5 Stages to Helping Aging Parents Downsize

When parents and their adult children have to discuss lifestyle changes such as downsizing a home, it is a very emotional time. Moving a parent or parents from the place they have called home for most of their lives is difficult. Grief is not uncommon when the family says goodbye to memories of some of the best times of their lives.

The task is also difficult on the adult children, because they have to acknowledge that their parents are aging and they cannot take care of themselves or their home as they once could. The roles begin to reverse from our parents being our caretakers to adult children taking responsibility for their parents’ safety and wellbeing. This can be a hard reality to face.

A lifestyle change that requires a downsize can happen suddenly with the death of one parent, a tragic accident that changes the parent’s physical or mental abilities, a financial crises or a dire diagnosis.

It is a much easier process when your parents are able to make the choice for themselves to downsize and they create their own plan, but many times the adult child has to take the lead if the parent is not mentally or physically capable of this enormous task. Whichever the case, here are 5 stages to helping aging parents downsize. Each stage covers the steps to assist you and your parent/s through the process of downsizing.

Pre-move Research

Know what is available. Today there are more housing options than ever for Senior adults who want or need to downsize, from housing communities to assisting living apartments. There are costs associated with these options. Research the housing in your area that fits best with their budget and needs.

You may find that the best alternative is to move your parent/s into your own home. Research what adjustments need to be made to your house to move your parent/s into your home.

Buying a different house instead of renovating an existing home may be a better alternative for some families. We have had clients in the past purchase a new home with an additional space, such as a basement or an additional first floor bedroom suite, perfect for a “Parent Suite”.

Find a real estate agent that you trust who can best walk you and your parent/s through the process of selling their home. (Of course, The Howell Group would love to work with you and your parent/s)

Pre-move Mental Focus

Affirm with your parents and other family members why downsizing is the best choice. They need to accept that this is what is necessary to make life easier for themselves, or in some cases, get the care they need to live a quality, productive life. This can be a very hard process and a difficult conversation to have with your parents, but help all parties to see that having a plan is better than not having a plan. Having a plan mapped out by your parents is always best when they have the mental, physical and emotional clarity to do so.

While you are having these conversations, it would be a good time to encourage your parents to get a formal will in place outlining their wishes.

Capture the memories. Before the house falls into disarray for a move, consider taking photos or creating a video diary of the home. You can make a special video or photo montage and tell of special memories and time spent in each room. This will be something special for your parents to watch and share with their grandchildren. This will also capture some of the memories that they are concerned about losing with the move. You can have them illustrate and tell stories, too. Make it a celebration of life and memories in the home.

Pre-move Purge

It is hard letting go of the items that have symbolized so much to your family for so long. There is an emotional attachment to our things and our home. Going through the process of moving may require professional assistance. There are professional counselors, coaches and organization experts that can help people through the purging process. This may be a necessity if your family members are hoarders and have difficulty letting go of their unnecessary things.

When selling a home, The Howell Group will advise on what items are necessary to remove from the home before it is put on the market to garner top dollars. We are also very sensitive to the needs of senior adults and handle these moves with extreme care knowing how emotionally difficult it can be to downsize.

This will be a good time to help your parents to begin the process of giving away their special mementos to family members. Make sure this is their idea. It can be a process of sharing their legacy and memories with the next generation as they pass down these special items. Not only does it help them to purge the items with emotional attachment, but it assures them that each item will be received by the appropriate person.

However, you may find that your parents are just not ready to part with their things and are not willing to help remove items for selling. There are shipping containers services that will remove your belonging from the premises and store them for your parents until they are able to purge their belongings. This maybe your best alternative to move forward to quickly get the house ready to sell.

Whatever the case, we recommend navigating these hard conversations with much love, gratitude, and grace toward your parents.

During the Move

Iron out expectations and make a detailed plan with your parents so they know exactly what to expect and when. Consider making a list of all the items that have special value or assign specific boxes for the sentimental items. Deliver the boxes containing meaningful items by hand to the new home.

Let the parent decide if they want to be onsite during moving day to assist. It maybe too hard on the parent to be there during the move. If that is the case, make arrangements for them to spend the day with a friend or another family member until their new place is ready for them to occupy.

Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure you are checking in with your parent from time to time to evaluate emotional state and guide them through the next steps of the move.

After the Move

Celebrate the new space and community by inviting friends and family to the new home and begin making new memories.

Help your parent to make their new home a place they love. Let them create an environment with photos and decorations that makes them feel comfortable and safe. Encourage them to get to know their neighbors.

I do not share this lightly. I have had to help a parent downsize and it is something that takes time, patience, love, and a whole lot of grace.

We would love to hear from you!

What tips do you have for downsizing?

-Dianna Howell

If you have any questions about downsizing in the Birmingham, Alabama area, we would love to help you! Please contact Dianna Howell with The Howell Group at 205-568-5435 or email her at dianna.howell@kw.com

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