It’s common knowledge that we as humans tend to accumulate stuff in our living space throughout our lives. The more the years go by, the more the piles of stuff seem to grow. Although a some of these items we keep have sentimental value, a lot of the stuff we tend to hoard really are things that we no longer need. Decluttering and organizing is a great way to free up the space in our lives! And for the elderly, it’s actually very important. Having things laying around or not in the best place can really increase the risks of falls and injuries to the elderly. Helping your aging loved one go through their belongings is a great way to bring up memories and to get rid of things that might be putting them at risk. When you are moving your loved one into an assisted living home, it’s the perfect time to do this! Here are some ways to help your aging relative to downsize and declutter.
Make sure that you are being patient and understanding.
It actually can be very hard for the elderly to go through and get rid of their old belongings. Not only does going through the loads of stuff feel overwhelming, but it actually can be a grieving process for them. Getting rid of items from your past is kind of like saying that you are shutting the door on one season of life, and needing to accept the next. This can be a scary thing for seniors to do. So make sure you are sensitive to their feelings as you help them go through their memories. Do not say things like “Why have you always kept this?” or “This is junk!”.
Have Keep, Toss, and Maybe boxes.
If your loved one is hesitant to get rid of something, don’t try to force them to. Just put it in a box that they can decide on later. Trying to force them to decide in the moment might aggravate them, and slow down the process even more. Just take a step back and say “I’ll put it in this box so that you can decide later if you want to keep or get rid of it.” This will help them feel like they have a sense of control over their lives. I also do not recommend just throwing something away when they aren’t looking. I have seen this happen before. It does not help the relationship between the aging parent and their child and it can lead to bitterness.
Suggest that they donate their items to people in need
This could be a good way to give your loved one some incentive to get rid of things. If your family member loves helping people, they might be more willing to part with their stuff if they know that it’s going to a family who is really in need.
Get the layout of their new room from the assisted living center ahead of time.
When you do this, you can figure out how much furniture and other items would be the best for your loved one to bring. It’s best to have the center of the room open, so that there won’t be any obstacles if they wake up in the night to go to the bathroom. Also use good organizational boxes to make sure everything has a place, whether it’s in the closet or their dressers. Also make sure to keep things off of the floor, that would be a fall hazard. Another way to help prevent falls is to put some sort of grippy tape and motion sensor lights near their bed. That way when they do get up at night, they can see where they are walking.
Have a special place where they can store sentimental memories.
This can be anything from a box in the closet to one of the drawers in their dresser. Wherever you decide to put this spot, make sure that it’s in a place where it’s easy for them to access. That way they can go through those memories whenever they would like. Having it to high can make easy to fall on them, and having it to low can make them lose their balance.
Above all, try to make the “going through” process fun and enjoyable. Make conversation with your loved one about memories as you come across them.