Moving With Seniors

Moving is traumatic for most people but for seniors, it can be especially difficult. Having just moved my own elderly aunt and uncle, I can speak first hand of the pain and trauma surrounding the issue.

Moving seniors comes in different forms. Seniors may be very happy to move from their big empty home into a retirement facility allowing them to live freely with no obligations to the upkeep of a home. The facility prepares their meals, does their laundry, rids them of strenuous chores and provides a secure and safe environment.

For other seniors, however, who must make the painful move to a nursing home, things are not as pleasant. I think of my aunt and uncle’s case and will provide some tips that may help to make the move more successful. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say.

My uncle had made the provisions for both of them. He had come to terms long before moving that he and my aunt would eventually move to a retirement/nursing facility. Unfortunately, my aunt did not make the decision herself so when it came time to move into the retirement home, she was bitter and sad. My uncle packed one bag for each of them and off they went.

For weeks she agonized about her belongings, her house and her dog bones buried in the back yard. I wanted to do the right thing and allowed her to keep the house indefinitely. Because of this she believed she may be able to go home. Looking back, I should have really moved them permanently and sold the house.

In a short period of time, my aunt’s health declined and she required the care of a nursing home. My aunt and uncle then moved to a newer, more equipped facility. Again, we packed them up – the little they had at the retirement home – and moved them into the nursing home. For two people who had only moved a few times in their whole lifetime, they were now moving regularly. And at the hardest point in their lives – old age.

Since, they were now where they were going to live; we gradually brought their belongings to the home. This was not an easy task, as we did not really know what to bring and what to leave behind. And of course, in the end when the house was sold, decisions needed to be made about the remaining items.

Do we get a professional company to come and take everything that was left; do we move everything ourselves; do we take everything to the nursing home and worry about it after they passed away? These were not easy decisions. In a regular move, you know everything must go with you. But this was the move that required two people to give up their lives.

Once we knew for sure that the house was on the market, we methodically moved drawer by drawer and room by room to pack all the belongings. We sorted through everything to see what should go to the nursing home, we gave the agreed upon heirlooms to the family members, we gave what we could to charity and basically put the rest in the garbage.
  1. Make sure the person moving has time to internalize the situation and be a part of the decision making process if possible

  2. do not prolong the inevitable – do what you need to do immediately to bring closure to the situation

  3. if you are the care giver for elderly relatives, make sure you know their detailed wishes beforehand

  4. decide whether you require a professional moving company, estate auctioneer or whether or not family can complete the move

  5. go through the house carefully to ensure that all important and necessary papers are gathered and remember that elderly people may have hidden things in strange places

  6. make sure any items that are of a family nature go the respective family member

  7. although the seniors are not there helping, be sensitive to their concerns – you are after all sifting through and moving their personal and private things

  8. disconnect the utilities as soon as reasonably possible – the seniors may need to use that money for their care and there is no sense in paying for needless services

  9. take their surroundings (pictures, wall hangings, knick knacks, clothing, dressers, and bookshelves) to them quickly so they feel more comfortable and so the chore of moving is not as great

  10. reassure them that their lives will be much happier and safer where they are than in the home they left

  11. be prepared with boxes, garbage bags, packing tape and markers

  12. any items (fridge, stove, window treatments) not wanted by family, try to sell with the house

  13. if seniors are moving a long distance to be closer to family members, decide what can be shipped to their new home and what can be sold off – save money by not moving everything – make the decisions initially about what will go with them

  14. make sure to give out change of addresses for seniors if they cannot write out the cards themselves – you do not want them to feel completely cut off from the outside world

  15. visit them often during the transition and let them know that the family supports them and will be there for them – keep them updated on the progress of the move and let them know when everything is finalized

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