As parents, grandparents, and other loved ones
age, their lifestyles must change as well, including
the place they call home. A stressful time in
anyone’s life is “moving day”. To leave a home
lovingly filled and yes, even cluttered, with
decades of memories and memorabilia is an
overwhelming task for the person living there, but
for the long-distance caregiver, even more so.
Many companies are popping up around the country,
offering practical assistance to long-distance
caregivers and compassion to the loved ones needing
to change location. These services are not merely
the typical brawny “moving guys,” but professional
consultants, who provide room-by-room guidance in
packing; moving; and deciding what to keep, what to
donate and what to toss.
Help is out there, but where?
The National Association of Senior Move Managers
(NASMM) is a great place to begin. This non-profit
organization specializes in exactly what its name
says: moving seniors. Visit
with a simple Internet search by state, a
user-friendly contact list of accredited
senior-specialized companies is provided.
Many senior moving services offer the full gamut,
including planning/prep and downsizing, packing,
moving day needs, settling in and follow-up. For a
long-distance caregiver who may not be able to be
physically present for the entire process, this is
more than helpful.
The most time-consuming tasks are those a
caregiver may not think of at the onset of a moving
process. Disposing of trash, cleaning house,
transferring or disconnecting utilities, organizing
at the new home, are all services senior move
managers provide. They have knowledge for finding
local realtors, repair companies, auctioneers, etc.
that a long-distance caregiver might not have of the
community where their loved one lives.
Many companies providing this service are using a
method which involves mentally “placing” the
person’s existing possessions into the new home.
With a layout of the rooms, and conversations with
the client, these move managers can get a feel for
how the person would like their new place to be set
up. Instead of just dropping boxes and leaving,
these services can be hired to stay through the
entire process, from packing, to unpacking and even
Some seniors opt to stay at a hotel or
caregiver’s home for one night, while the service
preps the new place. This makes the transition
easy and stress-free, moving from one “home” to
another, filled with familiar sights and smells.
"Older adults making a home transition have not
moved in 30, 40 or 50 years and need to downsize
considerably,” says Mary Kay Buysse, Executive
Director for the NASMM. “The organizational and
physical tasks associated with planning and
executing such a move can be daunting.”
Here are some questions to ask a when looking for
a senior moving service:
- How long have you been providing senior move
- What are your professional credentials?
- Do you have full liability and worker’s
- What are your fees? They should be provided
in writing, as with any contract.
- Can you provide references?
While hiring outside assistance is great for the
practical moving needs, it also allows the family
caregiver to spend the time they do have assisting
with the emotional transition their loved one is
going through. A recent New York Times articles
states that “people who use such services can spend
$1,500 to $5,000, depending on the selections and
nature of the move.” In this case, money may be able
to buy happiness, or at least save a headache.
The same Times article also stresses how in times
of grief, such as the loss of a parent, or confusion
due to a quick move, hasty decisions are made which
many seniors and family members later regret. And,
for those caregivers in their 50s and 60s, known as
the “sandwich generation,” strings are being pulled
in many directions: from career, to kids and
grandkids, and then their aging parents and other
“For family members living far away, the
additional stress of taking significant time away
from career and family obligations can present an
even greater challenge,” adds Buysse. “Senior
Move Management has emerged to fill this gap. For
long distance caregivers, NASMM members provide
end-to-end move services. Collaborating across the
miles, they work in tandem to offer senior clients
and families a stress-free, joyful move experience."
The transition is not necessarily only for the
senior, either. For some adult children, it is as
hard for them as their parents to let go of the
memories contained in a family home. It may be
easier for a third-party to help make the tough
decisions with no emotional ties. The aged loved one
can also be more honest with a stranger than their
own children, as to what they really want to keep
and the things they don’t.
With the previous in mind, one of the biggest
obstacles an elderly loved one may face during
downsizing is the dreaded division of belongings
among family members. With the increasing number of
family feuds being caused by hurt feelings over a
deceased relative’s possessions, there is even a
niche industry developing to keep the peace.
“Who Gets Grandma’s Pie Plate?” is an initiative
aiding seniors in making just those tough decisions,
while keeping everyone happy along the way. A group
at the University of Minnesota Extension wrestled
with the questions families face and with research,
developed educational resources to help keep
families connected and not in court. The name
actually came from a researcher’s family baking dish
which was handed down from her great-grandmother and
is still used today at family gatherings. The next
generation hopes to inherit it someday.
The Wall Street Journal has sung praises for
these tools, saying, “It's harder to determine
what's fair when dividing personal items, because
it's tough to pin a value on a tattered Winnie the
Pooh book, for example, that three siblings all
treasure…. The decisions about dividing up objects
are often more emotional, because they have more
These worksheets offer a way for seniors to
gather family members and discuss what items may
have value to them. Certain belongings have
significant personal attachment for one relative
because of a specific memory, and mean nothing to
Barbara H. Morris, of Smooth Transitions, has
developed a workbook entitled “Moving for Seniors”
which walks a person through each step of the
process. The 55-page guide helps seniors evaluate
their options, whether its time to downsize, how to
keep it simple and accomplish the move successfully.
“Most families only go through this process once
or twice in their lives and by the time they 'figure
it' all out, they will never do it again,” she says.
“Don't be afraid to ask for help from the experts.
This process is hard enough on all parties when
everyone lives in the same area, but when distances
add another level of anguish to the mix, it becomes
Tracy Smith, a relocation specialist at
Movingcompanies.us offers these 10 tips for
caregivers helping an elderly love one move.
- Plan ahead. It is essential to allow your
loved one time to acclimate to the move. It will
only add to stress for everyone if they are
- Be nice. Their point of view is completely
different than yours. Let them still have
control over the situation.
- Take pictures. Many times the person has
lived in the home for a long time, and pictures
will help them take memories with them to the
- Plan a layout. Change is hard, especially
for seniors. If they have a visual of how their
old belongings may fit nicely in a new space, it
can ease the transition.
- Hire movers. Caregivers may find it is
emotionally and physically challenging to take
on the entire packing/moving project them
selves. There is help for you!
- Go slow. Remember, their minds and bodies
are slower than they used to be.
- Communicate. They need to feel like it is
their choice, and you are not taking over. Make
sure you tell them what is happening during
every step of the moving process.
- Give them tasks. Don’t do it all for them.
If even it’s wrapping up items, or making small
decisions, these tasks will keep your loved one
busy and feeling important.
- Start small. Find a room or area with the
least sentimental value, such as a bathroom, to
begin packing. It goes faster and gives a sense
of accomplishment to your loved one.
- Give them space. Listen when they want to
revisit memories, even if it takes a while. Let
them deal with the emotions of loss and change.
Encourage your loved one, and let them know you
As a long-distance caregiver, moving a loved one
can be a rollercoaster. But, it doesn’t have
to be one that makes the riders nauseous. Moving and
packing assistance is available, as are people
willing to take the time to listen, and help seniors
make this major transition with minimal stress for
them and their caregiver.
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