Updated December 20, 2022 – It took much deliberation, but you’ve decided that it isn’t safe or wise for your aging parents to stay in their current home anymore. That means they have to move, but how do you even begin to prepare for such a big life change?
Here is a quick checklist for moving elderly parents:
- Find a suitable living environment
- Determine who will move what
- Figure out transportation
- Ascertain health services, be those new or recurring
- Decorate the new home
- Play up the benefits
In today’s guide to moving elderly parents, we’ll discuss in depth how to handle sensitive issues, such as how to downsize a senior parent’s home.
We’ll also talk about how to broach the topic of telling an elderly parent that they’re moving and give you tips and a timeline for the big move, so keep reading!
What Do You Do When Your Parent Can’t Live Alone?
You don’t go more than a day or two without visiting your elderly parent, but it seems like each time you see them, their home is in a greater and greater state of disarray.
You know that at their age, your senior parent simply cannot handle the everyday rigors of maintaining the home. This means they can’t live alone, so now what?
Well, you have several options, so let’s explore them now.
Downsize Your Parents’ Home
We’ll talk about downsizing a little later in this article, so we won’t go too in-depth at the moment. For now, know that this is a viable option for your elderly parent living alone.
If your parent’s home is smaller, then they might feel more capable of tackling the maintenance tasks and cleanup that the home requires.
Then again, even downsizing likely won’t help if your senior parent is struggling with serious mobility issues or dementia.
Move In Or Have Another Family Member Do It
If you simply do not feel comfortable with your senior parent living alone, know that they don’t have to.
They can move in with you or you can move in with them yourself – but do be aware that might require you to become a full-time adult caretaker for your parent, or a part-time one if your parent already has other help.
There are also financial considerations to having a parent move in with you.
If you have a job, a family, and a life, then giving all that up to care for your elderly parent is a huge responsibility that you must weigh carefully.
Perhaps you can’t live with your senior parent full-time. If you have other adult siblings, perhaps one of them will be willing to do it.
You could even ask other family members to step in and help.
Do be aware that as much of a life-changing responsibility as dropping everything would have been for you, it will be that way for others too. Thus, if your other family says no, so be it.
Hire An In-Home Health Aide
Your next option is to hire a home health aide who would live with your senior parent and assist them with all their day-to-day needs.
According to Paying for Senior Care, in the United States, you’d pay upwards of $4,957 per month for a home health aide, so this service is anything but cheap.
Medicare may cover the service, but only under some circumstances.
You’d have to make sure that you can afford the bulk of the monthly fee then.
Move The Senior To A Retirement Community Or A Long-term Care Facility
If none of the above options will work, then you’ll have no choice but to move your elderly parent from their old house to the right place for their current needs (read our guide about senior housing options)
This might a senior living community where they will get meals and social engagement, but maintain their independence in a new apartment or into a more long-term care setting, like an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
These services are even more expensive than hiring a home health aide, so you’ll have to mull over your options carefully.
How Do You Tell An Elderly Parent They’re Moving?
You’ve decided that moving your elderly parents is the best course of action, whether that’s to a smaller home or an assisted living community.
The only thing is they don’t know it yet. How do you have this difficult conversation?
Here are our tips.
Make Them Feel Like They Have A Choice
First, once I knew my dad needed to move out of my parent’s home after my mom passed away, I asked him to consider it. Many times.
In other words, I planted the seed, rather than springing it on him as a demand (“you have to move”).
If at all possible, it’s best for you to do the same thing so your parent has a chance to warm up to the idea.
Your parents are still going to want to feel like they have the right to exercise their free will.
So if you have already made plans for them, you might broach the topic of them living somewhere else as though your mind isn’t totally made up yet.
Of course, don’t be surprised if your senior parents want nothing to do with the idea of leaving the house they’ve lived in for years, perhaps even decades.
As I said, you might be able to get them on board with the idea of leaving after several conversations.
