Advice Assisted Living

How Can We Help Adult Children Who are Forced to Move a Parent in a Hurry?

Woman and senior woman outdoors

Dear Benchmark,

I am a social worker in a mid-size hospital. One growing trend we see here is the number of seniors who end up in our emergency department and aren’t safe to return home alone. Adult children are not only under intense pressure to make arrangements for their parent to transition to a short-term rehab center and then on to an assisted living community, but also to downsize and sell their senior loved one’s home.

With more older adults choosing to “age in place,” our staff needs to have resources on hand to share with families when their senior loved ones end up in the hospital. One such resource would be tips for downsizing a parent’s house. This can be tough enough during good times. When it must be done in the midst of a crisis, cleaning out a senior’s home is especially stressful.

We know many families need the money from the sale of their loved one’s home to pay for assisted living so we want to be able to provide them with a few detailed tips for moving forward.

Do you have any advice?

Advice to Help Adult Children Downsize a Parent’s Home

Dear Bonnie:

What a great idea! We see this trend across the Benchmark Senior Living communities as well. While many older adults downsize and move to a senior living community as soon as they retire, we also know many are delaying this move. Some end up struggling with poor nutrition while others suffer from repeated falls. The good news is that an assisted living community is designed to promote independence by offering a safer environment and support with personal care. And downsizing can be a little easier with the right approach.

First, when a relocation must be done during a time of crisis, it helps to first move the basic necessities. In most assisted living communities, that might be the senior’s bed, bedding, a comfortable chair, a television, bathroom linens, a coffee pot, medications and comfortable shoes and clothing. It might also be good to pack family photos and small treasures. Bring enough familiar belongings so the senior feels comfortable and at home.

If it is tough to do even that much in a hurry, suggest the family talk to the staff at the community. In many cases, they have a furnished respite suite the senior can stay in or extra furniture a family can use in the short-term until they can get organized.

Then families can move on to begin downsizing. Here are a few tips you can share:

1. Establish a Timeline: Rushing through this process can make an already stressful time more difficult. But, as you mentioned, families often need the proceeds from the sale of the house to finance assisted living. Gather all involved family members together to see who can realistically pitch in to help and when. Use that to create a timeline for clearing out the home. Families who are feeling overwhelmed by the process of downsizing may also want to consider talking with the senior’s banker about a short-term bridge loan. It can help cover the cost of assisted living while the house is being prepared for a sale.
2. Create a Floor Plan: Once families have the basics moved in to their loved one’s assisted living, it helps to create a floor plan for what else will fit. Knowing exactly how much space they have to work with can make it easier to part with belongings which will not fit in to their new home.
3. Develop a system: Senior move managers often suggest starting to sort in the rooms that were used less often. Gather boxes and label them according to their final destination, such as “Assisted Living” “Hold for Mom/Dad to Review” “Donate” “Family/Friend” and “Trash.” Work through the house room by room in a systematic way.
4. Protect Memories: Part of the struggle in selling a senior’s home is that they and other members of the family may be emotionally attached to it.  Encourage families to preserve these memories. A cherished rose garden for example, might make a great framed photo or watercolor painting. Take photos of favorite places and spaces, and consider creating a video tour of the home. Both can easily be done with a cell phone.

Finally, there are professionals who can handle every step of a senior move for families. From sorting and packing to arranging for a charitable organization to pick up unwanted items, a senior move manager might be the ideal solution. You can refer families to the National Association of Senior Move Managers database to find a qualified move manager near them.

Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing/Rehab
Making the Move