We’re Not Aging Parents but We’re in the Middle of Moving

Moving Truck

I don’t know why I thought moving was a one-day undertaking. At minimum it takes one day to pack and one day for the mover to move what we’ve packet (or had someone pack for us). And countless days beforehand are spent in preparation.

As we experience this process I’m trying to look at it with two perspectives….

…. 1. ours. 2. that of an older person–unable to lift, walk back and forth a million times to move things to a place where they can easily be transported elsewhere–an older person perhaps with diminished eyesight and/or hearing.

There’s also the energy factor, mentioned in a previous post.  I don’t tire quickly; many older people would. Indeed some nights I feel like I’m pulling all-nighters like I did in college. It’s rather like peeling layers of an onion.  First the obvious, the macro: getting rid of unwanted stuff. And ultimately the fine tuning which may involve getting rid of wanted stuff that there’s no room for and/or has emotion tied to it.

Of course our move is planned, wanted, and exciting. Each day at least one person questions whether or not we’re sad to leave. I never like to answer honestly and say “no.” I guess that’s the counselor part of me not wanting to say anything that could make someone feel he or she is not that important to our relationship. But I feel wonderful adventures are ahead and I’m looking forward.

Aging parents may not have this feeling and clearly won’t if the move has been forced upon them….usually due to some failing body part or overanxious children. It must be difficult to look forward under circumstances that are out of their control.

Since I’m right in the middle of this move, I probably can’t completely, objectively process the situation and better understand my feelings until I’m a bit more removed–time-wise. But any way you look at it, it’s a strenuous undertaking requiring much thinking and prioritizing in addition to the physical part.

Understanding as much about what parents must go through–in this case what a move really involves–adds another dimension as we try to help parents age well.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Moving From Home Leads to a Holiday Gift Idea

Charlotte Moving Company-Moving Simplified-#1 ...

Our moving day is fast approaching. There’s always so much more to do than one anticipates. Thinking about aging parents and elderly people going through this process makes me wonder how they do it.

Yes, adult children help.  And when aging parents are mentally–but not physically–able and must get help, I’ve become sensitive to the fact that many mourn the loss of meaningful things accidentally discarded by “helpers.”

For example, one person I know often refers to the fact that her “Birthday Book” got lost in her move. She blames her helpful children.  She continually apologizes for forgetting to remember her friends’ and relatives’ birthdays. I know she’s sincere.

I also know that doing the work required to put together a new book would be overwhelming at her age.  I’m thinking when we’re once again settled, I’ll sit down with her and we’ll work together and attempt to create a replacement Birthday Book. And that will be my holiday gift– something I know she’ll truly appreciate.

Hmmmm. Perhaps a generic holiday gift: replacing something that aging parents have loved using and/or treasured but have lost, misplaced, or used so often it needs repairing, cleaning, or replacing.  You get the idea.

Of course since we’re controlling and doing all of our moving, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves for regrets about things lost or discarded during downsizing. Then, of course, there are treasures we make a special point of moving safely…..

"You can say any fool thing to a dog, and...…….No matter what.

Help Aging Parents: Downsizing, Leaving Home, Loss– Part 3

A move that aging parents haven’t initiated understandably triggers feelings of many types of loss: of abilities, of self-esteem, of independence, of optimism.

Being smack in the middle of downsizing–preparing to move after decades in one’s home–is daunting.  The thought was daunting even before we began.

Everyone comments “How exciting!” when hearing a NY city apartment awaits us. True, it is exciting to think about moving back to NYC where we lived for several years after graduate school; but we’ve been too busy to give much time to that kind of thinking.

Another kind of thinking continually pops into my head, however. It’s the thought that moving from one’s home at any age is unsettling.  When we consider the stress and feelings we experience and we’ve initiated the move, we can understand why thoughts of moving from their home is so distressing for older people.

3 Reasons

If it’s a move that aging parents haven’t initiated, often to assisted living on a “campus” with facilities for levels of care, it’s in-their-face recognition that:
—they are unable to carry on life as they have for so many decades
—others recognize this and no longer have confidence in their abilities to remain as independent as they have been
—this is probably their last stop before the cemetery.

Moving under these circumstances understandably triggers feelings of many types of loss: of abilities, of self-esteem, of independence, of optimism.  It must be accompanied by an overarching sense of what was and what lies ahead.  For older people who feel forced to move this has to be very sobering.

I think of all the memories that surface with every box and folder that is opened, with every photo and piece of saved stuff that is examined. My husband and I smile and think of how of good it was, forgetting the challenges which seemed so big at the time.

We are looking forward, not moving that far from our present community, and it’s exciting.  Yet I know realistically there will be a time when we will look back, assuming we reach a ripe old age. Upon reaching 89 Dad often said, “When you can look back many more years than you can look forward, you know you’re old.” I truly don’t think he felt old until he began saying that.

Perhaps it’s because he never had to move, he never confronted that kind of sobering change and the feelings of loss that go with it. Yet clearly, living that long, Dad experienced many kinds of loss.

Understanding the components of moving–which involve change, and energy, and downsizing and organization and loss–provides us with sensitivity to think twice about their impact and understandings to help our aging parents. Won’t it also help us when the time comes?


