Transitioning to a new living situation can be stressful at any age. When doing this in your elder years due to a medical incident or death of a loved one, it can be downright painful. It doesn’t have to be. With a bit of forethought and planning, you can make the transition easier so that you can focus on your well being at that time, instead of worrying about the day-to-day details.
Last fall, after spending two months in the hospital, my father passed away at age 85. My mother, who is 81 and not very mobile, could no longer stay in the house and had to move. Fortunately, she had somewhere to go immediately, but there was still the matter of selling her house. Seven months after my father’s death, she’s finally closed on the house but there are still things that need to be done. I’ve learned a few things from this experience, and hope that by sharing them it will help others who may find themselves in a similar situation.
Timing is everything
Don’t wait until a major medical incident happens to downsize your home. By then, it will be too late. If you or your spouse broaches the topic of moving and only one of you wants to move, then it’s probably time to move. If you prefer the idea of retrofitting your home so that you can stay there as long as possible (e.g., installing a chair lift), you should do so while you’re young and healthy enough to oversee the work. If staying in your home, you may also want to begin some home care assistance with smaller tasks while you’re still fairly mobile. That way, when you reach the point of needing more help you’ll have already begun the transition, and will have established a relationship with a homecare provider.
If downsizing is your preferred option, it’s good to start decluttering and gradually preparing your home for sale before you intend to move. This will eliminate a lot of the heavy lifting – in terms of moving logistics – at a time when you’ll need to focus on settling your spouse’s estate.
If you’re the type of person who likes to accumulate items, it’s wise to go through them every few years and give some things away. While my father was in the hospital, my mother spent as much time as she could with him. She didn’t have the time or energy to start going through everything to choose what would stay and what could go. In her case, she has two children who live nearby but work full time. If your children are out of town, the task can be even more daunting.
Let the pros handle it
When you move, it’s best to move everything on one or two days with the help of a professional mover. Though it might seem easy enough to take a few things at a time from your old home to your new one, this will add stress at an already stressful time. Your time could be better used to arrange and get settled into your new home.
In my mother’s case, she moved from a house to a condominium. Luckily, she was able to move most of her furniture into her new space, but that’s not always possible. Consider hiring a professional organizer who can go through the contents of your home, and help you get rid of unnecessary items or purchase new ones that will fit better with your new living space. They can also pack everything for you – which can be a lifesaver.
Let’s talk tech
Once my mother moved into her new place, it wasn’t time for her to sit back and relax just yet. Not being tech savvy, she still had to deal with the setup of her telephone, internet, computer and printer. Although I was able to help out a bit, she needed to schedule many service appointments until everything was resolved. There are companies you can hire to help with the set up, but you may have no choice but to go to the service provider in some cases.
Moving from a house to a condominium can bring new challenges. My mother, whose mobility is limited, found out only after moving in that her parking space was very far from the door to the elevators. Seven months later, her car is still parked in the outdoor parking lot because she cannot park in her parking space. This proved very difficult when her building did work on the garage and the out door parking spaces were limited to just a few. It’s a good idea to confirm the parking space distance before purchasing a new place, in case there’s an option for a unit with a more accessible spot.
You might also have a locker if you move to a condominium. Not all lockers are placed strategically. Some, like mine, are in a room that has many stairs. This is something else to consider if you have mobility issues and are in a condominium. The only alternative, as with the parking space, is to find someone who will rent their locker to you.
My mother and I are now living in the same building. Whenever a service person would arrive, I would get a call asking me to let them in to the building. They only saw my last name (the same as my mother’s) on the entry board downstairs. I was worried that someone would show up one day while I was out and wouldn’t be able to get in for their appointment with my mother. I was told that my mother had to call the phone company and make another service appointment in order to set her buzzer up for her apartment. Even the “simplest things” can sometimes take a lot of time and effort.
Planning ahead for the day that you may no longer be able to live in your home can make a world of difference in how you experience that situation. You can start now by making a list of everything you’ll need to do at that time, and taking whatever steps you can in the meantime to ensure an easier transition. This way, when the time does finally come, you and your family can put more energy into focusing on the things that matter.