Downsizing is all the rage these days, with people like popular author and consultant Marie Kondo and others extolling the virtues of decluttering and organizing to have a more serene and peaceful life. But not everyone downsizes for that reason. Life changes and transitions often necessitate reducing living space and the items in it.
Having the time and desire to downsize is one thing, but doing it under pressure is another. Downsizing usually occurs under two conditions: One is that you decide, as part of estate and long-range planning, to reduce the number of items you have to make it easier as you get older. The other reason to downsize is in advance of a move to a smaller place.
Getting rid of stuff can be highly stressful and emotional for many people, especially older adults who have lived in one house for many years. There are generally two types of people and everyone in between. The who person hates clutter and spends their time ridding themselves of unwanted or needed items. Then there is the person who “collects” things throughout their lifetime and has great difficulty letting things go.
Downsizing rarely occurs without an accompanying financial and environmental transition that adds additional stress. You can ensure a successful experience by having a plan and navigating the emotional journey with compassion and preparation. We will examine some of the everyday situations that necessitate downsizing and tips and tricks to downsize the family home.
Hopefully, as part of your long-range planning for your loved one, you have factored in different scenarios for care. The financial cost of aging is more than most people think. Although family members provide most caregiving support in the United States, reduced or lost employment can significantly impact your ability to continue to provide that home care.
Most families eventually consider senior living, an option that assumes many of the care duties provided by family members - for a price. Hence, downsizing is almost inevitable. It is not unusual for a parent or grandparent to have lived in the same home for many years, sometimes decades.
A home is a significant asset from a financial standpoint if no mortgage is attached. Downsizing and selling the family home to finance senior living makes sense. Let's look at some of the possible scenarios and how to tackle downsizing.
Independent housing can make sense if your loved one is not quite ready for assisted living but wants the social opportunities and ease of senior living. There are far more traditional assisted living communities than independent, but independent senior living is catching up. Options include independent attached to assisted living, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), apartment complexes and co-housing.
In most cases, but not all, independent senior living will have more space with a full kitchen, a living room and even a sitting room. But, even with the extra space, squeezing a two- or three- or more bedroom home into an apartment is not possible. Some considerations:
Assisted living is a unique category due to the emotional impact of moving to a setting where more care is needed. Also, the living space could be quite a bit smaller than independent living. Depending on finances, you may even have to opt for a studio.
Many families skip the step of independent living and go straight from the family home to assisted living facilities. The critical part of this process is accepting this possibility early on. If you wait for a crisis, for example, your loved one breaks a hip, you will be under enormous stress to find a placement, downsize the home and sell it. So, how do you prepare for something that may or may not happen?
Start downsizing early. You may encounter significant resistance to this idea. If you do, don't fight it. It isn't worth ruining your relationship over eliminating items in the family home. Some older adults want to know that things are going to family members, and if they are willing, arrange for the family to take what they want.
Tour assisted living communities before you need one. Identify your top three to have some options if you need an assisted living unit in a hurry. Make sure you know the assisted living costs and pricing of apartments; the bigger the apartment, the higher the cost.
Moving to assisted living can mean a loss of independence and control for many older adults. Having to downsize along with such an emotional transition can be overwhelming. The only way of exerting control is by resisting and getting rid of long-held memories and attachments. Some suggestions on how to handle downsizing:
It isn't possible to bring everything your loved one may want. For one thing, too much stuff in a new apartment is a fall risk. At some point, you may have to put your foot down (kindly) if things get out of control.
Not every downsizing situation is the same. Often there are complicating circumstances that entail a nuanced and delicate approach. The two main complicating situations are dementia and hoarding.
Alzheimer's disease and dementia are progressive diseases that can cause memory and judgment problems. Downsizing for someone with dementia can be a challenge. Your loved one may not remember that they are moving and could get very upset and agitated. They may not want you moving or even touching their things.
What should you do in this situation? There are no easy answers, but some family members decide to take care of the downsizing with their loved one out of the home. So, one option is to take only items and furniture that are necessary to the new location and move your loved one with a plan to bring the rest later. Take care to select comforting items such as photographs and favorite articles of clothing.
Hoarding might be one of the most challenging conditions to cope with when you are attempting to downsize. Every single item could elicit anger. This situation will be complicated, but you can do it. Consider these ideas:
Regardless of place, intent or timing, the journey for a loved one will be exceptionally emotional. As a caring family member, you will understandably be immersed in the details of downsizing and moving, but remember that your mindful presence is a necessary part of the process. Take time to stop and listen to your loved one's fears, concerns and anxieties.
As the family member primarily responsible for downsizing a family home, you may be surprised at how exhausting the process is. And the family home has memories for you as well. Here are some tips and tricks to stay healthy and energized through the process.
There are cases where a loved one remains in their home until they die. In other scenarios, increasing care needs means a move to senior living. In either scenario, you will end up downsizing your family's home.
Approach this challenging journey with a calm, flexible and compassionate attitude. And remember to provide emotional support to your loved one after the move.
Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.