How To Help Mom And Dad Downsize
How To Help Mom And Dad Downsize
How do you help Mom and Dad downsize? They changed your diapers, fed you, cared for your boo-boos, and guided you through life. Now it’s time for them to downsize and move to a smaller home and you want to help. But, remember the times you pushed them away as a child, teen, or adult saying, “I can do it myself”? They may be doing the same thing to you now. How do you find that sweet spot between respecting their wishes and still helping them?
The Starting Point – Communication
Isn’t the starting point always communication? As much as possible, start this conversation several years before it’s time to downsize. Start with light conversations that involve more listening on your part than advising. How do they see their future unfolding? As additional conversations ensue, discuss what will be needed to accomplish their desires. If they want to stay in their home, will it need to be retrofitted with ramps, bars, and other equipment to make it safer? Will they be able to live entirely on the first floor in order to avoid stairs? If moving is best, do they need to get on a waiting list? Are these plans financially possible? Maybe you feel strongly that their current home is too much for them but they don’t see it that way. Now is not the time to express negativity about their plans rather to plant seeds and have conversations. After several conversations, you can gently affirm that you understand their plans but open the discussion as to what Plan B and Plan C might look like if their first choice has challenges when the time comes.
While you’re talking, try to discover what they think makes their house feel like their home. If it turns out they can stay in their current home but some serious de-cluttering needs to be done, make sure the things they value the most are kept. If they do need to move, try to include those things in the move. Neither their current home or a new home need to be magazine perfect–Mom and Dad just need to be comfortable and have room to move about safely. It’s OK to sacrifice decorating aesthetics and keep a stained, overstuffed chair if it’s important to them.
Recognizing Loss/Looking Forward To New Joys
Although your parents may be losing some of their physical and cognitive abilities, they are still adults and should be respected as such. Never talk down to them or about them behind their backs. They may want to make living arrangement choices that you think aren’t good for them. Make your case and then listen to their response. Once again, really listen! Are there points of compromise? Is it possible to follow their plan knowing you can pivot later if it doesn’t work as they hope?
Let them express their feelings of grief about what they’re losing. If they’re downsizing and moving to a new location, they’re losing their house, some possessions, and it may even feel like they’re losing their memories. They may be giving up driving too. It can be easier to understand a person grieving the loss of a spouse than the loss of a way of life. But they both hurt, they’re both hard, and they both take time to grieve. It’s fine to point out what they’re gaining in a new living situation but don’t rush past the difficult feelings by ignoring them and hurrying to point out the good things that come with a move. They may indeed be good things, but that may not make up for what Mom and Dad feel they are losing.
What If We Hit A Roadblock?
If you and your folks are talking about the next phase and you find that feelings are being hurt, you’re not moving forward, or it just doesn’t seem to be working, it’s time to bring in a third party. Unumbled is able to listen to both sides, identify points where you may be talking past each other, and suggest compromises that perhaps neither of you have thought of. It’s important to keep the good relationship you have with Mom and Dad and we’re here to help with that. We can even help formulate a de-cluttering, packing, and moving strategy to take the pressure off.
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