Moving is said to be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. The hours spent packing, the inability to find things that have been boxed up, the worry of putting everything on a truck and hoping it doesn’t get broken on the way to the new home. And all that stress is multiplied when you are tasked with helping a senior family member move out of a home that they have lived in for 20, 30, or even 40 years.
Moving a beloved parent or loved one can make the whole process seem even more daunting. There are more moving pieces, more arrangements to be made, and most importantly more emotions involved. Senior moves frequently involve downsizing, with heirlooms and other items being handed down to multiple family members and donating or disposing other unwanted items. All of this takes a great deal of coordination.
Fortunately, there are ways to make managing this process more manageable. Using the 6 steps below can help make the move feel more like a fresh start instead of a gloomy chore.
Step 1: All on the Same Page
First things first, deciding when it’s time to move. Determining when to have the conversation of a move with a parent or loved one can be incredibly difficult. There is no magical time frame or a ‘one size fits all’, every situation is unique.
Most often senior moves are based on concerns of:
· Safety (mobility issues and falls)
· Health (medication, feeding, home maintenance)
· Quality of life (social isolation)
Remember to keep in mind that these might not be overtly apparent if your loved one is hiding their feelings or is more concerned for your peace of mind than their own needs. It’s important to have an open line of communication.
When concerns start to creep in, it’s a good time to start bringing up the idea of a future move. Rather than waiting until a move is necessary, starting to talk about options will give your loved one a chance to process the idea and think about what living situation would make them happiest. Then when the time comes, they feel more comfortable with the idea.
Step 2: Do your Research
When you start approaching the idea of a move start by looking into facilities together. There are many different options for senior living, from continued care communities and independent living to assisted care facilities. Some communities even offer step-up care that enables residents to remain in the community and receive increasing levels of care as their needs change.
“Looking for a retirement community is very personal,” says Chrissie Cady, Move-in Coordinator at RiverWoods-Exeter Retirement Community. “We often say that if you have looked at one retirement community, you have looked at one retirement community! It’s a very individualized process, so do your homework and visit many different communities to determine what is important to you.”
Cady also advised that waiting lists for some communities can be 2-4 years, which is another reason why starting early is critical!
There are many online resources to help in understanding the different options available and many online community tours to help in narrowing down places you’d like to visit in person for a closer look. The RiverWoods Insider guide is a 40-minute online workshop that explains the different senior living options that are available and touches on several of the key considerations, including the financial aspects of the decision.
Step 3: Downsizing
“I would encourage anyone thinking about a move to a retirement community to start downsizing early,” advises Cade. “It can be overwhelming when moving out of a home that you’ve spent years in. If you start early and start small, most of the work will be done before you decide you’re ready to move.”
Parting with treasures and keepsakes gathered over many years is often the most challenging aspect of the move for a senior. Starting early allows them to take their time and slowly move through the house.
· Approach every item in the house with the goal of deciding if it will be kept, given to a family member, donated, or thrown away. Immediately throw away any unwanted items. Place donation and ‘give away’ items in designated areas of the house, if space allows, or use different colored tape to visibly mark each item. (Pro Tip: Painters tape comes in multiple colors, peels off easily and won’t leave residue on furniture)
· Be there whenever possible to provide guidance and keep things moving along but let your loved one take the lead in making decisions. This allows them to feel in control, even if some of the items need to be reassigned later.
· Focus on one room or space at a time before moving on to another room. This will make it easier to see that progress is being made and will keep everyone motivated.
· Find creative ways of retaining sentimental items that can’t be taken to the new home. Taking photographs is one great way to keep ties with special items.
· Take frequent breaks!
If the process becomes too overwhelming or you simply don’t have the time needed, downsizing specialists can step in to help. They have the experience and organizational skills to manage the process well and they don’t have the same emotional ties that can bring the process to a grinding halt with every walk down memory lane.
“Future residents often reach out to a downsizing specialist to assist them with the move,” according to Cady. “These specialists help them sort through what they are going to need in their new home vs. what to give away or donate. They also help them determine the optimal amount of furniture and personal items to bring with them to their new home.”
