“Where were you two years ago when I had to move my mother to assisted living?!!!”
We hear that question too many times. I wish we could get the word out that there is help for seniors who need to relocate and downsize.
Let me paraphrase, the story I heard from B. Carlson, the most recent person to ask me that question.
A couple of Thanksgivings ago, my sisters and I realized that things weren’t going very well for my mom. The old house was too big for her to care for and she couldn’t climb the stairs very well. We were all afraid that she might fall like her sister had and end up bedridden for the rest of her life.
She agreed to move to a local assisted living place where some of her neighbors already lived. That was the easy part, getting her to agree to move some place else. I was between jobs, so I had the time to help her move. I’ve moved myself and I’ve helped other people move.
How hard could it be? Ha-ha-ha! What a dumb question; but I didn’t know any better. I went out and bought some boxes for packing. I asked my mom did she want to take this and did she want to take that, and the answer was usually she wanted to take pretty much everything. It’s been years since I moved and the last time I did I could fit almost everything in a couple of pickup loads. When I ran out of boxes, we had packed enough to fill more than two pickups and that didn’t include any furniture yet.
I tried to get my mom to let go of things, but she wanted to take everything because she wasn’t sure what would look right at the new place. When the movers came, we weren’t really ready, but she had to move then, because someone had already bought the house and they wanted to move in right away.
I was stressed out and losing patience. My mom was getting more stubborn about taking everything, because everything held an important memory. She wanted to tell me all the stories and I just wanted her to hurry up and make decisions.
Moving day was a disaster. There were way too many boxes to fit in the apartment. The facility manager came down to tell us that we couldn’t leave them in the hallway because of fire codes. So the movers had to pile them all into big stacks in the living room. When they were done, you couldn’t even see out of the sliding glass door. Then we couldn’t find my mother’s favorite pillow. She has to have that pillow so her shoulder didn’t act up.
When I heard Katie at the meeting last week, describing how she specializes in senior moving, all I could think of was “Where the heck were you two years ago?”
Ms. Carlson did get things worked out with her mother in the end. Ms. Carlson’s mother managed to sleep on a couple of smaller pillows for one night without re-injuring her shoulder. The ballerina’s leg was glued back with Superglue and you couldn’t see the seam unless you looked up her tutu.
But I understand completely how surprisingly different moving a senior is from just a regular move. I had a similar experience when I had to move my mother back before I started Moving Forward. The difference isn’t that obvious until you are in the middle of the project and running into all kinds of unexpected problems. In a regular move, you usually don’t have nearly as much accumulated in the home to sort through. In a regular move, the person who is moving probably hasn’t lived in the home for decades, so it isn’t such an emotional farewell. And in a regular move you don’t have the complication of health issues.
When you are relocating an elderly adult, they are likely to be in fragile health, the emotional impact of the move can be huge and the quantity of things to sort through is enormous. It’s much harder and there is less margin for error and less control in the decision-making.
Like Ms. Carlson said, “I coulda, woulda, shoulda … and next time I will! I’m not going through that again. When my in-laws need help moving, I’m calling someone who knows the easy way to help relocate a senior.”
Spread the word. Tell your friends and neighbors that there is a service to help with the challenge of helping a senior move. Families don’t usually have time to research resources in the middle of a crisis. They need to know that Moving Forward is standing by to help their senior members move before any crisis occurs. Knowing where to turn for help can make all of the difference.