Cleaning out the apartments of my parents and my in-laws was tough. I hate to think how much tougher it would have been if they hadn't made the move from their houses to apartments earlier, as they had already weeded out many of their belongings.
Even so, there was so much to be done. We donated good furnishings to charity, as we didn't have the time and emotional energy to go through an auction. As a family, we took home more items than we should have simply because no one wanted to see the things go. Then, of course, we had to get rid of the stuff later.
Such is the nature of emotional moving. Each of my loved one's last moves was to a nursing home, where there was limited space for furniture. Many of their personal belongings were stored at my house so I could change out their seasonal items and have as many familiar objects around them as possible.
Stripping Belongings Down to Bare Bones
Understandably, people tend to groan when they think about the difficulty of these moves. First, of course, the elder must part with years - perhaps decades - of belongings. Many of our parents were great "savers." They grew up in the depression and they have a strong feeling that they may need, um, that cracked mixing bowl, one day. And why wouldn't they feel this way? Many lived close to the edge of starvation during the Dirty Thirties. These experiences colored their whole life.
Entrepreneurs See a Need
Entrepreneurs looking for a way to make a living, and perhaps deliver a useful service, have stepped up to fill a gap few knew existed 20 years ago. Perhaps this is because of the busy-ness of our current lifestyles, with the sandwich generation working their own jobs and raising families. It can take weeks to go through an elder's home and help them prepare for a move. Many people just can't spare the time away from their jobs.
However, other reasons for hiring help with elder moves can be even more dominant than lack of time. We adult children are often attached to some of our parent's belongings since many of these objects represent our childhoods. We don't actually want the objects – we'd just like to know they are at Mom and Dad's house. Sometimes it's hard to grow up.
Third Party Can Help Dilute Emotional Decisions
By hiring a business with people trained to help elders through the emotional part of moving, we avoid getting in our own way and in our parents' way. We avoid some of the agony of our own letting go, since we aren't witnessing the object-by-object decision making, and we avoid watching our parents go through this often painful process.
Also, people outside the family can be effective simply because they can look at the task from an unemotional view. So, why not just call the local moving company? Well, people who want to help seniors move are generally those who enjoy elders. Some may have worked in related fields, such as nursing homes or assisted living centers. Others helped their own parents or grandparents go through such a move and they felt they would be good at it.
They understand the emotional aspects of these transitional moves, so senior move specialists have skills that not every mover has. Yes, you pay for this tender-hearted experience, but it can be worth it.
What Do Senior Move Managers Do?
The National Association of Senior Move Managers Web site can give you a good overview of what these senior move specialists can do. Not all of them cover all of the areas listed, so when you find such a business in your elders' community, you'll want to ask what services they provide.
However, the businesses I have looked at specialize in most of the areas listed by the NASMM site:
- Organizing, sorting and downsizing
- Customized floor plans for the new home so seniors can visualize where their belongings will fit
- Arranging for the profitable disposal of unwanted items through auction, estate sale, buy-out, consignment, donation, or a combination of the above
- Interviewing, scheduling and overseeing the actual movers, whether it's their own company or another
- Arranging shipments and storage
- Supervising professional packing
- Unpacking and setting up the new home and helping the elder decide where they want their belongings
- Related services, such as cleaning, waste removal, shopping, senior escort, assisting with selection of a realtor and helping prepare the home to be sold are often offered by these businesses or they can give referrals.
For me, a good transitional mover will need the right personality. He or she will stand back and let the elder reminisce as objects are packed. Senior movers will sympathize, but not dissolve into tears as a family member might do. They will be gentle, but firm as well. They will kindly help the elder through the transition.
I would ask for references, as I advise anyone to do with elder services. Obviously, the company should be bonded and insured. But they should have references who can speak to their effectiveness with elders. After all, that is their claim to fame.
Ask for the names of families they have helped move and check the references. Just for extra insurance, you may want to check with the Better Business Bureau as well. A good professional senior mover won't come cheap, but it's likely to be cheaper than a nervous breakdown on your part.
At any rate, it's certainly something to consider during this difficult transition. If you are freed from actively moving your parents from their home, you will have more energy to give them as they settle into their new home. That can be worth a great deal.