This post is a guest contribution from Jacqueline Hatch.
Jacqueline Hatch is the Content Manager at Seniorly.com, a company that provides free resources for families in need of senior care services. Her goal is to produce educational articles that help families navigate the complicated world of aging options. She does this through managing the Seniorly Resource Center, where families can search for relevant articles based on topics and keywords.
Making the move to assisted living is a major life transition for an aging loved one. With so many new opportunities for socialization and staying active, there’s a lot to look forward to. But it can also be a difficult time for adult children who are trying to figure out what to do with possessions that have accumulated in a family home.
After all, what do you do with a lifetime’s supply of cherished items that no longer fit a new living space or lifestyle? When your loved one decides on a senior housing community that fits their unique needs, there are certain steps you can take to help them downsize for the move.
1. Balance Stewardship and Let Go
When beginning the process of downsizing for a move to assisted living, it’s important to be respectful and sensitive toward your loved one. After all, moving into a new home is a big change. There are likely to be some feelings of nervousness and excitement as your loved one prepares to pack things up and move residences.
In many cases, your loved one will be overwhelmed and may instinctively cling to possessions they no longer need. Fortunately, as a family caregiver, you are in an ideal position to help your loved one decide which objects will be given away, inherited, or packed up for the transition to assisted living.
During this time, you will take on the role of steward to your loved one’s belongings and recognize the deep emotional meaning that items may have for them. At the same time, however, you need to be practical about the need to downsize possessions so that your loved one can move on to their next home and find peace of mind.
In some cases, the transition to assisted living may mean that the family home is being sold. The first step toward moving residences is for your loved one to decide which items will come along and which will be given away in order to declutter the family home.
2. Declutter but Keep Cherished Possessions
When downsizing for a move to assisted living, it’s importance to find a balance between decluttering and cherishing possessions. You’ll want to get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose, but hang on to items that hold significant value to your loved one.
Remember that keepsakes can prompt happy memories, and your loved one may enjoy having certain things nearby once they’re moved into their new community. If possible, take things slow and try to determine what is most important to your loved one. For example, family photo albums can provide a source of continuity for people experiencing major life transitions.
Consider digitizing albums to preserve them for posterity, and frame favorites to decorate your loved one’s new living space. This will help create a home-like atmosphere and ease the transition into a new community.
3. Downsize with Care
Unfortunately, regardless of how understanding you are of your loved one’s possessions, the fact is that much of it will have to go. Keeping certain heirlooms and beloved items in the family can help your aging loved one feel better about letting them go. Experts at Seniorly suggest these tips for helping your loved one downsize before a move to assisted living:
- First, have your loved one set aside a limited amount of items they want to bring with them to assisted living based on the size of their new room or apartment.
- Secondly, provide stickers so your love one can write down the names of family members they would like to receive particular items.
- Finally, help your loved one place the remaining items on a table. Use printed photos for large items such as furniture. Invite family members over to claim items they may desire for their own homes. Draw straws to determine who goes first in choosing from the items on the table. Have everyone take turns choosing the items they want until everything is claimed.
After family members have had their chance to choose, ask your loved one if there are any leftover items they would like to give away to friends or neighbors. You can also decide on a charity to donate extra items to people in need. If the move to assisted living is happening quickly and there is not much time to decide what to do with extra possessions, consider placing them in storage until after your loved one is settled into their new home.
Making the move to assisted living is an exciting new life step, full of possibilities for your aging loved one. Ensure that the transition is enjoyable by helping your loved one downsize and get organized prior to moving residences. That way, when it comes time to move into the community, your loved one can focus on decorating their room and making friends instead of worrying about what is going on with their things back home.
As the primary caregiver to an aging loved one, you can have a major impact on the long term care transition. Consider these easy steps to help your loved one downsize and get organized for the move to assisted living.