How to Help an Aging Family Member to a Big Move
A survey by the Mental Health Association of America states that moving is one of the top five stressors. This stress is even bigger if you're an aging adult who isn't sure you want or need to move. Even if the house no longer meets needs, change can make seniors feel vulnerable, isolated, and unsure.
Tips to Helping Smooth a Move:
- Decide together. Help your parents come to the conclusion that it's time to move and help them decide where to move. Your role is to help them figure out what's best for them. Offer choices. Be honest about your concerns. Let them waffle a bit (it's part of the process). Expect them talk to other people and get other opinions.
- Settle before selling. Encourage them not to rush into selling their home and car. Let them get settled in their new digs and not feel pushed into letting go of their old life too soon.
- Be involved, but be sensitive. This is their journey, not yours. Some people want help moving, packing, sorting, and decorating their new place, others would not enjoy that type of attention.
- Get help. Senior Moving Companies can be a great resource and can provide tactical assistance to prepare for and execute a move.
- Ask them when you can visit. Get a feel for whether they'd like weekly visits at the same day and time, something they can look forward to, or if they'd enjoy you stopping by whenever it's convenient for you.
- Find new ways to stay in touch. Smart phones, laptops, emails, texts, care packages, books or audio books to share, Facebook, online photo sites...be inventive and stay in touch!
- Expect highs and lows. Don't be surprised if the first weeks are a bit tough-or a romantic high. Don't let this upset you, or think either extreme will last. Give it time. Some people love change and meet everyone in the first week, and sign up for every outing and class available. Others like to nest first and dip one toe at a time into the social pool. Resist trying to push them. Let them find their own way.
- Practice active listening. No one likes being in the "interrogation spotlight." Hang out and allow your conversation to be a natural give and take. Some people open up when they're walking or washing dishes, others are more honest on the phone when they don't have to be in the room with you-or they may want to talk to someone else about what bothers them.
- Schedule an upcoming visit. Do something together, like let them show you the new grounds, fold clothes, or help them hang their pictures. Listen while you work. If they're feeling lost and unsure, resist the urge to try to fix it. They simply want you to be their sounding board. If you have a thought or suggestion, see if you can lead the conversation in a way that they feel they've come up with this great idea themselves.
- Don't ignore complaints. Even if your loved one tends to gripe, don't dismiss legitimate concerns, such as depression, abuse, or neglect. Stop by at odd hours when the night or weekend staff is there. Find some place out of the way and quiet where you can blend into the wallpaper and simply observe. See if medications are delivered on time. See if the staff gets annoyed. See if calls or requests are handled promptly.
- Stay consistent. It's easy to become complacent, to visit less, to feel they're taken care of and don't really need you. Most care home abuse and neglect happens to those don't have regular visitors. You may not be their primary caregiver anymore, but you're always their care advocate.
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