Challenges of moving home for the elderly
“Old age is not for sissies.” This is particularly true for elderly people who have to move. When you are old, the experience of moving home can be terribly traumatic. Most older people are afraid of leaving a familiar environment and they experience intense anxiety about having to cope in a new home, like a retirement home.
How can you make the transition of moving home easier for both yourself and your elderly relatives?
Not only is there the physicality of moving and packing boxes that can be dangerous for seniors, but you should also take their health and emotional well-being into account.
One of the most difficult moving home obstacles to overcome is how to deal with all the possessions that your elderly family members have collected and the memories attached to them. The best way of helping them let go is to be as understanding as possible. Let them know that you understand why that particular item is so special, but that there is no need to keep it. Remind your family members that the item isn’t actually valuable only the memories are.
If this doesn’t seem to work try setting aside the most treasured items (for the time being) in a box labeled ‘essentials’. Once you’ve packed all the more significant items, take another look the contents of the box and let them decide which of those items are the most important.
Downsizing isn’t an exact science, and there is no way to make it easy for everyone. What can sometimes help is letting them choose whom to give the item to. It’s easier to let something go if you know it will be appreciated and used in another home.
At any age and under the best of circumstances, relocation is stressful. Dealing with the planning, packing, and paying for the relocation is one thing, but the emotional toll of relocation can be traumatic. So you need to consider a number of health risks associated with the relocation:
- Does the senior understand why he or she is being relocated?
- Does the senior suffer from any chronic illnesses?
- Mental or physical?
- Can he/she see and hear well enough in the new environment?
- Does he/she have anyone to assist with packing or moving?
- Can he/she keep his/her doctor, friends, plants, or pets?
- Ideally you should find solutions to these issues before undertaking the move.
What seniors fear when relocating
They don’t want to be a burden on their children or other family members, and they fear family conflict and unpleasant meetings while relocation plans are being made. Their anxiety is made worse as their opinions are often overlooked when making the tough decisions. You can help comfort your senior family members during this stressful time by:
- Avoiding using the terms ‘nursing’ or ‘retirement’ home.
- Not having long conversations about the future.
- Explaining that you are very worried about them living on their own.
- Giving them the opportunity to ask questions.
- Being supportive, compassionate and listening to what they are concerned about.
For the elderly, the homes they have lived in for so many years represent financial stability and past career success. So, make a big deal of their past achievements! Also remember that modern technology for dealing with finances that may confuse them and create further stress. It is essential that you take time to help them understand all the new financial aspects of relocating.
“There are certain experience – childbirth is one; moving is another – that nature and time definitely draw a curtain on, so you forget in between times how painful they are.” Katherine Graham, famed publisher of the Washington Post, wrote this famous quote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Personal History. Let’s not sugarcoat the truth: moving is tough for everyone, but it is toughest for elderly adults.
At Mini & Maxi Movers we make moving for the elderly as stress free as possible. As a family business, we understand the special importance of treating elderly family members with care and respect. We meet with our elderly clients and their adult children before the move and explain exactly what we are going to do on the day. If possible, we take our elderly clients on a short tour of their new home, or use photos of the rooms to help them visualise where their belongings will be placed and what it could be like to live there. We also reassure them of the special care their possessions will receive. We describe exactly where all their most precious items will go in the new home and explain that everything will be done by the time they move in, so they are able to settle in comfortably as quickly as possible.