If they are still resisting even after a few chats on the topic, then it’s going to take a lot more convincing on your part to prep them for the move.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Your elderly parents are going to have a lot of thoughts about the idea of moving. Please don’t dismiss any of these thoughts.
Instead, listen with open ears and an open heart. Let your parents speak freely and don’t interrupt.
Quell Any Lingering Concerns
As your elderly parents naturally bring up their doubts, do your best to put their minds at ease by answering questions, providing information, or talking to them at length about your plan for moving.
I also found it best in my dad’s case, to set up tours of several places that I thought would be best for him and then showed the places to him.
Then, I let HIM choose where to live. This made the transition a lot easier!
Be Willing To Have As Many Follow-Up Conversations As Needed
Don’t expect one conversation on the topic, either, but many.
Imagine how you would feel if you were the one who was moving. You’d be frazzled and concerned too, right? Yes, especially if moving wasn’t entirely your choice.
Each time your senior parents want to talk about the move, right up until actual move on the big day, and even once they’re settled in, be willing to do it for them.
By doing this, you’re helping them make this big life change a little more manageable.
How Do You Downsize Senior Homes?
As we said we would, let’s now move on to talking about the downsizing process. Here are some handy tips to get you started.
Decluttering Or Moving? That’s The Question
In some cases, decluttering and organizing a home is enough to make it a lot more manageable for senior citizens.
If the house is too large or is multiple stories though, then even if the home is spic and span, your parents might still struggle with its upkeep.
In that situation, the best thing you can do is plan to move your parents into a smaller, single-story home.
The earlier you make your decision, the better, as then you can create a timeline for when the work will begin.
For decluttering, you need at least three months to get the whole home done, perhaps longer if the home is especially large or if your elderly parents have a lot of valuable items or family heirlooms.
If you plan on moving your senior parents into a smaller home, you’ll need a lot more time to do it than three months.
Six to nine months may be enough time, but it may possibly take even a year or more.
If Decluttering, Take It Slowly
Decluttering isn’t an easy job, but it’s doable. Be sure to keep these pointers in mind:
- Don’t declutter alone! Enlist other family members, your elderly parents’ neighbors (if they’re able-bodied enough), friends of yours, or even hire professionals if need be.
- Create a floor plan of the family home so you know what’s in each room and which rooms are the most cluttered.
- Start with one room to declutter at a time.
- Create three piles: the keep pile, the throw-away pile, and the maybe pile.
- Your senior parents will definitely raise a fuss about you throwing away some of their items. If they have hoarding tendencies, then it won’t be some items they’re upset about but most of them. To combat that, you might allow your parents to add to the maybe pile, but you reserve the final decision on what stays and what goes in that pile.
- Plan for setbacks, as they are going to happen. That’s why you want to give yourself months to work.
Here’s a helpful book on decluttering that I recommend. It’s called, Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff, by Dana K. White (she also has a popular YouTube channel)
Or, Consider An Estate Sale
Another option is to have an estate sale in the old home after your parents have moved to their new space.
To do this, I would recommend they take the essential items, important papers, household items, furniture and personal items they are keeping to their new residence. Everything that is left behind in their previous home goes up for sale.
A good rule of thumb is to have several estate sale companies come check out their items before you ever start decluttering before the move.
They will tell you what they think the contents of the home will sell for and how much your parents can expect to gain for the sale.
Estate sales are often the best option for older people because it takes so much off the to-do list for everyone.
There is minimal packing involved (you’re only moving some of their things to the new living space) and no one has to cart items to donation centers or worry about selling things piecemeal.
What Problems Do The Elderly Face When They Have To Relocate?
The elderly often face a number of challenges when it comes to relocation.
These can include:
- difficulty in packing
- finding appropriate housing and setting up utilities
- physical limitations
- mobility issues
- the inability to access necessary services such as those for transportation or medical care
- they may have trouble adjusting to their new environment due to cognitive decline caused by aging or other health conditions.
It’s important to ensure that your elderly family member is aware of all the potential challenges associated with moving so that you can make proactive decisions and take the necessary steps ahead of time for a successful transition.
