By Mary Holmes
In our last post, Senior Transitions – An Emotional Time (Part One), we explained the reasons why a downsizing and move can be an emotion-filled time for a senior. A senior will commonly feel some level of fear, confusion, sadness, anxiety, loss, and relief throughout the process. There is now a name for these feelings: Relocation Stress Syndrome. Following are several ways to reduce the negative emotions associated with a senior transition:
Start the Process Early – Since the process feels overwhelming, most seniors wait until the last possible minute to start. By doing this, there will be additional stress due to the short time frame. If there is enough time, the project can be accomplished a little bit at a time – so if the senior gets tired one day, there is no urgency to continue in order to meet a deadline. Typically, once the process of downsizing gets under way, positive emotions may come from progress that is made and a feeling that it may not be as difficult as anticipated.
Have a Plan – Once you have committed to start the process (early), a plan specifying the necessary tasks with a rough, realistic time frame should be put together. Working through the list and updating as necessary – will not only ensure nothing is missed, but will also give you a sense of accomplishment as you cross items of the list. On the other hand, a certain level of flexibility is necessary since it is common for changes to happen during the downsizing and moving process.
Keep A Routine – It can be a very busy time as a senior gets ready to move; therefore, it is common for a typical routine to be lost. This in itself can cause stress and illness. By sticking with a routine that includes healthy eating, time with friends and family, and continuation of hobbies, a senior may feel better both physically and emotionally.
Visit Your Future Home (Often) – When a senior first selects a retirement community, they feel good about the environment, the people, the services offered, etc. But as time goes by, they may forget the good feelings and instead feel anxious about the change. To alleviate these negative feelings, it may be helpful to make several trips to the community throughout the process so the positive reasons why the decision was made can be remembered.
Preserve Memories – One of the hardest parts of this process for a senior is saying goodbye to so many cherished possessions. By finding ways to preserve some of these memories, it will help the senior feel less sadness. For example, a local Yarmouth, Maine realtor conveyed a story about a senior who was struggling with the decision to move – even though it was the best option. The realtor finally determined that one of the major stumbling blocks was leaving behind a door frame that had the heights of her children and grandchildren written on it at various ages. The realtor suggested removing the door frame and installing it in her new home – this helped the senior move forward with the process.
There are many other creative ways to help with the “letting go” process, e.g. donate items to a charity that is meaningful to the senior, gift items to friends and family who may want them, take pictures of items that are too large to keep.
Related to preserving memories, is making the new home feel like home. This can be accomplished by setting up at least a small area of the new home in the same manner as the current home, e.g. a bookcase or bureau.
Hire Professional Help – Professional Move Management is a relatively new field and can play a valuable role in helping seniors ease the emotional and physical stress of a downsizing and move. They can assist with all aspects of the process or just with services the senior feels will be helpful to them. If you want more information of how Integrated Move Management can help, please Contact Us.