without cluttering their smaller home. If your parent loves photographs, for example, get a digital frame or make DVDs of their photographs to save space.
- Donate. While well-known organizations like Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army are probably the first things you think of when it comes to donations, keep in mind local camps or soup kitchens that would benefit from miscellaneous items that your moving elderly parents aren’t bringing with them, such as everyday glassware.
- Hold a “Moving Sale.” Advertising it as a moving sale typically brings in more crowds than a yard sale, but be aware that certain items may be harder to sell than others, such as sofas and small kitchen appliances.
You’re Not Alone When Caring for an Aging Parent
No matter the reason for your loved one’s move into a smaller home, take comfort in the fact that there are resources and services available to help you through this process, including companies like Caring Transitions and Medical Guardian, who provides round-the-clock access to instant help in any situation.
Even if your loved one is moving into an assisted-living facility, assistance from the staff might not be available to them 24/7, but with a Medical Guardian medical alert system, your parent will always be able to receive help, no matter where they’re moving in the United States.