Additionally, seniors may experience increased anxiety at the thought of having to move away from familiar surroundings and routines.
While my parents didn’t have any cognitive decline when they followed me across a few states after I relocated away from the family hub, the move was extremely stressful for them.
It took months before they had settled in enough to be comfortable in their new house, despite friendly neighbors and close proximity to shops and restaurants.
I think they had a “fish out of water” feeling because everything was new to them – new home, new friends, new stores, a new city, new surroundings. I was the only familiar thing they had, so they were very needy for awhile.
As a side note, moving can also be overwhelming because there are so many details to manage in a short amount of time.
How Do I Move My Elderly Parents?
Per the intro, let’s go over the steps for moving older adults out of their own homes and into a new location.
Find A Suitable Living Environment
We discussed where your senior parents can live in an earlier section. As a reminder, you could move in with them (or have another family member do it), hire a home health aide, move your parents to a smaller home, or move them to a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Each option has its pros and cons. Living with your senior parents is going to be very difficult for you, even if it is cost-effective.
Hiring a professional or moving your elderly parents into a nursing home is costly but will allow you to lead your life without the responsibility of caring for your parents.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Only you know which kind of living environment is suitable for your elderly parents and you.
Consider Hiring A Senior Move Manager
If you aren’t in the same city as your elderly parents (of even if you are), consider hiring a senior move manager.
A senior move manager is a professional who specializes in helping seniors downsize and move to a smaller home or retirement community.
The process of moving can be overwhelming even when you aren’t trying to clear out a family home and a lifetime of memorabilia!
A senior move manager can help older adults sort through their belongings, decide what to keep, and figure out the best way to sell or donate their unwanted items.
They can also help your parents pack up their belongings and make arrangements for movers.
In addition, seniors move managers often have a network of resources that they can refer their older clients to, such as elder care services and support groups.
As a result, they can provide an invaluable service to seniors who are facing a major life transition.
Determine Who Will Move What
If you decide that moving everything yourself is the best course of action for your elderly parents, then the next big decision is the moving process itself. Who will move their stuff?
You might decide to hire a professional moving company to do this, or you could rent a moving truck and have your family, friends, and neighbors help out.
Either way, you’ll have to pack all your senior parents’ things for them, as it seems unlikely that they can handle the rigors of packing themselves.
Our best advice? De-clutter the home first. Organize like items and be sure to label all the boxes.
Figure Out Transportation
The transportation in question was mentioned above.
Renting a moving truck is convenient and cost-effective, but you have to use foam or blankets to pack all the items and ensure they don’t move or get jostled during transport.
You’ll also have to unload everything, which can be a pain.
Hiring a transportation service will ensure your senior’s items will be packed correctly, but you will spend more money on the pros than you will by doing it yourself.
Ascertain Health Services
Will your elderly parents’ health services change? That depends on how far they’re moving.
If they’re moving a neighborhood over, then they might be able to keep the same doctors, nurses, aides, and pharmacies they always have.
However, for bigger moves, you’ll have to set up all these health services for your senior parents.
It’s best if you can do this before they move in so they don’t have to skip critical care as they get settled in.
Decorate The New Home
The most fun part of moving by far is decorating the new place!
Your parents may not be able to get physically involved with this task, but they will have lots of opinions about what should go where.
Since they’re the ones who are going to live in the new home, be sure to respect their opinions, even if it’s not what you would do with your own home.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Moving Elderly Parents?
Moving elderly parents can be an overwhelming and emotional task – for you and for them.
It’s important to remember that a move for someone who is older is more complicated than it would be for a younger adult.
That’s why it’s essential to plan ahead and take extra precautions when moving elderly parents.
Some common mistakes people make when moving elderly parents include:
1) Not getting professional help:
Moving companies can help pack and unpack belongings, as well as transport items safely. It’s important to use a reputable company that is familiar with the needs of seniors.
