The move to senior living can be an opportunity to connect.
Moving is daunting—especially for seniors—but it can also be an opportunity to provide real support at a time when your loved one needs it most. It’s a decision many put off until they are backed into a corner, which makes for an even more stressful situation. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all there is to do or get bogged down in emotion. Kathleen Denzer can help. Denzer is the owner of Moves Made Manageable and specializes in helping older adults relocate.
Here are her strategies for making the moving process as simple as possible.
1. Communicate often and openly.
Denzer points out that moving is more challenging for seniors when they don’t feel like their voices are being heard. Have an open discussion with your loved one about her feelings regarding the move. This can help you address any concerns early on. For example, help her participate in making choices about her future by taking the time to talk through why it’s a good time to make the move. “[Poor communication] makes change so much harder,” says Denzer. “But if they have choice in the change, that makes all the difference.”
2. Plan ahead as much as possible.
Ask for a floor plan of the new home. Having exact measurements and knowing where windows are, for example, will make it easier to realistically decide what possessions and furniture will fit and what needs to be given away or sold. Denzer also recommends visiting the new community or residence at least once with your loved one prior to the move. That way there won’t be any surprises on moving day, and your loved one can get comfortable and start picturing herself and her belongings in her new home.
3. Start the moving process early.
After many years residing in one home, your loved one will have many belongings with sentimental value. Allow plenty of time to sort through these objects and reminisce. Take the time to listen to stories. This can help alleviate the sense of loss and make it easier to part with some possessions. “If seniors are rushed, they’re resentful and get overwhelmed,” says Denzer. “The experience can be transformed if you say, ‘Let’s look at some of the things that we have here and how they connect to some of the memories we’ve shared in this home.’”
4. Bring in a senior move manager.
A variety of resources are available to help seniors move. Denzer recommends using a move manager who specializes in working with seniors to oversee the process. “A move manager definitely helps minimize the stress,” she says. “The less stress there is, the better everyone does and the better the senior is going to adapt to the change.” You can also ask the staff at the new community what services they offer to assist with the move.
5. Help your loved one settle in to senior living.
Plan to stay the entire day of the move to help your loved one unpack and adjust. Don’t just set up the essentials—display photos and mementos to make the new space feel like home right away. If possible, arrange the furniture in a way that is similar to the old home. Come back to visit often in the first few weeks, bringing family members and friends.
Paying attention to the emotional details as well as to the logistics can help ease your loved one’s transition to a senior living community and help her truly feel at home in her new surroundings.