Posts Tagged ‘elder care’

We welcome Julie Henszey, guest blogger and owner of Peace of Mind Transitions to the Grief Center blog. Julie’s experience leads to some practical advice on a difficult topic. We hope you find value in her words.

Julie Henszey head shot

There comes a time for most of us when our parents’ house no longer meets their needs. At this juncture, adult children want to help their parents find the best solution. This typically then leads to the inevitably daunting task of clearing out and selling the house. It’s a lot to get your arms around.

There are some simple strategies we can employ that can make downsizing and transitioning easier both for us and for our parents.

1. Focus on the positive

Keep in mind all the benefits that our parent or parents will derive from the transition. For example, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities frequently open the door to greater social interaction, if not a much richer social life.

Seniors who live alone in their homes and face chronic health issues can become socially isolated. The weather, transportation issues, and low energy can lead to “staying in” rather than “going out.”

In community living situations, these issues are either reduced or mitigated all together. Daily activities are just a few steps away, as well as unlimited opportunity for conversation. In addition, these activities are usually strategically designed to use brainpower and fine motor skills, keeping the mind alert and healthy.

This time of life doesn’t have to be viewed as a period of “diminishing returns” for our parents, even with declining health. We can take it for what it is, bond with our parents as they embrace the new and unknown, and experience it all with gratitude.

2. Manage and enjoy the flood of emotions

When it comes time to clear out the house we likely grew up in, not only is the sheer amount of physical labor enormous, but it’s emotional.

So bring on the emotions. This is the opportunity to say goodbye to the family home in a way that has meaning and purpose. The process opens the door to reminiscing and celebrating all the good things, along with all the challenges, that have molded us and our family into what we are today.  Let all those emotions naturally ebb and flow and savor those that create some positive energy. Let any emotions that feel heavy ignite and then extinguish, like a match used to light a candle. Take it all in, smile at the memories, and don’t leave the Kleenex box in the car!

Some folks like to create a ceremonial moment, such as burying a box in the back yard containing a list of their favorite memories growing up and a few symbolic items. Other folks take snapshots and create a photo album using digital technology, ordering multiple copies to give to members of their family. We can do whatever makes us feel good without sapping our energy.

3. Break down clearing out the house into steps

If you break your project into four steps and create some deadlines, you’ll find it a bit more manageable, perhaps even a tad fun.

  • First, go through the house with your parents and any available, interested siblings and make a list of everything that someone might want to take into possession. Have a camera handy and take a photo of each item.
  • Secondly, share the inventory with family members. Hold a group discussion about how to best divvy up belongings among siblings and others and collaboratively create a system that feels fair to everyone.  One straight-forward method is to select items in rounds, letting each participant pick one item from the inventory during each round.
  • Third, have each sibling pick a deadline by which they will get all their chosen belongings from the house.
  • Finally, go through the remainder of items in the house and label them for donation, resale, or permanent disposal and then arrange for removal.

By creating some structure and deadlines, we gain assurance that the project will get done and we remove the stress. Tell family stories while you’re at the house and don’t rush through. Clear your calendar for a few Sundays. Leave your worries and tension at the door. Bring a bottle of wine or make spaghetti in the kitchen to eat with family on paper plates. Give yourself this gift of time.

Transitions don’t have to be hard. We can use a few simple strategies that will make the process go more smoothly and keep us feeling positive.  Embarking on the journey with some faith in how to navigate it makes all the difference in gaining peace of mind, both for yourself and for your parent.

Julie Henszey

Peace of Mind Transitions




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