Trying to downsize your home, or an older loved one’s home, for a move to assisted living isn’t easy. Figuring out how to start can be tough. Especially if they have lived in their home for many years. Deciding what to keep vs. selling or donating can be emotionally challenging for many people. Then moving day and the first few weeks after the transition can be just as hard.
The Memory Center guide to downsizing features best practices for making the process easier. You will find tips on everything from how to get started, choosing a realtor who understands the needs of seniors to preparing for moving day and getting settled.
Packing Up & Moving On
Moving from a home full of memories and treasures can be an emotionally and physically exhausting process. If you have the luxury of time, tackling the downsizing in stages is our best recommendation.
Here are best practices for getting started:
- If this isn’t an emergency move, start by planning what to do when. Set a timeline with milestone dates and divide up duties among family members.
- Next, conduct a room by room inventory of furniture, household items and other treasures. A Home Inventory worksheet will make the process easier.
- Organize the necessary packing supplies before you start. We recommend lots of boxes, bubble wrap, markers, labels, scissors, and trash bags. Number each box and use a Master List Worksheet to keep track of what is in each box. This makes finding the clothes iron or sauce pan much easier when you need it.
- Start in rooms used the least frequently. The items stored there may be the easiest ones with which to part. Start with 5 boxes labeled: Move, Donate, Trash, Family and Storage. As you work your way through the room, sort items by these categories.
- Identify items your loved one can’t live without in their new senior apartment. Sometimes the things that make your family member feel most at home can be more important than the most expensive items. Make of list of these items your loved one designates as necessary then consider the amount of these items require. This will help you determine the space available for other belongings lower on the priority list.
- You may have to pare down the list of items. A good way to start is to ask if the item has been used in the last year. The last two years or even three years. Realizing an item hasn’t been used an item in a long time can make it easier to part with or move to the lower priority list.
- Would someone in the family enjoy this item? Parting with a cherished item might be easier if it finds a new home with a family member.
- Explore non-profits in your area that make home pick-ups. Goodwill and Salvation Army will come right to your door to accept donations so you can focus on your packing rather than transporting heavy items.
- As a last resort, if there are items you or your loved absolutely have to keep even though they won’t fit in the new apartment, rent a storage space. Agree that if they haven’t been used in one year, the contents will be donated or given to family.
Putting Together a Smooth Transition Support Team
If the logistics of a move are too overwhelming or you are a long-distance caregiver, it may be time to call in the experts for help. Senior Move Managers and Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES) are professionals you can turn to for support with this process. You might also consider utilizing a home care agency to help with some of the work before and after the move.
- Certified Relocation & Transition Specialist (CRTS) – These rofessionals have experience and certified competency in senior home transitions, senior relocation and in the senior move fields. Search for a specialist in your area who can make this transition a smooth one.
- National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) – This organization is made up of senior move managers who have all gone through the NASMM Cornerstone Course in Senior Move Management Ethics and Accountability course. Members are screened for insurance and for experience. Find a Senior Move Manager near your family member.
- Seniors Real Estate Specialists (SRES) – Part of downsizing for most seniors involves selling a home. It is often a home they have lived in for several decades. Realtors who have this designation have undergone training in senior topics ranging from reverse mortgages to the emotional issues involved in selling the family home. Find a local SRES professional to help you with the sale of your elderly loved one’s home.
Moving Day Is Almost Here: How to Prepare
Taking some extra steps ahead of time can make moving day much easier for everyone. That includes thinking of the “must have with us” items as well as the things that you might need as you are unpacking and helping your loved one settle in to their new home. We recommend setting up two different boxes to keep with you in your vehicle rather than sending with the movers on the big day. And make sure to bring items like scissors, screwdriver or other tools you might need.
Box #1: Important Items/Valuables
This box should contain emergency information and valuables that you can’t be without or don’t want to risk losing. This could include:
- Copies of Insurance policies, Power of Attorney or any needed legal documents
- Health records including Medicare card and any insurance cards
- Personal memorabilia like photo albums, scrapbooks, letters
- Jewelry or collectibles that you don’t store in a safety deposit box
- Master list of what each box that you are moving contains
Box #2: Need It Now
As you begin unpacking in the new home for memory care listed are our recommendations on what to include in this box:
- Bedding & Linens – mattress cover, sheets, blankets, pillows, etc.
- Towels & wash cloths
- Continent supplies (if needed)
- Toiletry items – toilet paper, tissues, tooth brush & toothpaste comb, hairbrush
- Clothing – Keep choices limited – 4 to 6 Outfits, light jacket, sweater, comfortable shoes, sleeping attire, socks.
- Most important – check with the resident care coordinator at your new community to see what can and cannot be kept in a memory care environment. *Guidelines vary state to state.
Making a Smooth Transition
Let’s face it, moving is rarely ever fun. Moving from a home you have lived in for many years can be especially difficult. If you are moving an elderly loved one in to an assisted living community these suggestions can help make the transition go more smoothly.
- Work with the community ahead of time to establish a plan to help your loved one meet people and become involved before the move. If they know the basic logistics and can find their way around, it will keep them from feeling lost. Familiar faces are also important. Help them meet a few residents ahead of time.
- Try to unpack their favorite and familiar things early in the settling in process. Have family photos set up. Hang the grandchildren’s artwork on the refrigerator or wall. Do whatever you can to recreate the environment they had at home.
- Encourage visitors. Frequent visitors in the early days after the move can be beneficial. Then families can taper off visiting as their family member becomes more oriented to their new home and more involved in the new community.
- Build relationships with the staff members that will be most involved with your loved one. Then touch base with them for input on how your family member seems to be doing during the transition. Encourage them to call you if they sense your parent or elderly loved one needs personal attention from family.
If you have more questions or would like more information about how The Memory Center transitions new residents, feel free to contact us.