Transitioning an aging loved one from home to senior living or to hospice brings up a lot of difficult emotions along with the challenge of figuring it all out. This is natural, but to get through the process smoothly, it requires a lot of patience, research, and planning.
Aside from the emotional turmoil, downsizing can be disruptive for the seniors facing the upheaval of moving into assisted living or nursing homes, and particularly hospice. Adult children and families can ease the transition by keeping them in the loop at every phase, sticking to a plan, and avoiding over-packing with these downsizing tips for seniors.
We’re going to discuss three situations where downsizing for seniors is necessary, and how to do so successfully. During these transitions, your loved one needs all the help, love, and patience they can get while adjusting. This can also be a really troubling period in the caregiver’s life, but, with some help, you can minimize the stress of downsizing from living at home to senior living, senior living to hospice, and even when taking care of their belongings after they pass.
Downsizing Seniors to Nursing Homes or Hospice
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- Transitioning from Home to Senior Living
- Plan the Transition from Home to Senior Living Early
- Consider Senior Transitioning Services
- Plan for a Smaller Space
- Rule Out Extra Rooms
- Think About the Included Amenities
- Decide on “Must-Come” Items
- Keep a Handful of Extra Comforts
- Sort by Family, Donate, Sell, Recycle, and Junk
- Organize their Paperwork, Medical, and Legal Files
- Plan Moving Logistics in Advance
- Transitioning from Senior Living to Hospice
Plan the Transition from Home to Senior Living Early
So, you’ve selected the finest assisted living facility for your loved one, or are pretty much there and are looking to get all your ducks in a row. Start developing (and following) a plan as early as two months before their move-in date.
It’s important to keep your loved one involved throughout the whole downsizing process as much as you can. It may seem easier to make executive decisions, but their long-term happiness in the nursing home tends to correlate to what belongings come along to make their new surroundings feel like home.
Consider Senior Transitioning Services
Think about your situation and if hiring a company for help is beneficial to you and your loved one. Senior transitioning services assist in helping families help their seniors downsize and move to senior housing or nursing homes. They support many facets of the transition like sorting through their things, deciding what is coming, packing, moving them in, setting up the new space, and more.
This is a good option for those that don’t live close to their elderly parents, need help throughout the process, or aren’t able to assist in the transition as much as they’d like for their loved one. These services do come at a cost that varies depending on where you live and which company you use, so keep that in mind when deciding how to relocate your senior from their home to assisted living.
Plan for a Smaller Space
Everyone’s situation is different, but if you’re going from a house to an apartment or room, get ready for a major downsizing. Start by getting to know the floor plan of the new place so you have a solid idea of how much of your loved one’s belongings will have a home.
Measure their furniture and draw up a blueprint to see how the furniture can be arranged. Give enough space for mobile accesibility. They should be able to move around their new home without any obstructions comfortably. Even if they don’t require a wheelchair right now, they may need one in the future so make sure that this layout will still be comfortable.
Discard Extra Rooms
Rule out entire rooms that are already a part of the facility such as the dining room, living room, outdoor area, etc. At this point, you should quite easily see how much furniture and household items aren’t going to make the transition.
Get rid of furniture and other household items like old couches, excess bookshelves, or dining tables by taking them to donation centers, listing them for sale online, or calling a junk removal company to haul away and dispose of surplus furniture.
It may be challenging to get rid of some things that they’ve owned for decades, so compromises will be made. Remember to remain patient and understand where they’re coming from, but stick to your guns on things you know aren’t possible heirlooms or needed in the new place.
For sentimental items that can’t come along but your loved one isn’t ready to completely discard, think about long-term storage solutions or giving them to family members for safe-keeping or as gifts. It’s actually a good idea to do this now, while your loved one is still around and able to decide who gets what to avoid disputes among family after they pass.
Think About the Amenities
As you start sorting through things, take time to consider which services and amenities are provided. They may or may not have the things that help your loved one live their best life. If they are missing things that your parent has grown accustomed to, see if you can maintain it in other ways in order to make the transition seamless and stress-free.
This can be as simple as giving them access to their favorite movies by giving them your Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+ password, or purchasing a device that makes any TV a smart TV like the Amazon Firestick. Don’t forget about their hobbies! Many nursing homes have plenty of activities, but if your parent has a unique hobby see if you can somehow facilitate it.
Decide on the “Must-Come” Items
Make sure that they’ll feel warm, loved, and at home in their new space by ensuring their “must-come” items will not be forgotten. These are their most cherished possessions that usually are of high sentimental value. Make a list of these valuables to make sure you do not forget any of them within the frenzy of clutter, moving boxes, papers, and more.
Pack these items and important documents either first or well in advance so you definitely don’t leave them behind. If you think it’s difficult now, imagine losing those items and having to face a broken-hearted elderly parent after.
