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Senior Moving Not Like Packing for College

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Deciding on whether to move and then deciding which senior residential option is best can be stressful for a senior and a caregiver, and then comes the move.  It is not as easy as packing a son or daughter off to college, because relocating an older adult is really about packing up the possessions of a lifetime.  Moving day and its run-up can be challenging with all there is to organize and coordinate, but fortunately there actually are experts trained in helping to make the move smoother and less stressful.  These professionals know that the move and its associated packing is more than just moving furniture.

As a geriatric care manager I am not only called on to help facilitate good choices of a facility, but also to lend a hand or an ear in my role as resource, counselor, advocate, and local friend throughout a move.  There also is the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM); check out their web site.  NASMM (pronounced NAS-em) is – in their words – a not-for-profit, professional association of organizations dedicated to assisting older adults and families with the physical and emotional demands of later life living including downsizing, relocating, or modifying their homes.

They offer some helpful advice to elders considering a move along with their caregivers.  For instance, they suggest considering an option that focuses on the older adult simply “aging in place” rather than moving to a new physical environment.  In either case, a change to a downsized living environment can be in order, and they assist in developing a space design.  

When you as a caregiver alone or with the assistance of a senior mover help an elder in this transition think about what you will do or contract for:

  • Arranging for the profitable disposal of unwanted items through auction, estate sale, buy-out, consignment, donation, or a combination of the these
  • Interviewing, scheduling and overseeing movers
  • Arranging shipments and storage
  • Supervising and overseeing of professional packing
  • Unpacking and setting up the new home
  • Coordinating cleaning, waste removal, shopping, senior escort
  • Assisting with selection of a realtor and helping prepare the home to be sold.

As you look to possible help from the outside or what you will do as a caregiver, it is important to remember that it is not just about moving things – it is about relocating memories.  One caregiver I know recounts the story of helping his mother transition to an independent living community and the entire day it took to empty and organize just one closet.  The explanation was simple.  Every file and every box had a story, and having someone available to share the stories, putting some to rest and packing others carefully for the move required time.  

So, while some may think of moving day as a lot of heavy lifting, it really is more about helping to preserve a biography and to share a history of place and life.  Make sure you plan enough time for transitioning all the memories.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families throughout metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.

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