Specialized Moving Services Ease Transitions to Senior Living Communities


When an elderly parent transitions from their home to assisted living, independent living, a nursing home or a relative’s home, it can be a stressful experience. Mary Jo Zeller, a senior move manager at Gero Solutions in Chicago, says this move is a major life event. “It’s as monumental as getting married or having a baby, but emotionally, it is more akin to grieving a loss.”

In addition to difficult emotions, the senior and their family members face a whole host of challenges. What can they bring to their new home? What do they leave behind? What happens to belongings they can’t bring? How should they prepare?

Senior move managers can help the entire family work through these questions and handle all details associated with planning and implementing the move.

A Caregiver’s Experience

Moving my parents and my in-laws into senior living and cleaning out their respective apartments was a serious challenge. I hate to think how much more difficult it would have been if they hadn’t downsized from larger family homes to more reasonably sized apartments years before any of them needed nursing home care.

They had already weeded out many of their belongings in the first move, but there was still so much to be done. Each of my loved ones made their last moves to a nursing home, which meant there was very limited space for furniture. We donated good furnishings to charity, because 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. Such is the nature of emotional moving.

What Do Senior Move Managers Do?

Senior move managers specialize in organizing, downsizing and packing up an elder’s current residence and helping set up their new home. Relocating is a multi-faceted and emotional process, and these professionals are trained to help elders and their family members through it all.

Services provided typically include:

  • Organizing, sorting and downsizing
  • Creating customized floor plans for the new home so seniors can visualize where their belongings will fit
  • Arranging auctions, estate sales, buy-outs, consignment, donation, or a combination of these options to dispose of unwanted items
  • Interviewing, scheduling and overseeing the movers
  • Arranging shipment and storage of property
  • Supervising professional packing
  • Unpacking and setting up the new home
  • Related services, such as cleaning, waste removal, shopping, assisting with selection of a realtor and helping prepare the home to be sold

Families can mix and match any of these services. For example, they may need a move manager’s help with downsizing and selling excess furniture and unwanted belongings but plan on doing the actual packing and moving themselves. The cost of working with a senior move manager varies, depending on the extent of the services needed.

A Third Party Can Help with Emotional Decisions

So, why not just call a local moving company? Senior move managers offer crucial emotional support in addition to logistical services. Two of the biggest hurdles for seniors facing a move are fear of the unknown and a loss of control. Often, this manifests as resistance, Zeller says. Mom might say, “I’m not moving if I can’t take my dining room table.” Elders can also become immobilized by the overwhelming task of sorting through years of memories, boxes, and paperwork. A move manager can help them find a starting place and work with them to devise a plan of attack.

Elders aren’t the only ones who are attached to their belongings. Family members may offer to help with the move, but they can find it challenging to let go of objects and furnishings that are associated with childhood memories. These sentimental feelings can put even more strain on a senior. Bringing in a third party who is trained to provide gentle, objective guidance throughout the process relieves adult children of this responsibility and simplifies decision-making for elders.

Move managers fully understand the feelings involved because many of these professionals have backgrounds in related elder care fields, such as senior living, gerontology, social work and health care. Yes, you pay for this tenderhearted experience, but it can be worth it.

How to Find a Senior Move Manager

The National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) accredits these professionals, and consumers can search for a local move manager on the NASMM website. Be sure to ask for references who can speak to their effectiveness with elders. For extra insurance, you may want to check with the Better Business Bureau as well. Arrange an initial consultation to inquire about specific services they provide and see if their personality is a good fit with the senior. This rapport can go a long way.

A professional senior mover won’t come cheap, but it’s likely to be cheaper than the emotional toll moving takes on all involved. It’s certainly something to consider during this difficult transition. If you are free from overseeing all aspects of a loved one’s move, you will have more energy to visit and help them settle into their new home.

Carol Bradley Bursack

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

Minding Our Elders

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It's great to hear about such organizations. They are NEEDED! When the time came for my parents to move to a facility, they dug their heels in and refused. Opinions of outsiders eventually helped convince them that it was the right thing to do. Somehow the power of being a blood relative works to your disadvantage in this situation!
My brother and I are having a problem with mom. We have a retirement home that she can move to tomorrow but she said she needs to think about it. She has the starting of dementia and she is now calling the police if I have not arrived by a certain time. Emotionally I am a basket case. We need to move her for safety reason and need to know how we can do it without causing severe emotional issues. Can anybody make any suggestions, please Vickie
My wonderful in-laws have come to a point that one has Alzheimer's and the other memory loss and digestive issues. Their children have come to the conclusion at this point that for their safety and well being they should move to either assisted living or to one of our homes as a transition to assisted living. However they cannot see or understand that they don't remember and think everything is status quo. When the subject is brought up, my Mother in-law goes into a tantrum about never leaving and that she take it as personal accusation that we think she isn't capable of taking care of her husband (Which no one has said anything of kind). She is the one with Alzheimer's. They wont leave their home even for a weekend vacation. If they stay it is just a matter of time that something serious will happen. Does anyone have suggestions on assisting them to seeing that it is time, they would be living more actively, socially, comfortably, worry free of daily up keep of their home. For just these words and imploring don't work and as kind as we are Mom takes a hostile attitude. (I understand that this is the Alzheimer's, for this isn't the way she use to be).