Downsizing your elderly parents can be a difficult job. As their adult child, you may find that this job falls on to you. Let’s take a look at some essential factors to take into consideration when helping your parents make the decision to transition into a smaller, more accessible living space.
It may be understandably hard to convince your parents that they even need to downsize. It is important not to put pressure on your parents as this can be counterproductive and result in behaviour that is counteracting with your goals. Safety and comfort should be the primary goal. The thought of downsizing can be an emotional one, there are undoubtedly many memories and factors that your parents can be associating with the home. Asking you for help may be something your parents aren’t used to; they may not want to burden you or feel as if they are. The shift in caretaking is a big one that takes time to get used to. Mom and Dad spent years taking care of you, this role reversal can feel strange and demeaning.
Life can be hectic, as adults, we all have a lot going on. From raising our own families to working on our careers, add on to that helping your parents with the stressful and work extensive task of downsizing may seem overwhelming. It is important to avoid taking a tough love attitude. Remember to think of your parents’ positions every step of the way.
Keep in mind tone. The tone of the conversation should be open and collaborative. An excellent way to get the ball rolling is to approach the topic gently. For example, instead of saying “Mom, we need to get organized. There’s way too much stuff you ever use.” You can say “My friends’ mother found a lot of things she didn’t even realize she had since organizing her home. If you’d like, I would love to help you do the same.” By using this approach, it comes across as your parents’ choice.
Make downsizing less daunting by breaking it up into small manageable tasks. You may want to focus on one room at a time or even one part of a room at a time. If you know your parents spend a lot of time in the kitchen and bedroom, but not as much time in the basement, you may want to start in the basement. The disruption of moving things around won’t be as visible and intrusive. You wouldn’t want to discourage your parents from this lengthy process by packing up their bedroom first. This process can take months, and you want to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible. It is recommended that you take plenty of well-deserved breaks. You can use this time as quality time with your parents, put on their favourite music and even invite other family members to come over and help.
Convincing others over to help may be an issue on its own. However, this may be a good time to assign and schedule tasks that you know align with their strengths. For example, if your brother is good at filing papers, that could be a specific task you ask him to help you with. A simple task that one is good at is far less daunting than a massive project such as organizing and packing up a whole house. As a best practice, you should have a designated box for valuable items such as jewellery and money, as well as a safe place when you keep things such as banking information and wills. During the process of downsizing, you are in an excellent position to get things organized from a financial standpoint. This may be the perfect time to organize and make important decisions about the future. Involving your siblings in these decisions may lead itself to the transition of help in other areas.
Downsizing is emotionally draining. This is a significant life change for yourself and your parents. It may be hard for you to say goodbye to your childhood home, and it may be hard for your parents to give up the house where they held so many important family milestones. Understanding both points of view and finding some middle ground is ideal. It’s okay to let your parents know how difficult this change is for you as well, this may even be a bonding experience where you can both find closure. Moving, in general, is stressful, but when you downsize you not only leave behind your home, you are also forced to part with a lot of your possessions. That means sorting and parting with memories. Remember to be understanding and be patient with your parents as you embark on this life-changing transition.
The Connecting Generations Team