Parents Downsizing? A Guide to A Smooth Transition
If it’s time for your parents to downsize in Atlanta, it can be tough on the whole family. Baby boomers are the last generation of Americans that stayed in one place—so dealing with a move from a house that maintains decades of memories is hard for the entire family. But, there are some strategies for the best way to navigate the transition, so take heart and keep reading.
In a perfect world, you have been privy to your parents’ health care and finances for a few years before they scale down or move to a senior living community. If your world's not ideal and you do not know much about your parents’ matters, get informed on these two crucial items as soon as possible, and keep up to date moving forward. It would be very unfortunate to have a health or financial crisis and be entirely unaware as to their situation. Asking your parents what their financial picture looks like is hard, but being blindsided when you learn your dad's “best friend” is that Nigerian prince stuck in the Tokyo airport and has stolen all your parents’ money is tougher.
Have the dialogues when there is no urgency, and your mother doesn't feel like you are pushing her to move from her residence. The more you and your siblings discover over lunch, the better off you'll all be when you must make decisions quickly. Meet with their attorneys and doctors to make sure that you can assist in managing affairs if you need to and that you can obtain medical and health care records if there is an emergency. These two items are vitally important if you're more than a few hours away, as you may need to handle things remotely. HIPAA states that even if your mom's doctor was your third-grade t-ball buddy, without that paper trail, they can't provide you any information.
What to Take?
For many families, appointing one sibling to be the person in charge of legal problems is nothing compared to figuring out who is going to decide which items move to the new residence, what is given to charity, and which sibling keeps the family silver. Do not let this start a family rift, your parents are moving and are likely going to hand onto the china and silver. In any event, most downsizes come with a notable loss of space—going from a three or four-bedroom house to one or two bedrooms and one living space--so there's lots of items to go around.
Once your family has determined that downsizing is right for your parents, if they will be going to a senior community, there's typically a waiting period of a couple months before they actually make the move. Most communities remodel the units ahead of when a new resident moves in. If the prior resident had been there for many years, they might do a complete update—so you'll usually get things like new kitchen counters and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, and updated bathroom fixtures along with fresh paint and carpet. The time offers your parents time to grow accustomed to the idea of moving, especially if they are moving to a new area.
Get a copy of the floor plan of their new home or apartment. Some retirement communities will hand you not only a floor plan, but some peel-off furniture stickers so you can actually place the furniture and accessories. The stickers can be moved around the floor plan, so you can play around with it until you get it just right. This is a enormous help emotionally, understanding before you move any furniture what they can move with them and how it will take up the space. Surrounding themselves with familiar belongings and mementos can take some of the sting out of leaving home.
Leading up to Moving Day in Atlanta
Moving day for your parents will most likely be rough, no matter how prepared you are, and however much they're glad to move out of the house and not have the yard anymore. Here's a timeline to prepare for the big day, giving you about eight weeks to get ready.
Two Months Out
Employ a professional moving company. Work with your budget to determine if you want a full-service move, a la carte (select only certain services the movers do) or get a truck and do it yourself.
Think about if you'll require some storage, and where you want it to be. Many moving companies have storage options, which can be very convenient. Some people aren't sure what will really work in the new space and would like to have a few extra choices before they make the final determination. In addition, when college-age kids are present, some families prefer to hang on to old chairs and other items that will come in handy in first apartments.
Begin determining what they can take, which items you and your siblings will divvy up, and what to donate. However you opt to split up, you'll want to indicate what goes to whom. Various colored small sticky notes are a great way to sort things, so that the right belongings wind up arriving at the right destinations.
Work with your parents on what to give to charity--although the concept of a yard sale is inviting, if money is not an issue, you will likely do better donating most items and taking the write-off. If they have valuable things, ask a local antiques dealer to appraise them prior to donating. Some non-profits, like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, can even direct a truck to get your donated items. Call a few days or so out to arrange pick up.
One Month Out
Start clearing out cabinets, closets, the basement, garage, etc. If you have more stuff than energy, appoint a company to come clean out once you have moved everything that you want out of the house. This is well worth the charge, especially if you live out of town and your parents are having a difficult time with the move. You can also set up to have the moving company load up the household goods and personal things before the rest of the home is cleared out, sparing your mom and dad from viewing their residence looking empty and lonely.
If you're doing your own packing, buy good-quality packing supplies. The moving company will carry the best quality at the lowest cost and can offer packing tips. Again, pull out the sticky notes for the boxes or have a plan for keeping them in order. If all of the siblings are closeby, it's easy to bring over some big bins and leave a couple hours later with old yearbooks and diving trophies all packed up in the car. That is most of the time not the case, so as you pack up the boxes, label them correctly and put them in the recipient's bedroom or stake out corners of the living room.
One Week Out
Double-check your dates with the moving company, both for the move to the new home and moving to storage. If you're not positive how much storage you will require, they can assist you in calculating, you will most likely actually need twice the space you think.
Make sure you have discussed everyone’s roles for moving day. Have one sibling, grandchild or friend accompany your parents out for breakfast, and then on to the new house. You or a sibling stay behind to handle the movers. Mitigate as much anxiety as you are able to that morning, so when the truck pulls up your parents are not tired and anxious. Help them get unpacked and settled, and do not be surprised if they have a dinner invitation already—they are the new kids on the block and everyone will want to meet them.
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