Top 7 Tips for Helping with a Move to Assisted Living

Overwhelmed by the idea of helping your loved one move?

Here are our top 7 tips for helping a loved one move to an apartment, retirement village or aged care facility.

1. Respect the autonomy of the person moving

It’s easy to get into parent-child role reversals but this should be avoided if at all possible!  The person moving should have final say on which items should be kept, and which items redistributed.  That isn’t to say that gentle nudges aren’t appropriate about, say, keeping camping gear when the owner doesn’t camp any more.  However, if you’re helping with a move and you donate the camping gear without asking, the person you’re helping has reason to believe you may throw away other things without permission.

Once trust has been destroyed, it is very hard to win back.

2. Keep family tensions to a minimum

Give everyone a defined role.  Often there are  some family members who help with sorting and packing belongings and other family members who help financially.  Make sure it’s clear who is entitled to make certain decisions.

To avoid arguments about gifts of excess belongings, try this activity involving coloured sticker dots:

Gather items to be gifted in a single room.  Each family member is assigned a colour of dot stickers to use.  Family members stick dots on objects that they would like to keep.  If there are two dots on an item, those family members must talk to each other to settle any conflicts of interest.

3. Have a system for decluttering

The most common system for decluttering is to use different plastic tubs for items to keep, donate, throw away and sell.

Having an effective system makes the work go much more quickly.

Be mindful of the environmental impact of a large move.  Make sure items containing heavy metals and poisons are disposed of properly and try to recycle / donate as much as you can.

4. Assess the help you need

Downsizing the family home is a big job.  Realistically assess whether this is achievable just with the help of family members or if you need to get outside help.

One way to do this is to tackle an “average” portion of the house and do a rough calculation of the time it will take to complete the rest of the home.  If this figure is intimidating, there is no shame in seeking outside help.

Outside helpers have the advantage of being neutral, therefore may be more efficient and objective than someone who has emotional attachment to the memories associated with the house.

5. Map out the space, including storage space

If you don’t know how much space you’ve got at the next residence, it’s difficult to accurately predict the volume of belongings which will fit in the space.

Measure the rooms at the next residence, including cupboard and storage spaces, so you can plan placement of furniture and belongings.  Google SketchUp is a free tool which allows you to draw floor plans and other objects.  However, if that is intimidating, pen and paper will work just fine.  Some people find it easier still to visualise the space using butcher’s paper laid out in their existing home.

6. Plan the move in as much detail as possible

Write down the tasks involved in the move, as well as tasks relating to finances, power of attorney, and other administrative tasks.

Seek recommendations wherever possible regarding financial planners, lawyers, movers and other professionals you will need to use.

Use checklists to plan and track the work ahead.

7. Find a way to honour and share memories

Families can preserve and share memories through digitising slides and film, making dvds from old family movies and photos, scrapbooking and even making quilts from significant clothing and textiles.  Discuss with family members who would like to take on this role – you will not regret preserving precious memories.

Also, don’t discount the historical value of family artefacts.  Former schools, museums, historical trusts and the War Memorial genuinely appreciate the gift of papers, photographs and memorabilia.

We hope the above tips were helpful for planning your, or a friend’s or relative’s, move into assisted living.

If you think you might need help, or want to talk through the possibility of having some or all of the process taken care of, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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