Whether you're helping your parents move to a retirement home or with you to yours, take extra care and try to consider the following 10 tips when assisting with their move:
1. Be kind.
This may seem like a given. However, when helping to sort and pack their things, keep in mind that their eyesight and an inability to do everything they used to do can result in poor housekeeping habits. Instead of commenting, offer to clean as you pack and try not to criticize.
2. Help sort.
Like all of us, seniors tend to keep things they don't necessarily need or will ever use. Be gentle when suggesting to get rid of possessions. Ask them if they use the item and if they would mind if you donate it. If it's a treasure or something they'd like to keep but the new space can't accommodate it, suggest keeping it in the family by giving it to a grandchild or another sibling. DON'T just “take stuff” or distribute it to family without their OK.
3. Take pictures of the inside of their home.
As close as possible, try to place objects in a similar way so that their new home will feel very much like the old one. Be as detailed as you can from arranging the bedroom furniture to placing the family pictures on the bureau. This will help make the new place feel like home.
4. Obtain a room layout of their new place.
Find out before you move, how much space the new place has. If you're parents are moving from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom condo, then together you'll need to decide what will fit and how much can be kept. Again, offer to keep the pieces they can't move or try to keep them in the family if possible.
5. Start small.
Take a day to spend with your parents to talk about the move and what to expect. Give them small tasks to do such as going through a desk drawer or a box from the attic. Ask them to spend only 15 to 20 minutes a day on one task. Let them decide what they'd like to do and what they might find hard to do. Taking small steps will help your parents get used to the idea of moving.
6. Pick a room that has less sentimental attachment.
Have your parents start sorting through the bathroom or kitchen drawers; a place in the house that doesn't hold the same emotional attachment as the bedroom or living room or a photo box kept in the attic.
7. Plan the move.
Allow enough time that your parents don't feel rushed. Sorting through years of stuff is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. Give them time to absorb the change.
8. Hire outside help.
Sometimes it's easier for your parents to work with an outside party than with their children. There are many companies who specialize in moving seniors, offering comfort both to your parents and the rest of the family.
9. Be patient.
Allow your parents time to say goodbye. If they take longer to clean out the desk drawer because of a stack of pictures they found, let them take the time to remember. This is a very important part of the process. Be patient. Listen to their stories.
10. Get them involved.
If you have access to the new home, take your parents there, introduce them to the new space. Do this on their own time, when they're ready. Let them tell you how they'd like it to look and make a plan to prepare the space accordingly.