Step 4: Make a Plan
Once a location has been chosen and a move date is set, it’s time to plan for the move. Creating a checklist or marking milestones in a calendar will help break the process down into manageable parts and will help ensure that everything is done in time for the move.
This Moving checklist is one helpful tool that allows you to tick off activities as they come up and remind you of things you may have forgotten.
One of the early things to check off the list is meeting with Movers. It is important to do this early for a couple of reasons. For one, movers often book out weeks or months in advance, particularly in the summer months. A good mover will also come out to the home to do an in-person survey before providing an estimate, so this is a great opportunity to get tips and advice from a moving expert and to understand all the services they offer to help in the moving process.
Step 4: Get Help
Hiring a good moving company can help make the process run smoothly and take away some of the stress by handling the packing and moving process. Some moves even offer a wider range of services that include transporting donations, disposal of unwanted items and even move planning services. They can provide a single point of contact for handling the whole move, from beginning to end.
When Hiring a mover, there are several important things that should be part of your criteria:
· License and insurance: They should have both and be happy to share it with you. (You can also check the FMCSA ‘Safer’ website to verify a mover is licensed and review their safety reports)
· Referrals and reviews: Asking friends and family or reading customer reviews on Google or Facebook is a great way to know which companies are reliable and trustworthy.
· In-home estimates: Some movers will offer a price based on a phone conversation without ever seeing the home. This makes it difficult to provide an accurate estimate and doesn’t allow the mover to identify potentially challenges that could become surprises on move day when the crew arrives. Some movers are now doing ‘virtual’ surveys using a video chat app on your mobile device, which can save time and still provide a good opportunity for the mover to do a thorough assessment of the home and the move.
· How they price: Estimates can be difficult to understand and compare, especially since some movers will add ‘extras’ like travel charges, stair charges, ‘long carry’ charges and other fees. The more complex the quote, the more likely it is you will pay more than you expected.
It’s also important to remember that local moves are based on hours and your final bill will be based on the actual time the move takes. The estimate you receive is just that…an estimate. Just because the mover puts a low price on your estimate it doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll pay at the end, so it’s critical to compare the number of hours each mover is quoting and eliminate any estimate that is out of line with the rest.
For a link to find out if a company is licensed and more tips on hiring the right mover check out this article: “Great movers are NOT shakers…and other tips for hiring the right moving company.”
Step 5: Say Farewell
On the day of the move, make sure all the items are clearly labeled for the moving company and that you provide your move crew with a floor plan labeled with the names of the rooms that you’ve used on your boxes and furniture. Ensure all paths and doorways are clear of belongings and that snow and ice have been cleared if the move is happening in the winter in a cold-weather climate.
Give your loved one (and yourself!) time to say goodbye to the home and assure them that their items will arrive safely. Then bring them somewhere comfortable and enjoyable while the move is taking place as it can take some time and be overwhelming.
“It can be hard when parents move out of childhood homes full of memories,” says Cady. “But adult children soon realize they will worry less, knowing their parents are in a vibrant, active and safe community.”
It may be the end of an era, but it is also the beginning of a new adventure.
Step 6: Hello New Home
With less worry and stuff comes more time for fun. Help your loved one settle in and make the place feel like home. Plan upcoming visits, encourage social activities, and support new hobbies. New home, New you!
“Many believe that moving to a smaller home will be the most challenging aspect, but in the end, we like to say a smaller home means a larger life! For most, living in a community opens them up to more rewarding activities and new friendships. Life in CCRC offers care-free retirement living with social activities, fitness opportunities, and health care if and when it’s needed, all in one location. Most of our residents ask themselves why they waited so long, often remarking they wished they had moved sooner than they did!” Cady emphasizes.
You Did It!
You are now ready to help your senior loved one make their life a happier and safer one!
There are so many other tips and considerations for senior movers that they can’t be covered in a single article. For more moving tips and tricks visit the ‘Make Your Move Easier’ section of Bridges Brothers Movers website for great resources and more articles. (A special thank you to Chrissie Cady from Riverwoods Exeter for her insight on senior moves!)