As often as people discuss their desire to age in place, it’s not always possible-neighborhoods change, spouses/partners die, the ability to drive, manage stairs or perform activities of daily living diminishes. Regardless of the reason, moves are never easy, particularly if it’s compounded by feelings that this could be the “last move” or the person feels they are loosing their independence.
While there is some information below about finding a new home, the focus of this post is how to organize the various components of moving to help make the process easier for you the organizer and for the person being moved. Keep in mind that not all recommendations are useful in all situations.
INVOLE THEM IN THE PROCESS: Since this is where they will be living, having them involved as much as possible through out the process will make the transition a bit easier.
• Have them identify their “must haves” for the new residence- example: neighborhood, proximity to friends and family, number of bedrooms, pets, etc. Whether it’s on their “list” or not, be sure to investigate their financial capability-what they want can be very different from what they can afford-medical needs, and what types of community services and supports are available.
• Develop a list of places to visit. Call 2.1.1 for information about senior housing, assisted living centers, and in general resources in neighborhoods you are considering.
• Go together to visit places if possible. Check out Aging in Place, which provides information on types of housing, resources, finances and much more. Another resource is Home Away from Home:Relocating Your Parents from Family Caregiver Alliance.
Note that moving, and the reasons for the need to move, can bring out the best and worst in families. Involve a third party to help and use tools like Holding a Family Meeting.
CREATE A VILLAGE-ORGANIZE FAMILY AND FRIENDS: Most Americans don’t live in a “village,” but if there is ever a situation where it helps, this is it. Thanks to Lotsa Helping Hands (LHHs)website This free site allows you to organize so that everyone knows what’s needed and when, who is doing what and when, and how the person is doing in general. Even better, it sends e-mails to remind people of what is coming up and what they have signed up for. You can use it to organize work crews, visits, rides, meals and much more. It’s probably one of the best tools I’ve seen for helping families and communities organize.
If there are multiple siblings, other family as well as good friends that feel they should be involved in this move, encourage them to use the LHHs site. Even if they don’t live close by, they can follow along in the process, know when to send gift certificates to help with various aspects of the move - gift certificate to a local eatery helps when work crews are scheduled for the day, gas cards for those who are doing a lot of driving, care packages, and understand how the person is doing. It’s an easy way to keep everyone in the loop.
There are people who do this type of organizing for a living. In many situations, they can make all the difference as they understand how stressful the situation can be and by being an outside party, can have a very different and often helpful perspective on the situation.
THE SORT/PURGE: Whether you know where they’ll be moving to or not, once it is clear that changes have to be made, start the sort/purge. Just about everything can be sorted and assigned to one of the following categories:
• Not salvageable-Trash
• Donate to charity
• Tag Sale or Auction
• Give away to family or friend
While this may sound strange to do before the new residence is found, this process can help to make everyone involved recognize that the move is a reality and adjust accordingly. Further, it will hopefully provide ample time to know where to take donations and recyclables, ask family and friends to identify what they want, hold a tag sale etc. Check out Get Rid of the “Stuff”-De Cluttering will make you feel better.
PROVIDE ASSISTANCE WITH THE SORT: If you can’t be there, ask another family member or friend. It not only makes things easier, it’s a way of sharing memories and preparing for the move itself. Schedule this in intervals that make sense. Someone who is sick or elderly can’t spend a full day doing this. Use a timer to make sure you stay on course and stop when it goes off. You can talk about how much longer they would like to work, and reset the timer. Be sensitive to how they are responding and stop if it appears this is becoming too much for them.
Items that are not in the “keep” pile should be removed at the end of the work session as it reduces clutter and it helps to eliminate “second guessing” –going through the “to go” pile again.
CLEAN-AS YOU GO AND BEFORE THE MOVE: As you sort and purge, take the time to clean the parts of the home where you’ve been working. Not only is it a sparkling reminder of what you’ve accomplished but it will make things a lot easier once the move is completed and the house either needs to be shown or keys returned to the landlord.
Before the move, make sure the new home has been appropriately cleaned. This is one of those tasks to post on the LLHs site. Keep in mind that you can’t do it all and the more you can delegate the better.
Be mindful of cleaning products that you use. Many are actually pretty toxic. If you use nothing more than baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and some lemon, you are more than good to go. Avoid using things like bleach, opting instead for a paste made of cream of tartar and either a little water or vinegar. This has the same effect as bleach and isn’t toxic. Learn more at Are Your GreenCleaning Products Making You Sicker?
MOVING DAY: You can reduce stress for all involved by:
• Hiring professional movers if possible. If you are doing it yourself, rent the U-Haul in advance and recruit volunteers to help you on both the packing and receiving end. Have plenty of food on-hand, but make sure it’s the right kind of food. Coffee is fine, but instead of doughnuts, consider things like fresh fruit and raw vegetables and dip. Pizza is fine as long as it comes with plenty of veggies.
• Having prep work done in the new location. Cleaning and repairs should be done before the furniture arrives.
• Having the person stay with family or friends during the move. If they have a pet, keep them together if possible during the transition. Make sure medications and other items needed are not packed, and if assistance is needed in using them, someone is available to help with this activity.
• Having them enter the new living space when it has been set up for them-bed has been made; clothes put away; kitchen and bathroom items placed in similar locations as their previous ones; photographs and art work set up as before; and if they have a pet, food bowl and other items are similarly located.
• Staying with them for a day or several days to help them adjust to the new surroundings.
Moving is stressful for all involved, so plan for breaks, including five minute yoga breaks, eat healthy foods and take care of yourself. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be in no position to help someone else.