Everyone knows how stressful it can be to move to a new home. Now imagine that you have lived in your own home for decades and must now figure out how to pare down a lifetime of memories and experiences and downsize them into an assisted living home or senior apartment community or even move into the “grandparents’ suite” with your son and daughter-in-law. If you haven’t experienced this situation yet, it is possible you will at some point in the future. Helping your parent move out of the family home is likely to be stressful for all involved.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to afford expert help. Just as there are professional organizers and relocation managers, there are senior move managers who can walk you and your parent through the process of choosing a place to live, paring down their possessions, packing, and even transporting belongings to their new home. If your parent is moving into a community or assisted facility, they will likely have written guides available as well as professionals to answer any and all questions you have about the move. You can also ask friends and co-workers to share their advice and experiences moving their parents.

Keep these 4 things in mind as you plan your parent’s big move.

1. Involve Everyone

If you are a take-charge kind of person, the temptation will be strong to just make decisions and get things done. You need to remember that it is not you who are moving, it is your parents. You also need to keep in mind that the stuff in your parent’s home doesn’t just belong to them. It is part of the estate that you, your siblings, and other family will inherit someday. Have a process in place for deciding what objects will go with your parents, which will go into storage, and which might be handed out to other family members BEFORE you start designating things to be sold, donated, or discarded. This means making sure everyone in the family knows about the impending move and is included in the decision-making process.

2. Have a Plan

As with any major move, you need a clearly defined plan of attack and a timeline for each stage. Make sure your parent is aware of each step and understands what responsibilities you will be handling on their behalf. Figure out how much living and storage space will be available at the new place and make sure your parent understands what will and won’t fit in that space. While it is a good idea to pare down possessions ahead of a move, some parents will do better moving into the new space first and then deciding what stuff to let go of. Discuss these things as you formulate your plan so that you aren’t derailed mid-move.

3. Take Your Time

If your parent is like most, he or she will likely be downsizing into a living space that is a fraction of their current home. That means sorting through decades worth of possessions and making heart-rending choices. Make sure that they have time to make these decisions, and to recover from them. If possible, allow several months for the process rather than a few days or weeks, this gives everyone time to adjust and your parent time to come to terms with this major impending change in how they live.

4. Respect Their Decisions

This can be the most difficult part of the process for many children, especially when their parent has conditions that affect memory or cognitive ability. Even mentally sharp parents are going to make choices that baffle their kids. Items that seem trivial or useless may be imbued with memories and associations that make them invaluable to your parent, and those attachments may be too private or personal for your parent to share with you. Be prepared to respect their choice to keep items and don’t demand explanations. As long as the items will fit in the new home, it is your parent’s choice what to take with them.

There are many other things to take into consideration when helping your parent relocate, but if you keep these four things in mind, the rest will fall into place.

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