The Challenge of Downsizing: Making the Move into Assisted Living

Leaving a home of many years and opting for apartment style living in a senior community is a difficult decision for seniors and their family members. In addition to the emotions attached to memories of a life lived with a family in a familiar place, there are the sheer logistics of going from a large home to a one or two bedroom apartment. What will I do with all my belongings? But when an older adult is living alone in a big house with few opportunities for socialization, and the responsibility to clean, repair and upkeep the property – the transition into assisted living can be the best decision for everyone. 

Families will find that loved ones residing in an assisted living community have the chance to maintain their independence while relieving themselves of the stresses of homeownership. While it takes time for older adults to come to this realization, having the support of family members before, during, and after this big transition will be extremely helpful. 

If you are contemplating moving mom and/or dad into assisted living, the right mindset will help you be more empathetic while tackling the challenges ahead. Read on for strategies to assist your senior family member when you know it’s time to move.

Honest Communication Throughout the Transition

One big internal dilemma seniors face is the feeling of losing their independence. Seniors who are new to assisted living commonly feel like they are no longer in the driver’s seat of their life, but rather the passenger. Although this feeling is completely valid, it is not true in the slightest. 

Organizations like United Methodist Communities are passionate about providing an abundant and active lifestyle for all older adults. It’s important to have a meaningful conversation with your loved one to reiterate that the transition to assisted living will only improve their quality of life.

Seniors will be able to engage in activities they love and socialize with friends and family safely while living in a retirement community. The biggest difference between an assisted living community and their past home life is a safe environment. Your loved one will gain more time and opportunity for socialization, and have all medical needs taken care of immediately.

5 Strategies to Tackle the Logistics of Downsizing

Now pangs the question, “How does one begin the downsizing process?” It definitely can be overwhelming to sort through a huge family home filled with years of heirlooms and knick-knacks. Mom and/or dad will want to be a part of this process because of the irreplaceable memories associated with most items. With that said, we have compiled tips to make the downsizing process easier for all involved.

  1. Get an early start on sorting through the house. Rushing makes any task (big or small) even more stressful. Do not attempt to sort through in one day or weekend – mistakes will be made and tensions will run high, which is not good for anyone’s health. Give yourself and your senior family member at least a month to go through the house top to bottom.
  2. Begin with the smallest room, then work your way up. Usually, the smallest rooms, like the laundry room or bathroom, hold items with the least emotional attachment. This is a great place to start in order to feel a sense of accomplishment early on.
  3. “Yes” or “no” piles ONLY. “Maybe” piles delay the downsizing process even more. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid – the quicker you pull the trigger, the easier the aftermath will be. Also, make sure not to hang onto duplicate items – nobody needs five spatulas.
  4.  Don’t downsize alone. This is a great chance to bond with the entire family. Mom and/or dad can reminisce about each belonging, and you may learn a thing or two about your family history. Your loved one could also use this process as an opportunity to pass on special heirlooms to family members.   
  5. Figure out a packing plan. Will family members take turns packing and driving the moving truck back and forth from point A to point B? Or is it easier to hire a full-service moving company to pack and unpack your loved one’s belongings? This is definitely something to discuss with your senior family member and other members of the family before moving day.

Have Patience After the Move

While adjusting to their new life, some older adults may experience outbursts and audibly refuse to accept this major change. This reaction is normal and should be viewed as a prime opportunity to exercise patience and reassurance. Your family member must be assured that this is absolutely the right move and that they are now a part of a community of individuals who feel (or have felt) the same way.

Encourage them to make connections with other residents. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who already experienced what they are going through. Changes in surroundings, meal preparation, and other activities take time to adjust to, but your family member will overcome the challenges ahead with flying colors. 

Safe and Compassionate Assisted Living at UMC Pitman

Concerns over COVID-19 have factored into the decision to downsize. Families need to understand that reputable assisted living communities like UMC, have responded aggressively to COVID-19 with top-of-the-line health and safety procedures for residents, associates, vendors, and visitors. These scientific-based procedures, some might argue, make assisted living  safer for older adults than residing in a home with multiple unscreened family members and others coming in and out.  

On top of this, UMC practices an individualized approach with each resident. This means that our associates take the time to really get to know residents and their families, to then create a unique plan that suits all their needs. Making the decision to move into assisted living may not be easy, but the highly-trained onsite associates will help mom and/or dad transition to community living successfully. 

For more information about community life at UMC Pitman in Gloucester County, or any of our other senior communities across New Jersey, please contact United Methodist Communities and book your visit today.