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How to Help the Elderly to Move!

Supporting an elderly person to make a move means much more than simply packing up boxes and calling in a moving company.
It is important to recognise and understand the physical, emotional and cognitive changes faced by an older adult and the impact this will have on their ability to participate in the process of moving.
Even a fit and well older adult will have less energy, will tire more easily and can become mentally fatigued more quickly than a younger person, or even compared to their former self.

Health conditions such as heart complaints, breathing difficulties or arthritis may be manageable on a day to day basis, but requires special attention and support during moving.
Memory loss or confusion may lead to extra stress as the person struggles to understand and cope with the upheaval in their environment.

Organising the Move
Allow significantly more time for the physical work needed in preparing for a move.
If at all possible, plan the clearing and packing in several smaller allotments of time rather than setting aside one period (a weekend) to achieve it all. This will allow the process of clearing and packing to be achieved calmly and positively without exhaustion, panic and frayed tempers all round.

If it is necessary to do it all in a short space of time, plan for frequent breaks. Keep your parent and yourself well hydrated and nourished.
Do not underestimate the emotional impact that clearing and sorting a lifetime's possessions will have: the process will involve rediscovering forgotten possessions, reliving memories that may be bitter-sweet and making dozens of decisions that will have permanent impact.
All will bring the reality of the pending move into sharp focus. Stay positive, look forward to the end goal of improved circumstances but take the time to treasure the memories and respect the trauma of letting go.

Downsizing for the Elderly
Most moves in later life will involve downsizing.
This may be a very welcome and positive change, for instance, moving from a large old house into a townhouse or retirement community, but will necessitate decluttering and disposing of collections, furniture and personal items.

Here are some pointers that will help with decluttering:
Draw up a floor plan of the new accommodation. Make it as accurate as possible, including doors, windows and other features. This will help with deciding what will fit into the new space and imagining what it will look like

The most common reasons given for saving stuff are:
  • I paid a lot for it
  • it may come in useful some day
  • I'm saving it for my children/grandchildren
  • I will use it for a craft project
  • I inherited it
It is much easier to let go of things if we feel they are going to benefit someone else, so recycle as much as possible, by selling, through charity shops or by donating things to someone who will use them.
Dispose rather than rearranging or re-storing. Do not be tempted to move things to a garage or costly storage facilities as it is only delaying the decision and may cost you thousands in the long run.
Go for quality rather than quantity. Keep a favorite vase or two for instance, but give the rest away. Be realistic about current needs: are a dining table and eight chairs really needed in your new home?

Enlist help, especially if you know you are not good at throwing things out. A friend or relative can be an ally but consider asking for outside help.
Sometimes a caring professional is more supportive than those you are close to and likely to fall out with.
Keep the end goal in sight. Your parent should congratulate themselves at every step and enjoy the new-found sense of freedom and self-determination.

A final word for anyone supporting an elderly person with decluttering and moving: don't forget to acknowledge the impact this will have on you.
You may be dealing with the realities of the changing needs of your parent, the shifting of your roles as you become the caregiver, new living arrangements and the loss of your childhood home and the memories it holds for you as well.

This is emotionally and physically draining work, so take care of yourself and be sure to get the support you need to stay positive and well.

If you are out of region or too busy to tackle the challenge, give Over & Above Moving a call on 0800 22 88 24.