One of my relatives is making a long distance move sometime this fall from about a 10 hour drive away now to closer to us, for career purposes. My father and I both want to help, within our limitations.

We would meet the family at the new home and help with unpacking, sorting, putting things away, etc.

I can lift and move some things but am more concerned about finding ways in which my father can participate.

He can lift things (clothing, etc.), could help watching the children while the family is unpacking, but his skill is in woodworking, mechanical, etc. I'm going to have him help me disassemble furniture which I'll be donating, and he can supervise reassembly at the new abode.

He has an innate instinct for knowing how to disassemble and put things together (designed and built a beautiful free standing butcher block kitchen cupboard arrangement) so he would excel if I can think of other unpacking and assembly projects along that line.

He uses a walker sometimes (when I nag him) but can walk without one although he can't carry anything heavy.

It's very important to me, and I know to him, to be able to feel useful in helping our relatives.

Any suggestions on how he can help, w/i his limitations?

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Thanks so much to each of you for your suggestions. I've been giving the issue a lot of thought, with your help, and now have some great ideas.

1. I never even thought of the children or their role; they would be the great grandchildren, with whom we haven't had much contact because of the extensive distance between us and because traveling is too tiring for both of us.

I'm sure we still have some children's books that Dad could read to the children; we also have some board games including checkers, Chinese checkers and dominoes that Dad could play with the kids. Or they can just sit and pet the itty bitty Chihuahua they have.

Another thought which I'll ask my niece about is creating children's collages for book covers or boxes for their toys. I mentioned elsewhere that I've been using high quality garden photos to make collages of flowers for notebook covers. I also made one of WWII planes to cover a medical box for Dad; it sits right next to his favorite chair so everything is right at hand and he can see his favorite planes whenever he looks at it.

For the kids, baby animals or family photos might be appropriate.

Or they can just talk and get acquainted. I realize now the need to keep the little ones occupied during moving time.

2. Food. Dad used to make some fantastic jellos. I never cared for jello as it's just a lot of sugar to me, but other folks liked his creations. In fact one year he made and distributed about a dozen fruitcakes to his friends. It's probably easier for him to make something he's made for years, and the kids can help by learning how to measure ingredients, etc. - with the jellos, it's also a timed process as each layer sets up, so they can spend those intervals getting more acquainted and reading, or the kids can just show Dad their toys.

It also might be safer to minimize the amount of cooking with a gas stove if Dad’s still on oxygen.

In addition, my niece will be midway in her pregnancy by the time they move, so she and Dad can work together with the children. That would be a good bonding time for Dad and my niece.

Dad can't do any cooking in his home b/c the stove hasn't worked for a few years, and since he gets Meals on Wheels, he hasn't seen the need to replace it. But he could make jellos for delivery to the family as they settle in following the move.

3. The Move. Most likely the family will move themselves with the help of some burly friends with trucks. Since they're at the far end of the UP, we won't be going to help them pack, but will just meet them when they move down to the Lower Peninsula.

4. Unpacking. The idea of itemizing boxes, etc. is a good one. Dad and the kids can locate specific boxes and unpack things that are needed right away - another joint Great Grandfather and Great Grandchildren effort - more bonding. And my niece can direct which boxes she wants unpacked first.

Dad would also love to be in charge and have a clipboard to help organize the unpacking process.

Dad does have a 2-wheeled cart; the kids can help unpack the boxes, sorting towels and other lightweight things, Dad can push the cart and the kids can do the bending to pick up and put away the towels and other things.

5. "Guy stuff." My niece has some storage cubes that she plans to disassemble for easier transport. There are several of them that will need to be reassembled. Dad's agreed to handle this project, so he'll enjoy packing up his drills and bits and squares and handling that project. The kids could even hold the sides as he screws them together, and I'm sure he'd like to explain to them what the tools are that he'll be using.

There's a possibility I still have some furniture from my sister, and that would be welcomed as my niece and my sister were very close. If I do have furniture, it'll be disassembled to the extent possible so it can be transported in my car and avoid the expenditure of time and cost of a large truck trip down to my house to pick up the furniture.

I don't know if Dad can assemble the table by himself. The legs curve out from a central base, so the table has to be assembled upside down while literally sitting on it or the floor to reattach the legs and wiggling between the curved legs. He might need some assistance getting up, but there will be adults there to help him. He could instruct, though.

What I think he also can do is discuss with my niece's husband what tools might be needed for their new abode, make arrangements to check his own stock, and we'll make another trip up with (very likely) my trunk filled with drills, screws, nails, and who knows what.

