“When your aging loved one needs to downsize for health or financial reasons, she may experience sadness, anxiety, fear, and other emotions.”
When your aging loved one must downsize for health or financial reasons, she may experience sadness, anxiety, fear, and other emotions. This emotional process is called Relocation Stress Syndrome. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can help your loved one by caring for the senior’s emotions during downsizing.
No one likes to be blindsided by significant life changes. Have a discussion with your elderly loved one long before he must downsize or move into an assisted living facility. Explore his feelings about in-home care, assisted living and nursing homes. Work together to formulate a plan for what to do if he develops mobility issues, such as a broken hip. Face the possibility of cognitive loss, while he is still sharp and able to make his own decisions.
Respect and Choice
Sometimes an adult child will try to “do the work” for the parent and find the perfect site, not realizing that the parent wants to be involved in the search. You should not dictate to your parent what will happen. Treat her with respect. She should have a voice . To the greatest extent possible, respect her wishes. Take her to visit multiple facilities with varying levels of care and support. As long as the site fits within her budget and meets her care needs, let her decide where she will live.
Tread Lightly on Emotions
Imagine yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Although he might not admit it, he may be anxious and afraid. He is comfortable at home in his familiar surroundings with neighbors he has known for years. He will be moving into an unknown situation with strangers. He may lose much of his privacy and personal space.
Moving into a smaller place or into assisted living makes an aging parent face her mortality, knowing this may be her last move. This realization can lead to sadness and depression with a sense of hopelessness.
Ask what your aging parent wants to do with his belongings, if he moves into a smaller location one day. He may have been looking forward to giving specific items to particular people. He may have a favorite charity he would like to gift with the things the family cannot use.
Be sensitive to the sentimental value that your aging loved one may feel for her belongings. Make sure that, no matter how small the new living space will be, she will have keepsakes that will bring her happiness. Framed photographs and other memorabilia can personalize her new space and make her feel more at home.
The bottom line is, put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. How would you feel if someone treated you as if you are no longer intelligent, just because you have gotten older? Would you want someone to come into your home and tell you to get rid of most of your things? Seniors often feel devalued by society. If you do not care for their emotions when they are transitioning or downsizing, they will feel devalued by you, too.
The laws are different in every state, so talk with an elder law attorney in your area.
Legacy Navigator. “Senior Downsizing Tips: when to Push, When to Let the Clutter Be.” (accessed November 6, 2017) https://www.legacynavigator.com/senior-downsizing-tips/
Integrated Move Management. “Senior Transitions – An Emotional Time (Part One).” (accessed November 6, 2017) https://www.integratedmovingme.com/single-post/2017/05/29/Senior-Transitions-%E2%80%93-An-Emotional-Time
Integrated Move Management. “Senior Transitions – An Emotional Time (Part Two).” (accessed November 6, 2017) https://www.integratedmovingme.com/single-post/2017/06/05/Senior-Transitions-%E2%80%93-An-Emotional-Time-Part-Two