With many older people deciding to downsize their family homes for a smaller house or retirement flat, we give you some tips on how to help your senior loved ones with the experience:
Making this move can often be a very difficult time. The home will contain many cherished memories and belongings, and letting go of these can prove quite emotionally distressing. Conditions common in old age, such as memory loss, can also add to stresses of moving, as the major changes of this life upheaval can be very confusing. Those who experience poorer mobility or physical health problems can also face a struggle, as the act of moving out can be quite physically demanding if you are getting involved with carrying possessions. Not only this, but old age inevitably makes us less energetic, leading to becoming both physically and mentally fatigued more quickly.
Perhaps the biggest downside to downsizing is that there will be less space for all of your belongings. It can be hard to come to terms with having to get rid of a large number of your things, especially when so many will have fond memories attached. Because of this, it is important to provide senior loved ones with as much support as possible. While sorting out and packing up belongings is a key aspect of moving, help also needs to come in the form of emotional support.
If you are supporting an older person with a move, you may think that you can pack up the items in one allotted time period, like over a weekend. This may have a negative effect, fostering a frantic atmosphere which will enhance feelings of panic and confusion. If it is possible, doing small amounts of packing over a number of days will lead to a calmer experience for all. However, other commitments may prevent you from being able to do this, so if you can only do it all at once, ensure that you are taking regular breaks and remember to keep your older loved one hydrated.
The emotional impact of having to sort through a lifetimes worth of possesions can be intense, and may bring up a lot of bittersweet feelings. Having to make lots of permanent decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of can be frustrating as there is bound to be some indecisiveness, yet it is essential to remain patient with your parent or older loved one as this time can be traumatic for them. Keep things positive by reminding them of all the benefits downsizing will bring, but don’t rush the decisions. Creating a list of all the items you are getting rid of can be a great idea, as it will aid memory in the future if they are looking for those belongings.
While it is difficult, downsizing must involve removing some items. To help deciding how much needs to be removed, it can be an idea to draw up a floor plan of the new living area, including pre-existing features like windows and doors. This can be very helpful for deciding which items of furniture to take, and also how many things can be brought to fill those shelves and cupboards.
It is easier to decide to let go of something if we believe it will go to some use with another person, meaning that re-cycling or donating can be a good way to get things cleared. Charity shops will take a lot of books, clothes and bits and bobs. You can also look to donating some items to homeless shelters and to those in need. Disposing of all items rather than storing them in a relatives loft or a storage facility is key. Only keep the best quality items, and be realistic for your current needs. It is unlikely you will need a full dining set for twelve people! Allowing a friend or relative to help out is essential, as they will be able to consider what you need without the influence of memories. If you think that may prove too stressful for either of you, then there are care professionals available to help you with this process.
If you are thinking about moving somewhere smaller, why not read our top 5 reasons to downsize? If you are needing more advice about options for seniors, then follow the Wise Old Elephant Facebook page for more information!