If you’re about to take on full-time caregiving responsibilities for an elderly family member, you may find it best to have him or her live under the same roof as you. This move may be very difficult for your family member because this time will probably mark the first time they have lost their independence as an adult. Here are five suggestions that we have for your family as you prepare to move your older relative:
1. Realize and respect their emotions.
Even if your family member knows that this move is needed, they’re still approaching a huge emotional roller coaster. This could be the first large move they’ve ever made, or at least that they’ve made in a number of decades. Their current home has lots of memories, and maybe even belongings, that they’re leaving behind. Let your family member know ahead of time that you understand how difficult it is on them, and that you’re there for support.
2. Try to lessen the trauma of downsizing.
Downsizing is a huge undertaking, because you’re asking your family member to leave much more behind than a typical move requires. To make the process easier, try suggesting a bulk donation to a non-profit organization that serves a population they care for. This makes the senior feel that they’re contributing to a cause they believe in, as opposed to just getting rid of items. Another suggestion would be temporarily moving non-necessities into a storage unit for a few months. At the end of the storage period, donate everything that the senior doesn’t actively miss. (If your elderly mother can’t remember a particular item that’s been put into storage, she isn’t likely to miss it in the future.)
3. Pick someone else to represent them on moving day.
If you know that your family member will have trouble watching their belongings being moved to a new home, it may be best for another relative to remain on the moving site while you keep the senior preoccupied at a restaurant or shopping. The on-site representative can deal with giving instructions to the movers while you and your relative are relaxing elsewhere.
4. Don’t talk to them like children.
We often feel as if we have to treat our senior family members like they’re children as they begin to age because their memory is starting to fade and they’re starting to lose flexibility or strength. Although we do sometimes have to direct seniors the way we direct children, it’s very important to use a normal tone of voice instead of letting your voice become high-pitched (the way it might if you were speaking to a pet or young child).
5. On moving day, don’t shy away from talking about their current home.
Many people are afraid of distressing their senior family member by talking about the home they’re leaving during Moving Day conversations. However, letting seniors talk about their happy memories in the home can help ease them into the transition. It can also help to talk about the new memories that will be made at the new home, and to refer to Moving Day in a positive manner rather than with a sense of apprehension.
Jenni Hargrove is a member of the Tennessee Respite Coalition’s Marketing Committee. After experiencing a major medical issue in 2013 that required her to have full-time care for eight months, Jenni has developed a deep compassion for caregivers and their families. She works full-time as the Marketing Coordinator for Nashville’s TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® franchise, and she recently implemented a “Senior Sensitivity” training program in her company’s employee training curriculum.