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how to move with seniors

how to move with seniors

by Chuck Resnick

Moving an elderly loved one can be tough.

No one wants to upset that person and everyone wants the move to go as smoothly as possible. This can seem like mission impossible.

The children and families of the Baby Boomer generation – people born between 1946 and 1960 – are already helping their loved ones move into downsized or elderly assistance accommodations and often are not emotionally prepared for the task at hand.
Senior loved ones can be very set in their ways and often are not well equipped to express their emotional frustrations in a constructive way as moving day draws closer.

It all can seem like a daunting task.

Over the years, we have packed and moved many seniors and the important thing is to stay organized, be patient, calm and respectful throughout the entire moving process.

If you are moving a senior loved one into a retirement facility or a condo, you should first contact the management to find out what they are allowed to bring in, appropriate moving hours and if they have any tips specific to their facility to help smooth the moving process.

Remember the following:

organize, begin packing weeks in advance
If your loved one is moving from a large home to a one-bedroom condo, there will be more furniture than needed. Get a floor plan of the new space and help your senior plan the space with their favourite furnishings, then help them decide what to do with the left overs. If the item is a family heirloom and cannot be accommodated in the new space, suggest giving it to a close family member like a favourite grandchild.

sort before you pack
Seniors tend to collect things they don’t need or use. Be sensitive when suggesting to get rid of possessions. Ask if they use the item and if they would mind if you donated it to raise money for the Salvation Army, for example. Start packing early to avoid feeling overwhelmed as moving day draws closer.

pack, clean as you go
When helping sort and pack your senior’s belongings keep in mind that their eyesight and reduced mobility prevents them from doing regular chores and can result in poor housekeeping habits. Instead of commenting, offer to clean as you pack and try not to be judgmental.

you will need more time than you think
Allow enough time so your loved one doesn’t feel rushed. Sorting through years of stuff is difficult and sometimes emotionally painful. Allow your loved one time to say goodbye. If they take longer to clean out the desk drawer because they found a stack of pictures, let them take the time to walk down memory lane. This is a very important part of the process. Be patient and listen to their life stories, there will come a time you will be glad you did.

wrap small items in coloured paper
This prevents items like knickknacks from becoming lost or mistakenly thrown out.

label boxes on top and sides
Make sure to mark the top and sides of boxes as they’re packed and write in large letters to make it easier for your loved one to read. Make sure to label boxes containing breakable or sentimental items as ‘fragile’.

pack all electronics in the original boxes
Otherwise, use low-static bubble wrap when packing these items.

use packing paper
When wrapping fine china and precious items, do not use newsprint because the ink can bleed.

seal with packing tape
This makes it easier to stack and protect your senior’s belongings.

use boxes designed for items you are packing
Invest in dish packs for dishes and wardrobe boxes for clothing. Wardrobe boxes make it easy for seniors to access their clothing on hangers.

check unwanted clothing before donating
It’s a good idea to sort unwanted clothing for donation prior to moving. Before donating any gently worn unwanted clothing, check pockets for valuables. Seniors often hide small valuable items like jewelry or cash in the pockets of suit jackets or shoes and forget where they hid it.

make your loved one’s new space feel familiar
Take pictures and colour samples of the inside of their current home. Try to decorate the new space and place objects in a similar way, so that their new space will feel like the old one. Be as detailed as you can, from arranging the bedroom furniture to placing family pictures on the bureau. This will help make the new surroundings feel like home.

— Chuck Resnick is vice-president, marketing and operations at Two Men and A Truck – Canada.

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