No trailers full of stuff, though - I'm not comfortable hauling a trailer!

6. More guy stuff! Dad has an excellent sense of organization and created specific spaces in his 24' x 24' shed that he built mostly by himself, so arranging a new garage or shed will be right up his alley.

Fix-it stuff is another good idea; there are typically lots of little things to be taken care of when someone moves in, especially with a baby on the way. Dad can take an inventory, make notes and sketches, and then address them on a return visit. In fact, some of the tasks suggested can be spread out over visits so each is another opportunity for him to feel needed.

Since they'll be within a few hours' driving distance now, I expect there will be a lot more visits, especially after baby #3 arrives and the family is settled enough to receive visitors.

Dad would LOVE to do a safety check; he's done so much over the years - plumbing, electrical, concrete work, insulation, creating a false ceiling in his own work shed, even remodeling a cottage after a tenant's son accidentally set it on fire.

He can do an inspection and recommend more smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, safety rails for the children and Chihuahua, etc. He'll love that.

8. Cooperation: I know my niece and her husband will be on board with the plan to integrate Dad.

When I posted this request yesterday, my options for involving Dad in a meaningful way seemed quite limited, but thanks to your suggestions I now have enough ideas for not just moving in and unloading, but for several follow-on visits as well.

In fact, bringing his tools every time we visit might become standard practice.

Thanks again, so very much, for each of your suggestions!
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Are there "Guy Things" to be carried, sorted, or set up? If everyone is aware and cooperative with your Dads needs and limitations, I think you have to look at a "Make Work" project for Dad. Moving is lots of work and stressful. If everyone is aware of Dads need and desire to help set aside some very light loads for him to carry. Can he put the table together? Arrange some tools in the garage? Are there some minor fix it tasks to be done in the new place?

For lack of a better comparison, how do you keep kids occupied and involved on some level....This is very similar.
Helpful Answer (2)

Dear Garden - how sweet of you to create a part for your dad in this play. It sounds like you have it covered. I agree with Maggie. I stopped after 'watching the children'. Keeping them busy and out from underfoot will be a challenge. I hope you have some ideas to keep THEM busy. I also like the chile idea. While everyone is working up an appetite; he can be fixing a big pot of something that everyone can grab a bowl from at different times - when the appetite strikes. But I'm sure he'll want to do 'what he does best' : fix things :) So, of course, ask that he prepare a nice tool box (that will keep him busy right there) and ask him to do a 'safety check' of the new place... loose steps/boards, missing electrical outlet plates, etc. Happy trails :)
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GardenArtist, will your relative who is moving be moving him/herself or using professional movers to pack and delivery?

If the relative is moving him/herself and/or packing his/her own items, have him/her write down each item that is going into what box and label the box [ie: kitchen].... now give Dad a clipboard with a list of all the items in the box so as you and others are unpacking, Dad can mark off that said items. Make Dad look official, maybe a reflective or bright color vest so he can be easily spotted. Don't know if he would be bored with that or not, after awhile.

I am trying to think what would my Dad do as he's a fix-it type of guy, too. Have Dad bring some of his tools and supplies.... electric drill w/bits, screws, nails, level, faucet washers, light bulbs, and whatever else Dad might think he would need in case something needs fixing. Careful, he might want to bring a trailer full of stuff :)
Helpful Answer (2)

I agree with helping with the kids. He could read to them if they are preschool age, or play cards or board games if they are a little older. As far as other help, could you find some type of cart that he could use to help move things from room to room? He could transport a box of towels and put them in the appropriate closet, or a box of dishes or pots and pans into the kitchen. My dad (stroke victim) had a wheeled two shelf thing with handles that he used to carry food to the table and dishes back to the sink, as well as folded laundry to the bedroom. The added advantage of the cart is that it provides stability like a walker. I agree that he should not be lifting or carrying heavy boxes.
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I can't think of ANYTHING more helpful than watching the kids, frankly. Combining that with his assembly/disassembly skills and involving the kids in THAT seems perfect. Someone dropping them at the movie theater. Why not?

Does he have a great chili recipe or anything along those lines? Put him to work BEFORE the move getting a few easy suppers ready for them. You and he might do that together, then give him all the credit.

Personally, I wouldn't let him lift and carry much at all. He'll be in a strange place...likely to tire easily...a broken hip or arm would be devastating. Let the younger people do that.

I think you'll see plenty he can help with that you'll call on the fly. But I sure wouldn't discount keeping the kids occupied and out of the way. That's HUGE.
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