This is the second in a series of posts about moving elderly parents out of their home. Read the first post.
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I’m offering some advice for moving parents into a retirement community, as we have just done that for our folks. At best it’s traumatic and stressful for them, and also for the family. But it can be accomplished with love, patience and understanding.
Our goal in helping my folks sell their home remained unchanged: be there to guide, love and assist them in making these all important decisions, respecting their preferences as the sellers of the home.
My mom has always loved their home so much it was almost as if it was an extension of herself, and who she was as a person. She spent countless hours decorating it, entertaining family and friends, creating a light-filled holiday home (and I mean filled with lights, literally…it’s her thing).
Both of my parents were children of immigrants and grew up with very little, so their home, to them, was the most splendid thing ever. They chose the floor plan and had it built just for them, and they’ve always been so proud of that!
We kept these things in mind as we discussed the sale of the home with them. Although I lived there for a several years and have spent many, many hours there with my folks, I didn’t share the same level of sentiment about it.
But, this is not about me. It’s about my parents. And if you’re in a similar situation, remember that. It’s not about you.
We knew that making significant decisions would be hard for my folks, so as their children we were there to suggest, guide, communicate and oversee (gently) the process of listing and selling their home.
Lots of questions to answer, explanations given two, three times or more to help them understand the sales process.
DIVIDE UP THE RESPONSIBILITIES
As siblings, we agreed who was going to take responsibility for each part of the process. Sounds simple enough, and for us it was. There are three of us, two are local and one lives a distance away…that would be me.
We each have our unique skills and competencies, so the division of responsibilities came quite easily. Here is the take away: Make sure all of the bases are covered with regard to selling your parent’s home. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks, but don’t argue over who is taking charge of what, either.
It’s already a stressful situation. Don’t make it worse by creating dissension amongst the troops. You may handle things a bit differently than a sibling would, but if the task gets done, don’t quibble about the process. Just get it done and move on.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The independent living facility my parents chose typically has several units available to select from at any given time. This was very important for us to know, as we weren’t sure when we listed the house how the literal transition was going to happen.
My folks had selected a particular floor plan they preferred, but we knew it was quite possible that they wouldn’t be able to secure exactly what they wanted when the time came for them to move.
One the one hand, we knew the sale of the house was needed so my folks would have the funds available to use as a supplement to their monthly retirement income. On the other hand, we were aware that each passing day was becoming more and more difficult for my folks to maneuver around their home, prepare and clean up meals, etc.
Their home went under contract extremely quickly, with multiple offers after only two days on the market. A buyer was secured and the process was underway…inspection, appraisal, and all the other wonderful things that happen when a home is sold. Ugh.
About two weeks into the sale process we decided to talk with the folks about moving as soon as possible, before their closing. We were prepared to help them financially with any shortfall needed, knowing that we would be paid back after the home closed.
My parents agreed, right away, to go ahead and move as soon as possible rather than wait until the home closed (they had negotiated a 30 day after close option to remain in their home if needed). Of course, the floor plan they preferred was not available, but another plan that had the same square footage along with a pretty view had just opened up.
It took a bit of convincing, but they agreed that it would work for them. Remember that your parents are most likely going to be downsizing…a lot…so the decision to move is made more challenging with that reality.
For my folks it meant leaving a 2,200 sq ft single family home to move into a 730 sq ft, 1 bedroom apartment. It sounds pretty awful, I know, to think of such a huge change in living space. But, for the past year or so my folks have been living day to day in about 1000 sq ft or less of their home.
When we pointed that out to them, it made sense, and they felt better about the size of the new place.
WHAT TO KEEP, WHAT TO SELL, WHAT TO DONATE
I own a home staging business and specialize in vacant home stagings, so I know a lot about putting furniture in an empty space. I can look at a room and visualize what will fit in it, and what won’t work.
My mom and I walked through their home with a floor plan of the new apartment in hand, and talked about what she really wanted to take with her, where/if it would fit, and how each piece would function.
When a home is that small, everything in it needs to have a purpose. There isn’t room for frills and extras. That doesn’t mean it can’t be cozy, inviting and represent a decorating style. I want nothing more than to give my parents a new home that reflects them and their taste, using the furniture pieces they love. They just have to be selected carefully.
At the same time we were making these selections, the family was also going through everything to determine what could be donated or possibly sold. My folks had done a pretty thorough job of cleaning out their closets and cabinets over the last 5 years or so, which made the job much easier for us.
Although my folks couldn’t literally do any of the work, they told us what they wanted to keep and take with them to their new home, and what could go. We have made many, many trips to local donation centers recently!
As a family, we also determined who might want some of the furniture pieces that my folks weren’t able to take with them. Fortunately it all worked out quite smoothly. No issues for us there, although I would guess that this process could be a cause of some family tension.
TIP: Take the time to find out what charitable organizations are in the community. Some will come right to the house to pick up furniture that is being donated. That saves a lot of time and heavy lifting for the family.
My advice, and this is just me sayin’…it’s only stuff. You can’t take it with you. It’s not worth risking a relationship.
We decided to have my folks stay at home and relax (if that’s possible!) while the family took care of the actual move. I would advise that you do the same. If they can’t stay in their own home, have them stay at a family member’s home so they don’t experience the stress of a move-in.
My goal as the coordinator of the move was to have all of their furniture in place, their bed made, dishes in the cabinets and the coffee pot on the counter when they walk through the door of their new home for the first time.
It was definitely a group effort.
You can plan, and plan, and plan some more…but the actual day of the event comes and you just never know exactly how things will go…right?
TIP: Scope out the move in details at the facility where your parents are locating to. I was there the day prior to the move, and asked:
- Where the loading dock was
- What was available in terms of dollies or carts
- What elevator should we use to move the furniture into
- How far was the apartment from the loading dock? From the elevator?
- How would we access the building? (most retirement homes are secured)
Fortunately for us, most of the planning turned out well. The movers were actually early, which made us move quicker for those last minute packing details, but we did it.
The weather was a bit less than cooperative, but for MI in late February I have no complaints. I’ll take a slight drizzle over a snow storm any day!
MOVING YOUR PARENTS INTO A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
For us, this is how we moved their furniture into the apartment. It was a small place, about 730 sq.ft. with one bedroom.
Here are some before and after photos of the living area, the dining area (we made it into a flex area including my dad’s desk and the dining table), and the bedroom.
We found that there was quite a bit more packed for the move than would actually fit into the small apartment, but we wanted to at least give it a try. My folks were initially disappointed that some things didn’t fit…a recliner, for example.
But they were quick to realize that it was just not possible. We tried to get the boxes emptied within about 48 hours of them moving in, as that seemed to be a source of stress for my mom in particular.
A move of this sort is going to be stressful for everyone, particularly the parents. They are leaving behind the home they have loved and lived in for a long time. Everything is new and different, except for their furniture and personal belongings. Remember that and be patient!
NEXT: After the Move
Have you moved your parents into a retirement community? Let us know how it went for your family. Do you have a question? Please ask!
One final thought...do your parents, or another elderly person you know, need some help remembering the time of day, the day of the week, or simply need a large face on their clock?
I would encourage you to learn more about American Lifetime. What a wonderful resource for anyone who struggles with memory and/or vision issues.