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Moving Mom and Dad
By Cheryl Riggs, www.lifecheckonline.com
Helping your parents move from the home they have lived in for many years is difficult. Normally, this move is not made by choice, but due to the death of a spouse, an illness, accident or other negative event. It also often signifies the loss of independence if they are being moved in with a adult child or into a community setting. No, making this transition is not easy, but it can be manageable if you keep these things in mind.
Keep the Memories
Before you begin the process of dismantling the house, have someone take lots of photos. Every family seems to have one person who enjoys putting together albums, so give them these house photos, and some older photos of family activities that have taken place in the home through the years. Assign them the task of putting together a small (no larger than 6" x 8") album that can be given to your parents as they settle into their new home.
This album will be a comfort when they miss their house and help them recall good time within its walls. If they are moving to a community setting, this album can also be shown as an introduction to other people as they establish friendships.
Schedule Time to Plan
If your parent is moving from a long term residence, there will almost certainly be a built up accumulation of stuff. Thinking that it can all be sorted out in a few days when your siblings are in from out of town is unrealistic and will lead to overly tired cranky disagreements about "who gets what".
It is better to schedule a few hours when mom or dad can help and get a general idea of what will be moved, thrown or given to a specific person. This session is the highest and best use of sticky notes - use them liberally on every item as it is discussed. At this point, do not argue with your parent if he or she wishes to take more than will fit where they are going or they want to get rid of antiques and move press-board furniture. It's their stuff and their life - let it go.
Even in cases where dementia is present, making these decisions together will make the process easier for everyone and provide needed closure for your parent.
Taking the time to do a scale drawing of the new residence prior to this session may also be helpful in the decision making process. It will be a visual reminder of the fact that as much as your mom would like to keep her dining room hutch, the space will not permit it. You can then help her decide which member of the family would be the most appropriate as the recipient.
There is no shame in renting a storage unit for a short time until final decisions or distribution can be accomplished. Just make sure that someone is in charge of paying the rent and you assign a timeline for completing the task.
Get Some Help
Unless you have a patient relative who can devote many hours to the process, it is often wise to hire help. If you are a member of a church or other community group, there may be a stay-at-home mom or older woman who is available to help. You are looking for someone with great organizational skills who can handle the physical aspects of moving and can work well with your parents. A church group or non-profit organization may also have volunteers willing to work on a garage sale if you are willing to donate a portion of the proceeds.
Two professional organizations are also available. The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a group that specializes in assisting families with this process, they are online at www.nasmm.com. The National Association of Professional Organizers also has members who specialize in helping organize a move. They can be found at www.napo.net.
Both of these organizations have members that can also help dispose of unwanted merchandise and organize an estate or yard sale which may help pay for their fees. They may also provide move in and set up services in your parent's new home which can especially helpful.
Having an outside person involved can help ease family tensions as they will provide a go between during this stressful time.
Face it with a Smile
Even the most meticulous of housekeepers may let down their standards if they are ill or their eyesight is failing. Therefore, when you move a piece of furniture and find more dust than Oklahoma in the 1920's, it may be hard not to react negatively.
Be kind and try not to make a big deal about anything including personal medical supplies, 28 years of stored newspapers, or food in the pantry older than you are. Having people rummage through their bathroom cabinet is probably more embarrassing for them than for you.
Helping your parents retain their dignity through this process should be a goal that you take seriously. After all, they were there for you through your teen fashion years - you owe them.
Your acceptance and a big smile on your face, even when you don't feel it on the inside, will make this transition easier for you and your parents. It's not an easy task, but handle it with love and compassion.
Cheryl Riggs is the owner of RCI Consulting, LLC and is committed to helping families cope with aging and preparing for the future. Her 20 years of experience in non-profit and small business management gives her a broad base of knowledge in many areas. She is a Certified Senior Advisor with a degree in Business Administration from Azusa Pacific University, a Master's of Science in Gerontology from USC, a credential in Fundraising from the University of California Riverside and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is a licensed Realtor in California.