Is it time for your elderly parent to down size or move into Assisted Living? As a caregiver, where do you start?

| January 20, 2018 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

As a caregiver, where do you start?

Downsizing is never easy. This alone brings up a number of challenges, such as, where to move, is it time for an assisted living environment and what to do with all the furniture and large items. Then there is the emotional journey. Once the big decisions are made, then the real work begins. One of the most difficult experiences revolves around the memories of your loved one’s home and the items that have tremendous meaning. This alone can impede the moving process in a number of ways. The below tips will help you keep the process moving along while doing so in a supportive and empathetic manner.

What to say and what not to say

The approach taken and the sensitivity to be mindful of is hugely important. The emotional turmoil that aging older adults are going through is enormous. Their “stuff” is representative of a life time of memories. Refrain from saying, “Okay, we really need to get rid of all of this stuff.” Instead, try to approach it with saying, “Let me help you go through everything and learn what means the most to you, so we know what to keep.” And with regards to giving things away, remind your parent how much they are helping others with whatever they decide to donate.

Then tackle the large items

Tag the large items of what will go to family members or friends, which items will be given to a charity, and which items will be moved with your parent.

What to do about the big items with special meaning that must be given away

Take pictures of the special memory items that your parents can’t take with them. Consider printing out some of these pictures for your parents to have. Plus, upload the pictures into the cloud so they’re accessible. This is also beneficial for those who have captured their parents’ life stories. Some of their stories may revolve around certain items in the home. When typing up your parents’ stories, these picture items can be interwoven within the stories.

Remember to utilize an effective organized approach

“DorothyTheOrganizer” who is an expert organizer on the A&E Hoarding series emphasizes the importance of having different areas labeled “trash,” “giveaway / donate,” and “keep.” Remove the trash and giveaways which will create more space for the “keep” items and boxes as you begin the packing process. When packing up the “keep” items, be sure to clearly label the boxes of the items inside.

Don’t let the “maybe” items hold back the moving process

Have a “maybe” section. One of the biggest hurdles is coming across items that have special meanings behind them, such as a picture or something as mundane as a soap dish. The maybe items will likely be the most difficult. It’s typically the items that are not necessary to keep but have too many emotional memories to part with. When going through these items, most often there are tears and stories shared in the process which can be very time intensive. This is where we as adult children need to take a step back and tap into empathy. Our parents are going through an emotional rollercoaster of memories and loss. And yet, we must get through the process due to time constraints. At this point, it may be best to pack the “maybe items” and clearly label what’s in the boxes along with writing “MAYBE” on the box.

Be sure to allow some time (even briefly) with stories and processing the memories, then reassure your parent these items can be gone through more so at a later time once the move has been made. Then, once at the new location, over time – these items can be sifted through without the time pressure. And, now that there are no time constraints, consider having the grandchildren participate in the process which can be a wonderful experience all the way around. The grandchildren will learn more about their grandparents, they may want to take a few of the items as memory keepsakes once they know the stories behind them, and it’s nice bonding time for grandparents and their grandchildren which can enhance cherished memories for years to come.

Lynn Benson, MSW

Lynn Benson is the co-author of The Senior Organizer and co-founder of www.digitallifecloud.com

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