Downsizing is never easy; it involves a lot of work and can be painful emotionally, but many seniors find it necessary to move into a smaller home after retirement, either because of a shift in finances or because of the death of a loved one. Losing a spouse after many years is devastating, and having to go through a major life change like a move at the same time can be overwhelming. For caregivers and loved ones of seniors who are going through this difficult time, it’s important to be supportive and help the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Helping your loved one get through this time can be an emotionally draining process for yourself, too, so be sure to practice self-care to prevent sadness and depression from setting in and ask for help when you need it. The best way to help as a caregiver is to make sure you’re in good shape physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Here are some of the best ways to get your loved one through this difficult time.
Don’t push: It’s important not to push or rush your loved one, if possible. There may be circumstances where he or she needs to make a move without much time to prepare, but if you can, make sure they have adequate time to get used to the idea of this change before making plans to start packing up and getting rid of belongings.
Be sensitive: Downsizing can be emotionally difficult for a senior after the loss of a spouse because it means going through memories and having to choose what to keep and what to get rid of. Be sensitive during this process and let your loved one have final say on what they want to keep. Do some research at their new home, if possible, to see what size the space is and what they’ll be able to fit. Take photos for reference; this will also help the senior get used to the idea of a move.
Ask family over: It may be helpful to your loved one to have family over during the downsizing process, in part because they may want to give some possessions to children or grandchildren. Sometimes giving items to someone who will appreciate and use them is much easier than donating or throwing it away. Ask family members to come over and help with the packing, and ask your loved one to give everyone a job so that you’re not tripping over each other. Be patient and expect this process to take some time, as your loved one may want to go over each item that has sentimental value to reminisce.
Be mindful of any issues: The downsizing process can be very confusing to a senior who is living with Alzheimer’s disease and can cause agitation, so handle things very carefully to help them stay calm. They may not understand why they have to get rid of their things, so it’s important to compromise when necessary. Instead of throwing things out or selling them, store them in bins at a storage unit or in the home of a family member. This will, at the very least, allow you to get the items out of the house for the selling process.
Remember to include the senior in the downsizing and moving process as much as possible, as this can help with stress and anxiety on their part.
Content written by Jim Vogel