En español | Moving at any stage of life can be difficult, physically and emotionally. For older adults and their caregivers, however, the process can become a bit more complex. Relocating a loved one often means months of organizing, downsizing, packing and, most important, planning. Here we outline 10 helpful tips to aid you and your loved one through the process.
See also: The Big Move: Change is Messy.
Consider a Senior Move Manager
For long-distance caregivers or caregivers who don’t have the best relationship with their loved one, a senior move manager may be a consideration. These professionals orchestrate the entire process from finding a new residence to downsizing to moving and setting up a new home. The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a great place to start if this is something of interest.
Finding Movers: Reputation Is Key
We’ve all heard the stories — no-show movers, thieving movers, irresponsible movers, etc. As with many businesses, there are unscrupulous members who will take advantage of customers young and old. When researching, start with your Senior Move Manager, if applicable, or get referrals from friends, agencies and care facilities. Ask around to see if anyone in the area has had great success with a mover. If so, make appointments for each to come out for an in-home estimate, if possible. If not, ask local senior centers for recommendations and, if your loved one is moving into a care facility, check with them. Ideally, use a mover who is experienced in working with seniors. Also check with the American Moving and Storage Association and the Better Business Bureau for suggestions and to find out if the mover you’re considering is trustworthy.
Get Estimates, Not Guesstimates
Make sure you have each potential mover come out and assess what needs to be moved, rather than providing an over-the-phone estimate. Get an explanation of how each company calculates its charges and ask for a written, concrete estimate. Inquire about any hidden charges you may be surprised by on moving day, including added costs for extra help, if required, or charges for materials or extra travel time. To save some money, consider moving during the week rather than over a weekend and, if possible, pack yourself and have everything ready to go in the front room of the house on moving day. This will save time, which in many cases, equals money.
Don’t entrust anyone aside from yourself and your loved one with the packing and moving of heirlooms, jewelry and anything else of value. This may be difficult with larger items, but for smaller pieces that you can manage moving on your own, do so. This is not to suggest that moving companies will seek out valuables and accidently "misplace" them, rather it’s to ensure your loved one’s treasures don’t get lost or broken in the move.
Take Inventory Before, During and After Move
Knowing what your loved one has prior to a move can come in handy when things start flying off the moving truck. Mark each box legibly with its contents, which will help you find necessities in the first days after the move and will help the move team know where boxes should go. Do a count of all boxes, pieces of furniture, etc., before anything is moved onto the truck and then again as things come off the truck. The moving company should also take inventory when items go in and come out of their truck.
Get Packin’ Early
We all know what it’s like to wait until the last minute to pack for a vacation — it’s usually a frenzy of chaos that results in a mishmash of items upon arrival. When moving an older adult, this last-minute rush can be overwhelming and discombobulating, and it can start the transition into their new home on the wrong foot. Organization is key. Start paring down and packing well in advance of the move, if possible, taking time to sort through everything and pack efficiently. You and your loved one will appreciate this effort on the other end of the move.
Downsize to Fit New Space
More often than not, older adults move into smaller homes or care facilities that can’t accommodate all of their belongings. Downsizing is, therefore, necessary. The process can be grueling, emotional and unexpected, so starting as early as possible is ideal. Sort based on a keep/toss/donate/pass down system and work from the least-used rooms to the most frequented. For more tips on downsizing, click here.
If time does not allow for much downsizing — or if your loved one is reluctant to part with enough items — consider a storage unit. Out of sight, however, doesn’t mean out of mind. While the unit may prove useful for the move, it will still need to be sorted. Make storage pare-down a post-move priority.
Map It for the Movers
Drawing up a map, to scale, of your loved one’s new space will help on many levels. Prior to the move it can help determine what furniture stays and what goes, depending on space and layout. During the move it will provide movers with a very specific plan of what goes where, which will limit the amount of furniture moving you and your loved one will have to do after the fact. Lastly, it will act as a guide as set up of the new space begins.
Moving Day Normalcy
If your loved one is willing to turn over the reins of control to someone else for the day, plan an outing for her. Sending her out to do something familiar — lunch with a friend, a trip to the salon, etc. — can help provide a sense of normalcy on this rather hectic day. This may also give you a chance to get things done more efficiently if your loved one has been slowing the process. Ensure your loved one’s new space is ready for them upon return. Fill their fridge with necessities and set up their rooms as similarly to their old residence as possible. This will help ease the transition into their new home.
First Things First
In order to get your loved one set up for his first night in his new place, the bedroom and bathroom should be at the top of the priority list. In the bedroom, make up the bed, set up bedside lighting and an alarm clock, unpack any books or magazines your loved one may be reading and make sure all boxes are out of the way of the main path to the bathroom and other areas of the home. In the bathroom, unpack toiletries, towels, bath mats and any necessary medications. Make sure there’s toilet paper, and that pajamas and robe are accessible. In the kitchen, set out a few necessities, including plates, bowls, forks, knives, napkins, paper towels, dish soap, coffee/coffee maker, etc.
Because a move at this stage of life can be so emotional, it’s important to get as much of your loved one’s routine in place for that first night. If he enjoys listening to music during dinner or before bed, make sure the radio is unpacked. If TV is his thing, arrange for utilities to be set up prior to the move and for the TV cabinet to be organized before you leave for the evening. For an added touch of home, set up a few pictures and other keepsakes, even if it means setting them up on top of boxes.
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