At the best of times, preparing to move to a new home is a frustrating, time-consuming and exhausting experience. It becomes even more difficult when you're trying to help an older relative move from a large place that's been home for 30, 40 or even 50 years to a smaller, and often safer, more suitable location such as a senior's apartment, or even a small bungalow.
That senior, as a child during the Great Depression and growing up during the war economy of World War II, was programmed to save absolutely everything because of the inherent shortage of goods and money, and has continued to do so throughout a lifetime. It's very difficult for that senior to dispose of anything, and becomes even more difficult and traumatic when every single item is a precious reminder of times past.
When you're helping that older relative prepare to move, here are some things to keep in mind:
Start early - as soon as you know that the necessity of a move is imminent, even 6 months to a year before the actual move. Encourage the senior to start distributing important items to family members and friends, and sharing the memories and history of each item as it's given away.
Allow at least 4 to 6 weeks for actual move preparation - and involve the senior as much as possible.
Most "collections" are trash - but respect that they are of great importance and value to the senior. Dispose of them tactfully.
Prioritize - If the senior had to suddenly vacate a home, what would be the single, most precious possession that the senior would want to take away? What would the senior most regret leaving behind?
Accommodate - Having determined what that single, most precious possession might be, ensure that it moves with the senior to the new location, then consider ways in which you might incorporate other important items.
Be understanding and patient - Most of us keep mementos - a silly birthday card, a souvenir from a trip, an object of great sentimental value - items which are important to us, but totally unimportant to others. Remember how important your mementos are to you, and then think how important the accumulation of a lifetime of memories might be to your senior.
Source: SNAP Toronto (August 2008) & Active Adult (March/April 2009)
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