2) Forgetting about the emotional impact:
As much as the move is physical, it’s important to remember that the emotional impact can be just as significant. Recognize that your loved one may experience sadness or anxiety during this time. Make sure to provide plenty of support, both emotionally and physically.
3) Not having an emergency plan:
In case of a medical or other emergency, it’s important to have a backup plan in place. Make sure that there is someone available who can assist if necessary.
4) Not considering health and safety:
During the move, keep in mind the health and safety of your elderly parent. Make sure that there is a comfortable place to sit, and provide plenty of water breaks throughout the move.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to have someone available who can assist with any physical needs during the transition.
5) Not being organized:
It’s important to be organized during the move. Have a checklist (like the one that follows this section) to make sure that nothing is forgotten.
Also, take the time to label boxes accordingly for easy unpacking later on.
6) Not setting up the new home before your parent arrives:
If at all possible, set up the new place before your elderly parent gets there. Make sure everything is in place so that they don’t have to worry about it.
7) Not accounting for medications:
Make sure that all medications are accounted for and transported safely to their new home. Don’t forget to include any over-the-counter medications as well.
8) Failing to consider safety within the home:
9) Not allowing enough time for the move:
Moving is a stressful and lengthy process, so make sure you allow plenty of time to get everything done. Don’t forget to account for the time needed for packing up the old home, loading the truck and unpacking at the new destination.
What Should Be On A Moving Checklist?
Putting together a moving checklist before the big day is an important step. To wrap up, here are some items that should go on your senior’s moving checklist.
Eight weeks ahead of the move:
- Visit the new community your senior parents will be living in with them in tow
- If you plan on hiring professional movers, begin researching your options
- If you haven’t told your elderly parents yet that they’ve moving, now is the time
Seven weeks ahead of the move:
- If needed, rent a storage unit for your parents’ stuff until the move
- Begin gathering your moving crew
- Ask for estimates from professional moving companies if you think you’ll use one
Six weeks ahead of the move:
- If you’re going to use professional movers, it’s time to schedule their services
- Get in touch with your elderly parents’ health insurance provider to ensure their medical coverage will be ready and active by the time your parents are settled
- Order all the moving supplies you’ll need such as bubble wrap and boxes
Five weeks ahead of the move:
- Cancel any local memberships your senior parents have active unless they’re not moving that far
- If you plan to move appliances, then this is a good time to talk to an appliance service company and schedule their services for moving day
- Sell and/or donate any new or slightly used items your elderly parents are willing to give up
- Begin planning to pack and even begin some packing if you want to take it a little bit at a time
Four weeks ahead of the move:
- If others in your senior parents’ lives don’t yet know they’re moving, this is a good time to tell everyone
- Talk to the moving company (if you’re hiring one) and confirm all the details for moving day
- Continue packing or start if you haven’t yet
Three weeks ahead of the move:
- Update your senior parents’ mailing address so they can still get Medicare and social security benefits
- Transfer their utility services to the new home
- Forward all other mail
- Continue packing
Two weeks ahead of the move:
- Forward all your senior parents’ medical records to the new home
- Continue packing
One week ahead of the move:
- Begin to clean the old home
- Finish packing
- Finish cleaning the old home
- Direct the movers on where boxes go in the new home
- Clean at least one bathroom, the kitchen, and make one bed for each person who will be sleeping in the new home (so you don’t have to do it when you’re exhausted at the end of the moving day)
Moving elderly parents can be an arduous process, but if you decide it’s what’s best, then we hope the information in this guide helps you plan a successful move. Good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can moving cause confusion in the elderly?
Moving can cause confusion in the elderly, so it’s important to take extra time and care when helping your elderly parents move.
Make sure they understand the details of the move, such as why they are moving and what will happen once they get there. Have them involved in planning out their new living space so that it is familiar and comforting when they arrive.
Ask for help from family or friends if needed, especially if your parents have any physical or mental health issues that need additional attention or supervision during the move.
Finally, make sure you provide plenty of reassurance throughout the process and keep them informed about any changes along the way.