For many families, choosing the best Senior Living Community for their loved ones is just the beginning of a big change. Long before our staff welcomes someone into our community, families will be preparing for the move. We recognize this adjustment can be difficult for our residents and their families and we’ve compiled some helpful tips you can use as you begin the process.
This step is easier said than done. The reality is that many seniors will be moving into smaller spaces than they’re used to and that not everything can come. However, even if everyone agrees that downsizing is a critical step, it can be a difficult one. What children may see as an abundance of knickknacks, their loved ones can see as a lifetime of memories. Even before you get started, understand that this will take time. Trying to accomplish this step too quickly can cause anxiety and stress for you and your family member. But with plenty of time, usually a few weeks to a month, you can accomplish the goal while honoring the memories and pieces your loved one has accumulated.
Another good tip is to refocus this task as a way to help others or gift them with something precious. Many see downsizing as a negative because it often means they are losing some of their independence as they move into a senior or assisted living community. However, it is actually a time that their precious belongings can allow them to be generous. Create a pile of donations that may go to a cause they have supported throughout their life – whether that is kitchen supplies for a women’s shelter or old towels and blankets for an animal sanctuary. With giving in mind, it puts the control back in their hands.
If your loved one had planned to give valuable items to family members in their will, this can be a great reason to give those gifts early. Not only does a legacy gift get to be enjoyed by the recipient, it can also be an excellent way for the giver to continue to see the items and enjoy them too. Giving a set of china to a daughter, for example, can mean her mother sees the set regularly on holidays or celebrations.
Make a List
Another great way to help your loved one with downsizing is to make a list or outline. This can be especially helpful if your family member is struggling with early stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia because these lists help them understand what you’ll be doing together. You can include the steps you’ll be taking (such as choosing what to keep, give, donate, etc.) and the order in which you’ll go through the items. Start with a simple room, like a laundry room or closet and work up to main areas like a bedroom or kitchen. If your loved one feels anxious at any point, you can take a break and go through the list together. This establishes the expectations for everyone and is something to refer to as a way to know what’s coming next. For more specific advice on successfully transitioning your loved one with memory impairment to a memory care community, download: 8 Tips For a Successful Move to a Memory Care Community.
Make Decisions Together
As you sort through items, involve your loved one in as many decisions as possible. They may want to share the memories or stories associated with their items and taking the time to listen is a helpful way to honor them during this process.
Plan for the New Home
After you and your loved one have chosen the community they’ll be moving to (and understand the layout and size) involve them in determining what items they’ll want to keep and help them set up these items in their new home. Having familiar favorites around is a great way to ease the stress of a move or any confusion that can occur for loved ones that have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Memory care is an important focus at Maplewood Senior Living, and we believe in honoring things that matter to our residents and help them feel peaceful, including items from their past home that hold value.
Help your loved ones reach out to other family members and friends to share the good news about where they are moving. Buy or make “new home” cards to send out to help build some positive energy with regard to the move. Allow them to get excited about helping to design or lay out where the furniture will go in the new apartment. Enjoy the decorating aspect, go shopping for a few ‘new’ items either around the house with items that have been boxed up for years, or by actually scheduling a shopping trip for a few special pieces.
Tips on Preserving Memories
If there are many items or collections that your loved one is struggling with letting go of, focus on finding a way to preserve the memories, not just the item. For example, if your family member collected a number of things like figurines or baseball cards, choose one item from each collection. Or, take pictures of belongings and write a short note about the story behind it. These pictures and notes can be put together in a scrapbook to be looked at and shared with family for many years to come.
Exercise Patience and Compassion during the Process
Remember that this process can be difficult for you and your loved ones, and it’s OK to take time to work through the emotions you’ll be feeling. If you find that it’s too difficult to go through all the items on your own, or that you don’t have the time, consider hiring a Senior Move Manager. These individuals work for companies that focus on helping seniors downsize and are a great option for many families.
Ask for Help, if Needed
We recognize that any change is an adjustment and can be emotional for everyone involved. It’s OK to take time and ask for support when you need it. At Maplewood Senior Living, our team is here to help make any transition into our community a positive one. To learn more about us and what we do, click here.