Some must-come items may be:
- Hobby supplies
- Photos and photo albums
- Pet and pet supplies
- Medicine and Medical Information
- Living Will and other Legal Files
- Keepsakes, heirlooms, and memorabilia
Keep a Handful of Extra Comforts
If their new home isn’t nearby family, ensure they have the right technology to call and chat with their children, grandchildren, other family and friends. This can range from easy to use video calling like Facebook’s Portal and Skype. You should also make sure their phone service is set, so they don’t miss a beat in their family’s lives.
Pack other items that bring them comfort like their favorite recliner, a soft blanket with sentiment attached to it, or even their favorite snack foods. This is one of the reasons it’s important to keep them in the loop throughout the process because you may find that you were too exhaustive in the decluttering process and unknowingly got rid of their favorites.
If your elderly parent has a pet, make sure the nursing home allows them. We suggest packing Fido’s things in a special box or container that stands out so you can easily check that you’ve packed it, and it’s readily available for when you arrive at the new place. Again, we’re trying to make the move as seamless as possible. The ore certain you are about where things are and what is packed, the smoother the transition is to an assisted living community.
Sort by Keep, Family, Donate, Sell, Recycle, and Junk
We’ve given you a few ways to determine what items to keep. Now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty to downsize. Start sorting and decluttering by going room to room. This will help you make sure you don’t miss anything that really makes them feel at home. We suggest sorting six piles while downsizing: keep, family, donate, sell, recycle, and junk.
Earlier we mentioned gifting items to family that they’re not ready to let go of but have no place in their new home. This is a great way to compromise and they’ll likely appreciate their legacy being spread throughout the family through things that mean a lot to them.
For everything else, it’s important to get rid of things as soon as possible to discourage last-minute packing and going down memory lane a few too many times. Don’t get us wrong, allowing time for reminiscing is important, but dwelling on the past for too long can make this already difficult process much more strenuous.
It’s no secret moving is expensive and nursing home fees add up. You can save money by selling your loved one’s more expensive belongings that are in good condition. It’s easy to sell stuff online through places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp, LetGo and more.
Recycle by checking with your waste management company or local city government. See what they pick up or where you can drop off recyclables. You can look for recycling programs like Terracycle, Recycle Nation, and your local government for things like home goods. Some electronic manufacturers will take back their devices and will recycle them for you.
However, with all the packing, organizing, downsizing, coordinating and things you have going on in your own personal life, it’s tempting to just throw it all out on the curb and be done with it. Doing so will likely land you with a fine in your mailbox. Instead, consider hiring a junk removal company. They will come to you with a large truck or box truck and load it up with all the junk that isn’t making the move.
If you go with a junk removal company like LoadUp, your loved one’s belongings will get lifted, packed and hauled away with no effort from you. Plus, we always strive for eco-friendly disposal solutions (without charging extra) like recycling, donating, or reusing so know your parent’s old belongings are on their way to do good and aren’t harming the environment.
Help us, help you downsize for your senior.Learn More ❯
Organize their Paperwork, Medical, and Legal Files
While you’re throwing old papers out, keep an eye out for important healthcare, finance, or legal papers. You wouldn’t want to throw any of these out only to discover later how difficult it is to reacquire them. These documents assure that you and your loved one can manage a medical or financial emergency.
When they pass, these papers will also make the administration of their property solid and straight-forward. It’s important to keep these all together and somewhere you and your loved one can easily access them in a crisis.
Plan Moving Logistics in Advance
While you’re slowly decluttering and determining what is or isn’t going, make sure you’re getting estimates from moving companies so you do not get any surprises on moving day. Once you know what day you’re making the move, book it ASAP because movers can quickly get booked up especially during the summer and on weekends. Also, check with the nursing home as some may provide moving assistance as a part of their perks.
Need a detailed guide on how to move efficiently? Check out our ultimate checklist here.
Downsizing from Senior Living to Hospice
As we’ve discussed, caring for an aging parent involves a few transitions and each one poses new obstacles. After being in assisted living, your loved one’s health may have declined to the point of needing regular skilled nursing or hospice. No one’s end-of-life care experience is the same, but there are a few common steps you can take to make hospice an easier transition.
Decide if it’s Time for End-Of-Life Care
Sometimes people can feel like going for hospice is like giving up on their parent, but it’s quite the opposite. This can be a really emotionally excruciating time for caregivers and the patient, but end-of-life care can offer your loved one a means to remain as comfortable as possible while providing emotional and spiritual support to the patient, caregivers, and family.
Some signs that it may be time to transition to hospice care are:
- Their quality of life is deteriorating while functioning alone
- They’re voicing they want to remain at home and not go to the hospital anymore
- They have decided to stop treatment for their illness(es)
- Multiple trips to the hospital with the same or worsening symptoms have occurred
Prepare the Home for Hospice Care
Once you’ve decided it’s time for your loved one to have a regular skilled nurse by their side, consider if they need to move to your or their home if it is still in possession, a different facility, or remain where they are if the nursing home they’re at provides hospice care. If they’re moving to your or their previous home, you’ll need to downsize the home for hospice.
