En español | Moving out of a home — regardless of where to — can be an incredibly emotional journey. This is especially true for those moving out of the family home after many years and in with their children, into a smaller place or to a care facility. Many see it as an end rather than a beginning and emotions can run high. What you, the caregiver, may not expect, though, is your own emotional reaction to the change — even though it’s not you who is moving. Be prepared emotionally for what to expect, both from your loved one and yourself.
See also: Managing a Move.
During the flurry of activity leading up to a move — finding a new residence, packing, and paring down —expect your loved one to experience emotional highs and lows. While they may show excitement as you tour potential new residences and shop for necessities for the new space, they will likely also have times of deep sadness while they recall the fond memories that fill their old residence.
Moving out of the family home is a big change on many levels. First, it’s a huge disruption, for a time, to daily routines and a major transition into new surroundings. For an older adult, these disruptions and transitions take much longer to adapt to than for the younger set. Secondly, a move at this stage of life may trigger concerns about loss of independence and what lies ahead. Losing any kind of independence is hard for those of us who have lived an independent life. So, it’s important to be sensitive to these moments with your loved one. Help them through the process simply by taking the time to listen and be empathetic.
Paring Down and Packing Up
During the downsizing process and subsequent packing phase of the move, memories will be triggered when old keepsakes and treasures are unearthed and heirlooms are passed on to family members. Activities like paging through a yearbook, reorganizing photos, sorting jewelry and finding old love letters can drum up old feelings and stories, which should not be rushed through. Allow plenty of time for packing so your loved one has ample opportunity to reminisce and pass on any family history to you.
Leaving the Family Home Behind
As the move nears, expect emotions to become heightened. With only days left in their home, your loved one may break down at the thought of leaving. While you will most likely be feeling the stress of all that needs to be taken care of, remember to comfort them. Check in with them often to see how they’re doing. Talking may be hard for those families who don’t communicate emotions with ease, but it’s necessary. Simply asking, "How are you holding up?" can provide a world of comfort to a parent or loved one leaving the home they’ve known for some time. It will let them know you’re in their corner and understand that this can’t be an easy situation for them.
Trivializing your loved one’s emotions is one of the worst things to do in this situation. With their entire world in upheaval, making them feel as though they’re overreacting can upset them even more. While you may not know exactly what they’re going through, try to put yourself in their shoes despite any chaos that may be going on around you.
On moving day it might be best to plan an outing for your loved one — lunch, a trip to the mall, a visit with friends — so they can avoid the trauma of seeing their possessions moved out of their beloved home. This will mean, of course, that managing the move is up to you and any help you can gather. It may be worth it if it means that your loved one will feel a sense of normalcy during such a tumultuous time.
After all the boxes are unloaded and the furniture is in place, expect it to take a while before your loved one feels settled. Arranging their new space similarly to their former home will aid in the transition. A nice gesture to welcome them into their new space would be to stock their fridge with favorites or bring in their favorite takeout for dinner their first night there. Over time, they should ease back into their old routines and begin to see the advantages of their new home. Just be patient with them as they find their footing.
For the Caregiver
You might be surprised and taken aback by the emotions you experience when moving your parent or loved one out of the home — especially if you’ve shared that home with them in the past. Many caregivers get so caught up in what needs to be done for a move that they don’t take into account the emotional implications the move will have on them. Expect to be bombarded by fond — or not so fond — memories that deserve attention. Watching your loved one go through their emotional process around the move may also affect you greatly. Indulge in these emotions rather than holding them in. They are important and need to be expressed — whether in privacy or with your loved ones — in order to be the strong support system your loved one will need throughout the move process.