Transitioning from home to a retirement community or helping a loved one to hospice stirs many difficult emotions along with the challenge of figuring out how to downsize.
Aside from the emotional turmoil, senior downsizing can be disruptive for those facing the upheaval of moving in with their kids or into assisted living communities, nursing homes, or hospice, particularly when you’ve lived independently your whole life.
Reaching out to adult offspring and family can minimize the stress of downsizing from living at home to senior living, senior living to hospice, and even what to do with items after passing by staying in the loop with everyone that’s involved, sticking to a plan, and avoiding over-packing by following these downsizing tips for seniors.
Downsizing Tips for Seniors
**Click to auto scroll by section
- Downsizing from Home to Assisted Living
- Plan the Transition 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 Paperwork, Medical, and Legal Files
- Plan Moving Logistics in Advance
- Transitioning from Senior Living to Hospice
Plan the Transition Early
So, you’ve selected the finest assisted living facility and are looking to get your ducks in a row. Start developing (and following) a plan as early as two months before the move-in date.
It’s important to keep everyone informed throughout the whole downsizing process. It may seem easier to make executive decisions, but long-term happiness in a smaller home tends to correlate to what belongings come along to make new surroundings feel like home.
Consider Senior Transitioning Services
Hiring a company for help could be beneficial to simplify downsizing and moving. Senior transitioning services assist in helping seniors downsize and move to retirement communities and nursing homes. From sorting items, deciding what is coming, packing, transportation, move-in, set up, and more, they offer support for many facets of the transition.
Senior transitioning services are great options for:
- Those that don’t live close to family.
- Those that need more hands to help declutter and downsize.
- Those that don’t have the strength, time, or means to handle it all.
These services do cost depending on where you live and which company you use, so gather a few quotes before deciding how to relocate seniors from 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 will have a home.
Measure their furniture and draw up a blueprint to see how the furniture can be arranged. You can easily do this with some graph paper.
Leave enough space for mobile accessibility. Moving around comfortably should be easy to do without any obstructions. Even if a wheelchair isn’t needed right now, there may be one in the future so make sure this layout will still be comfortable.
😴 If you’re tired of doing it all yourself and you’re looking for senior downsizing services near you, it’ll be beneficial to look into getting all your old furniture, mattresses, appliances, and more taken by an eco-friendly junk removal company that will do every part of the responsible disposal for you.
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 can be challenging to get rid of some things we’ve owned for decades, so compromises will be made. Remember to remain patient and understand why it’s difficult, but get rid of things you know aren’t possible heirlooms or necessary in the new place.
For sentimental items that can’t come along but aren’t ready to be discarded, think about long-term storage solutions or giving them to family members for safe-keeping or as gifts.
Downsizing for seniors can be easy.Book A Pickup ❯
Think About the Amenities
As you start downsizing, consider which amenities are provided. They may or may not have all of the activities that help us live our best life. If the retirement community is missing amenities that seniors have grown accustomed to, try to facilitate it for a seamless transition.
This can be as simple as access to movies by getting Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, or purchasing a device that makes any TV a smart TV like the Amazon Firestick. Don’t forget about hobbies!
Retirement homes typically offer a wide range of activities, but making a favorite pastime possible can make a difference.
Decide on the “Must-Come” Items
By ensuring “must-come” items aren’t forgotten, seniors can feel warm, loved, and at home in the new space. These most cherished possessions are usually of high sentimental value.
Jot down a list to make sure none are forgotten in the frenzy of decluttering and downsizing.
Pack these must-come items and important documents first or well in advance so you can guarantee they aren’t left behind. If you think determining and locating them is difficult now, imagine not bringing those items and having a broken heart after.
Some must-come items may include the following:
- Hobby supplies
- Pet and pet supplies
- Photos and photo albums
- Living Will and other Legal Files
- Medicine and Medical Information
- Keepsakes, heirlooms, and memorabilia
Keep a Handful of Extra Comforts
If the new home isn’t close to family, make calling their children, grandchildren, other family and friends convenient. This can be video calling through Facebook’s Portal, FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. You should also make sure the phone service is set, so they never miss a beat.
Pack other items that offer comfort like the favorite recliner, a soft blanket with sentiment attached to it, or favorite snack foods.
This is a big reason why it’s important to keep everyone in the loop because you may find that someone was too exhaustive in the downsizing process and unknowingly got rid of favorites.
If pets are coming, make sure the nursing home allows them. We suggest packing Fido’s things in a special box or container that stands out so it’s readily available for when you arrive at the new place for a smoother transition to an assisted living community.
Sort by Keep, Family, Donate, Sell, Recycle, and Junk
We’ve mentioned a few senior downsizing tips for what to keep — now it’s time for what to get rid of. Start sorting by going room to room to help make sure you don’t miss anything.
Sort six piles to help seniors downsize:
Earlier we mentioned gifting items that have no place in the new home. This is a great way to compromise and helps spread a legacy throughout the family with items that mean a lot.
For everything else, it’s important to get rid of things as soon as possible to discourage over-packing and going down memory lane too many times. Don’t get us wrong — reminiscing is important, but dwelling for too long can make this already difficult process 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 tasks you have going, it’s tempting to throw it all out on the curb and be done with it. Beware doing so will likely land you with a fine in your mailbox. Instead, consider hiring a junk removal company to come and haul away all the stuff that isn’t making the move.
🚛 If you go with a junk removal company like LoadUp, all 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 you can simply relax.
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Organize 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 toss these and later discover how difficult it is to reacquire them. These documents also make managing medical or financial emergencies less stressful.
These papers will also make estate administration solid and straightforward. It’s important to keep these in one place where you or loved ones can easily find in a crisis.
Plan Moving Logistics in Advance
While you’re downsizing, make sure you’re getting estimates from moving companies so you don’t get any surprises. Once you know what day you are moving, book it ASAP because movers can quickly get booked up — especially during the summer and on weekends.
Also, check with your facility 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.
The home needs to have ample walking space without stuff cluttering up walkways. Clutter creates hazards for patients and caregivers 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 simplifies the process while saving time and energy. Whether you need a grandfather clock, big recliner, or boxes of clutter taken, LoadUp can remove even the bulkiest items from wherever they are, load them up and haul them away for disposal.
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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 them 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.
Sort Through their Belongings After They Pass
Going through a loved one’s belongings after they’ve gone is a painful and delicate process, especially if they kept a lot. You may find yourself wishing they had decluttered and downsized way more before they passed to lighten the load, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Ask for help from family and friends. They’re probably looking for a way to help you during this difficult time. 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 go in with a plan. Prioritize things that are time-sensitive like their finances and anything on the will.
Go room by room and sort out six piles:
- Save for me
- Save for others
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.
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