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Downsizing your Senior Parents

Submitted by on March 16, 2015 – 12:30 pmNo Comment

Downsizing Your Senior Parents

Helping Your Elderly Parents Downsize

by Lorraine Brock

As families grow and change, children who have been taken care of will one day be faced with the daunting task of downsizing their parents’ lives. It may be that they have already experienced this phase by helping with the move of grandparents into their home or a senior community. Without any advance preparation or planning, it can be a shock to a child to have to take on the role of a parent to a senior in transition. Life must continue, but with the added responsibility of downsizing the physical, financial, and emotional lives of people you know and love. The time to work on the transition is now.
I want to offer some suggestions on how adult children can help ease the emotional stress that comes with downsizing before a health or financial crisis occurs.

Downsizing from a large home to a senior community or bringing your parents into your home will demand your time and energy. In the process, your home may become cluttered as you bring in furniture, sentimental items, paperwork, and photos that no one made decisions about in the past. Although you love your parents, you may resent the added workload and battles over what to keep and what to let go.

As we age, we often have a tighter hold on items that have sweet memories or a perceived monetary value. Your parents may have gifts and keepsakes that were given to them as an expression of love from a special person in their lives. Along with these sentimental items are things that while once expensive, may now be only worth pennies on the dollar. Just because something is old does not make it valuable. Letting go of an accumulation in one’s life often feels like the beginning of the end, and with that comes resistance.

To begin the process of downsizing, suggest that your parent start gathering items they wish to give to their children. If they do not want to give you the items yet, have your parents make notes about the history of each item in a simple Word document or notebook. In addition, use a color code for each child, and attach a sticker to the underside of the item with a number that matches the digital or handwritten list. This designates the recipient of the item and information about it that may not be obvious. When my mom passed away she left notes inside of items mentioning who gave it to her and the occasion. One example was her silver flatware. She noted that my dad purchased this for her while he was in Korea in the Navy as an anniversary gift. Another item was mom’s favorite cutting knife where she passed on information about the lifetime warranty.

Often a bigger challenge than physical items are the boxes and boxes of paperwork saved from a lifetime of purchases, health issues, and important events. Take the time now to clean out files and simplify filing systems so when the time arises, you or a sibling will be able to help with bills, insurance, or completing plans made by your parents. In many cases a health issue may put your parents in a position of being unable to carry out normal business and you need to take temporary measures. It is a good idea to create an urgent file of documents that will be needed at a moment’s notice including power of attorney, access to funds to fulfill debts, insurance policies, and medical records. If they have not done so, encourage your parents to complete their Will, Trust, Living Will, Power of Attorney, and other important legal documents that pertain to their desired lifestyle. The remaining papers that must be kept for tax and estate purposes should be stored in labelled boxes.

Family photos are usually passed down throughout generations, too often in boxes with little information on dates, people, or locations. We love to look at them and promise ourselves we will talk to family to gather details and get them ready for our children to enjoy.  Start now by scheduling regular sessions with your parents to make notes on photos or in albums or encourage them to handle it a little at a time on their own. I cannot begin to tell you how many photos get tossed when no one knows who is in the picture.

Now is the best time to talk with your parents about the details of family property, finances, medications taken, secret places money might be kept, and little known quirks about their car or home.

Keep in mind that getting prepared for downsizing is rarely an easy process, but the best defense against emotional and financial chaos is preparation.

Lorraine Brock is a professional organizer, family coach, speaker, and founder and owner of Get Organized! Get Organized! is a professional organizing company in the Dallas, Texas area. Get Organized! specializes in organizing and de-cluttering homes as well as implementing systems in the home for better family management. A popular media guest, Lorraine has appeared on Dallas’ two top morning television shows: Good Morning Texas and Good Day Fox, and has been featured on various radio outlets. She has been hallmarked in many local, regional, and national print and online magazines, such as the Dallas Morning News, The North Texas Kids Magazine, SheKnows.com, and Daily Candy Kids. To get more information about Lorraine, visit www.GetOrganized.ws.  You can connect with Get Organized! on Facebook, follow Get Organized! on Twitter and connect with Lorraine Brock on LinkedIn.

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