Moving Mom and/or Dad
Looking for a new home is exciting. It is the prospect of beginning a new adventure, the idea of creating a new space, the ideal of achieving the dream home that makes it so much fun…when you are young and healthy.
There was a point in time when our parents were those young individuals who worked to make a home and raise a family. Their home was built on a foundation of hope, supported by walls of struggles, decorated with love all under a roof of memories. It is the place that you called home and the place that symbolized comfort even long after you moved out on your own. It also became the place that, as mom and dad aged, became too much for them to handle.
Moving mom and dad into some sort of age-supportive housing is not a decision that happens easily. You spend days researching and visiting communities and then spend hours on applications, finances and medical records before you make that final choice. You find yourself realizing that your parents may not be here forever and now they need more help. However, you bury that deep down in your subconscious while you push forward with the process. And just when you think you are in the home stretch, comes the realization that you now have to figure out HOW to make that move.
Making a move to age-supportive housing is the very definition of “downsizing”. The spaces are not as big which means, not every possession can move with mom and dad. Imagine having to give away or dispose of half of your “things.” While there have been many books and TV shows dedicated to the art of decluttering, the one thing that often gets overlooked is the human factor of not wanting to let go of a memory. Throwing out a shirt or suit that no longer fits is one thing but giving away a dining room table can be another. The dining room table can represent beloved memories of family holidays, celebrations and milestones. While you tend to replace your wardrobe on a yearly basis, you tend to hold onto furniture. Some pieces of furniture, artwork, bric-a-brac, and accent pieces hold sentimental memories which are hard to let it go.
While your father’s recliner may not possess any magical qualities, it does represent comfort and joy to your father. We all have things in our drawers that we are; a) saving for later, b) something we feel we can’t discard, c) something that is “part of a set” and d) that thing I have been saving for years. The simple thing to remember is that object is there and you know where it is, even though you don’t think of it on a daily basis. For some reason, you can’t think of moving forward without it because every time you clean out that drawer, you put that item aside.
As the adult-child, helping mom and dad make the move, one must remember that a lifetime of built up memories are stored in objects. Mom and dad may already be experiencing memory issues or fear that they may become forgetful, much like one of their friends. So the urge to hold onto things becomes greater. Subconsciously, you may have some similar feelings as you see objects that once made up your childhood home start to leave. Remember how I mentioned you will subvert feelings just to get through the process? Think of how many things you have “stored” at your parents house. Are they there because you consider it a “safe spot.”
Seeking help with this process is advisable but who do you call? There are organizing specialists and move managers, some who specialize in senior moves. These individuals help orchestrate the move by looking at the new space and working, gently, with your parents to decide which pieces to keep. They use floor plans to design the new living space, being sure to incorporate appropriate pieces that both work for the space and honor the memories they hold. Senior move managers also help with the disposal of objects through sale, donation, passing down or discarding. It can be extremely helpful to have a third party involved in such difficult decisions, because so often parents resist the entreaties of their children (even adult children), seeing them as the young toddlers or school-age children they once were.
Moving when you are young is an adventure. Moving when you are older represents time running out. Making the move to age-supportive housing is sometimes looked at as “the last move” and the act of giving away things makes it feel like a loss. Take the time through this process to acknowledge your parents’ feelings and your own to the objects that made up their home. The memories those things hold live within you and your parents and those go with you no matter where you move.