Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Downsizing Your Parents

 One of the difficult things that happens in life is when your parents can no longer take care of themselves.  This happens in stages, and each person is different as to their gracefulness and willingness to accept the fact that they need to let go of things that were a large part of their lives when they were younger.  Sometimes a parent can't see very well, yet they refuse to give up their driver's license.  Sometimes they can't keep up with the yard or basic things like cooking or cleaning, yet they won't pay for someone to come in and help.  It is very hard to figure out what to do to make sure their needs are met and they can be also happy as well.   

Recently, my husband's parents were moved to another state to live with their daughter.  it is a good situation for all of them.  Their needs are met and his sister doesn't have to live alone.  It was a great to get them away from the snow, where they could easily fall.  They also didn't have to worry about snow removal any more.  My husband's mom is very happy and grateful to have someone there to help.  I think my husband's dad realizes it was a needed move, but I worry that he is lonely after leaving friends and a familiar place.  Time will tell.  My husband and his siblings worked together to help them move.  They meet regularly to make sure that things are going well and that his sister will get the support she needs.  Not all situations work out so well.

One challenge is trying to go through all of the stuff they have accumulated in their lives.  I helped another very kind woman who is downsizing because she can't see as well as before.  She was happy to get rid of things as we prepared for her downsize.  She handled getting older very gracefully, recognizing a need for change and being willing to make it.  

I have helped another person who is still living in their home.  They cannot keep up with things and they get very lonely, yet they refuse to move.  Her home his stuffed full of things, and she doesn't want to get rid of anything.  In some cases, it is best to just let your parent die with all of their stuff and clean things out after they are gone.  Each person is different and so is their situation.  

If you see that your parent's home is not well-suited for them anymore, now is the time to have the conversation before it becomes a crisis.  Maybe there are things you can do to improve their current situation.  Maybe they would like to live with you or one of your siblings.  

If you are helping someone go through their stuff, make sure there is communication with their family as you do so.  I have worked with seniors that think that no one wants their things and they are happy to give it all away, only to find out that their kids have a very different idea wanting the stuff or wanting to sell it for money.  As a friend and organizer, you don't want to be in the middle of situations like that.  Meet with family first if you are helping someone that isn't related to you, and discuss what each person in the family wants.  

Downsizing is hard.  It is best to try to help your parents get rid of things a bit at a time instead of waiting for a crisis to have to go through everything.  It is too stressful for them.  They can handle maybe an hours to 90 minutes of going through things before they are overwhelmed.  Another challenge is that they may not remember as well as they used to.  They may not realize the value of some items or realize just what they really need if they are moving.  If they are stay where they are, it is good to simplify things for them so they can easily find things they need.  I have heard older people I work with and visit frequently share frustration about not being able to find things.  

To sum it all up:

Don't wait for a crisis.

Have effective communication between family and helpers of your loved ones.

Try to reduce clutter if they are willing.

If they are unwilling to cooperate, realize that maybe you need to just let them die with all their stuff and deal with it later.  At least they will be content.

If there is a need for them to move, try to do it ahead of time and reduce things a little at a time.  It is too overwhelming for elderly people to have to make so many decisions at once.  Do what you can to make any changes in their lives as easy and as smooth as you can.  

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