End-of-life needs are different for everyone so consult with the hospice care provider and your loved one’s care team to get an accurate to-do list to get the home ready. Typically the provider and care team will ask for an overview of the house to get a feeling for what is needed to most effectively keep your parent comfortable.
Make Space in the Home for Accessibility
Similar to the maneuverability their assisted living apartment needed, the home is now turning into a long-term care facility. It doesn’t need to resemble a hospital. The workspace and living space just need to be safe and accessible for both the patient and caregivers.
Therefore, decluttering during this preparation is essential. Simply put, the home needs to have ample walking space without stuff cluttering up walkways. Clutter creates hazards for the patient and caregiver as they assist them in daily activities. If their mobility is limited, grab bars for mobility assistance can prevent falls. One essential place to pay attention to is the bathroom. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly, obstruction and hazard-free.
Don’t be afraid to consult frequently with the hospice care provider before they come to ensure that there’s enough space for any medical equipment that may be used.
You can follow the same tips listed above for donating, selling, recycling, and getting rid of clutter and hazards from your home. For more assistance in preparing your home, we have written about how to deeply declutter your home and how to get rid of practically anything.
Before transitioning to hospice, many people enlist the help of junk removal companies to help with downsizing. Their help majorly simplifies the process, saving precious time and energy. Whether you need a grandfather clock, a massive recliner, or boxes of clutter taken, LoadUp will remove even the bulkiest items from wherever they are in the home, load them into a truck and haul them away for disposal.
We’ll give you all the real space you need.Learn More ❯
Keep it Comfortable
As we’ve said, comfort is key and should be the driving decision-maker as you declutter for this stage in your senior’s life. So while you downsize, make sure you’re not discarding items that make them feel at home. Even if they have to be in bed for most of the time!
Getting the chance to sit in their comfortable chair or having a few favorite foods they’d enjoy on their own can really lighten up their mood. These small comforts can make something as stark as sleeping in a hospital bed feel more like their own home before all of the upheaval.
Make Space for a Hospital Bed
Some patients have difficulty getting in and out of a regular bed. In this case, a hospital bed can provide a safer and easier way for them to receive the proper care they deserve. They’re typically a little larger than a twin bed, have wheels and convertible bed rails for safety.
It’s important is to put the bed in the safest space with the most amount of room. Depending on the home, this might not be a bedroom. Many families have set up space in a family room or dining room to keep the patient on the first floor and close to a restroom and kitchen. This gives the patient the opportunity to be close to where people collect in a home, allowing them the option to still engage with their loved ones and find comfort in their company.
To make space for the long-term, but temporary living arrangement, you can move furniture and other goods into storage, or discard some items that have been needing to go. We’ve already mentioned ways to get rid of things, so we’ll just quickly remind that you can also donate, sell, recycle, gift, or throw out the rest that won’t go into storage.
Sort Through their Belongings After They Pass
Going through your parent’s things after they’ve gone is a painful and delicate process, especially if they tended to hoard things. You may find yourself wishing they’d decluttered and downsized way more before they passed to lighten the burden on your shoulders. But, you don’t have to do it alone.
Ask for help from family and friends. They’re probably dying to find a way to help during this difficult time, and this is one way. However, if your loved one’s will allows, and you’d rather go through their home and things privately, that is okay too.
You don’t have to do it all in one day, but it definitely helps to go in with a plan. Prioritize things that are time-sensitive like their finances and anything on the will. Go with whatever works best for you, but we suggest going room by room, and making six piles: save for me, save for others, sell, donate, recycle, and trash.
You probably already know what you’d like to keep for yourself, or maybe the will was explicit as to who got what, but it’s likely that some of the smaller things like clothes, jewelry, antiques, or even photo albums weren’t divided up in the will. Family can come help sort and select the items they long for, and whatever is leftover can be donated, sold, or recycled. Also, to prevent yourself from over-taking or even to compromise with family while dividing up belongings, you can take photographs of those keepsakes.
Focus on What Matters Most
When a person gets to the end of their life, many times families have a hard time not just with facing the emotional aspect of saying goodbye, but with dividing up the estate. Unfortunately, many families get torn apart during this time instead being brought closer together.
Your memories of your loved ones and relationships with family are more important that valuables. Try to pick what matters most to you, and avoid having relationship-destroying battles over items. The recent passing of a loved one should bring the perspective of how quickly life goes and items that we covet in life don’t really matter in the face of death.
No matter what challenges you and your loved ones are facing, spend time reminiscing on the good, talking out the bad, and dismiss emotions like guilt or obligation. Try to remember that no matter how life changes you, we started with family and should end with family.