By Mary Holmes
This is a topic I have written about before, but it is important enough to continue the conversation on a regular basis. Moving is stressful at any age – there is just so much to do! You may have to downsize, do home improvements, have your home staged for sale, contract with a mover, and of course, pack and unpack your possessions. But when a senior is making a transition to a new, most likely, smaller home – there are additional stressors, both physical and emotional, that others don’t experience.
The stress and associated symptoms that occur during a senior transition are so common that there is now an official diagnosis: Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS). RSS is defined as “physiologic and/or psychosocial disturbances as a result of transfer from one environment to another.” RSS should be taken seriously as it can cause numerous symptoms, including confusion, depression, stomach issues, sleep disturbances, lack of personal care, falls, and agitation. These symptoms can be worse in those with cognitive impairment, poor health, lack of a support system, or if someone (such as adult child) is promoting the move against their parent(s) wishes. So what can be done to avoid RSS and make the process of downsizing and moving less stressful for seniors?
Here are a few suggestions that may make the transition process go more smoothly:
Senior Involvement - Whether the senior is completely sold on the idea of transitioning or whether someone is convincing them that it is the right step for them, keeping the senior involved in the planning process is crucial. They should have input at every stage – especially regarding the final decision on where they will end up living. By allowing the senior to ask questions and leaving room for discussion, the senior will feel heard and be more apt to feel less stress. If there is a sense that they are losing control of the direction of how the next stage of their life will be spent, RSS is much more likely.
Keep Track of the Details - As I mentioned above, there is a lot of moving parts when it comes to a move. It is easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed. Adult children, a trusted friend or a professional can provide much needed support by helping the senior keep track of the details. Lists and timelines in writing can be extremely helpful to the seniors’ state of mind.
Daily Routine - Most seniors I have met thrive when they follow a routine on a daily basis. This routine can easily be lost when there is so much to do when preparing for a move. This can be detrimental to the seniors’ physical and mental health. By helping the senior maintain a routine, which will now include periods of downsizing and other move preparations, the odds of a senior suffering from RSS will go down.
Keep Possessions Safe - Another area of concern for most people who are moving is that, with so many people around, their personal possessions are not safe. There may be workmen, realtors, inspectors, movers, and other professionals in the house and others may assist with packing of the seniors’ personal items. The first step is to safely store anything of true value (sentimental or monetary). This will significantly reduce anxiety. Keeping the senior involved throughout the process so they understand what is going and where it is at all times will also help alleviate stress.
What to Bring - In most cases, the senior will have to make some tough decisions on what they can bring to their new home since it will, in all likelihood, be much smaller. Creating a comfortable and safe floor plan is an important step in the transition process. No matter who creates this floor plan (the retirement community, a professional move manager, a family member), the senior should have final say. Also, if at all possible, having areas in the new home set up similar to the current home, will help a senior feel more comfortable, e.g. a bookcase containing the same books and pictures or a picture hung over the same couch.
Settling In - Lastly, it is important that they feel comfortable as soon as possible. If they have moved to a retirement community, knowing what the community offers, e.g. activities, meals, trip opportunities, can help the senior feel acclimated quickly. If the move will be to a new town, knowing where they will shop, go to the doctors, and other services they will need will also help avoid RSS.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when a senior is downsizing and moving. A Professional Move Manager can ease many of these stressors and ensure the process goes smoothly. They are familiar and have dealt with the common issues many times and can provide support and solutions. Please Contact Us to find out more about our services.