Downsizing Aging Parents’ Homes: Energy, Organization + Personalities– Part 2 continued

According to the Myers-Briggs (its short-cut name) I am an ESTP and I’m positive my husband is an INTJ, even though he’s never taken this inventory.  Very simply, our preferred way of doing things (which is what the Myers-Briggs scores) is quite different, even though we share values and the way we look at most things.

Note the first of the 4 letters.

My husband, the high-scoring “I” personality type–thinks before taking action. Example: the student who wants to digest the question and carefully think out the answer before raising his or her hand. On the other hand, the high-scoring “E” personality types’ hands go up first, even if they have only a partial answer. More outwardly active describes the “E” personality type. (Teachers learn the slow-to-raise-their-hand-kids may have just as good or a better answer than the kids with the quickly raised hands.)

Then there’s the 2nd letter showing our preferred way of looking at things–the Forest or Trees? High-scoring “N” types see the forest first (the overall picture, macro). High-scoring “S” types see the trees first (the specifics/details, micro).

We both scored high on the third letter “T” (thinking).  The other option is an “F” (feeling) and while I scored higher on the “T” part, I scored pretty high on the “F” part also–which happens. High-scoring “T” types begin thinking when looking for answers; “F” types lead with feelings.

Lastly, my husband’s “J.” High-scoring “J” types judge quickly; they put the facts together, make a decision. Done.  On the other hand “P” types take longer to make decisions–they’re thinking of every possible option.

This is all very simplistic. Yet it helps us appreciate others’ ways of doing things.

So how do we go about organizing for downsizing and moving?

As we work and organize with others–and realize we may approach things differently and still have successful results–we share the burden.

My husband and I give each other space to work in our comfort zones, although I’m certain my husband secretly wonders if I will even get through all the drawers, closets, boxes, papers etc.

He in his “super-organized fashion” decided to tackle the boxes of stuff in the attic first, then go to the file drawers.  I tackled things as the spirit moved me.  First: my clothes (closet and drawers). It felt good to give some away to people or to those clothing drop boxes, and to see closet and drawer space expand.

We both agreed about books we would keep, so that was easy; meanwhile, his boxes have been emptied, material shredded, keepsakes and meaningful stuff saved.

Needless to say, my pile of saved objects is larger than my husband’s due to my “P” inclination.  I see many future uses for things, which causes delayed decision making.  I must remind myself I did score much lower on the “J” part of my preferences.  And I know my “P” inclination to save could keep me from ever finishing the task ahead, so at times I make judgments–dumping things I’ve come to realize I’ll never use again, before I can change my mind.

My scattered successful attempts are not nearly as noticeable as my husband’s dozens of empty cartons and cleared folders, but I know I’ll finish by our deadline.  Fortunately, he leaves me alone to plow through in my own way. After many years he realizes I do meet my commitments on time, my way of doing it is just not his way.

If you want to delve further into Myers Briggs, check out the organization’s site: http://www.myersbriggs.org/  click My MBTI Personality Type then MBTI Basics or  /http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-BriggsType Indicator and scroll down to “Types.”

You can take the inventory on line although I can’t judge the sites. (I took it in class, under the guidance of a professional.) So I add a disclaimer as to its validity but for fun you might try the myersbrigs.org site above or  http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp.

PS. The “S” in my  ESTP initially saw the specific contents of our home as overwhelming. But once I found a specific starting point that inspired me to action, I was on my way.

Good luck!

Downsizing–Aging Parents’ Homes–How Much Energy Does It Take? Part 1

Physical energy–a lot. Mental energya lot…………….
And whose energy?

A former colleague, Anna, now a current friend in her late 80’s, phoned to tell me she was going away for the weekend; she was also wondering how I was progressing with our downsizing.  I enumerated the things I’d been doing, the fact that I was very tired at the end of the day. And I started thinking about the impact of aging on one’s energy.

I remembered a lunch date with another former colleague. Because she’s almost 60, retirement was part of our discussion. And energy was a big part of that discussion.

She’s a master teacher and brilliant. She has published, has a stellar reputation and a devoted following of students. While she believes that she’s an even better teacher than when she was younger, she said the energy you have at almost 60 isn’t the energy you had at 50. Looking back we agreed that in your 40’s you have a great deal of energy, definitely enough to spare.

I’ve long held the notion most of us reach our peak in our 40’s, remain at that level for quite a while. Yet, almost imperceptibly, energy begins to decline. We can easily compensate for it initially because we are older and wiser. But it finally catches up with us.

Back to Anna. She and her husband downsized from a large home with over 50 years of accumulation to a good-sized apartment. Anna’s mind is excellent, she swam daily until the house was sold a year ago and she remains interested in everything.

Her many children and grandchildren were only too happy to lift and pack. But Anna tells me that, although she wasn’t initially concerned with the physical part, the mental energy required was tiring.  Even after showing younger people what how to sort and pack, it often wasn’t done just the way Anna wanted. So she did much of that herself, with not that much energy at 86.

If we create additional mental stress while trying to be helpful and preserve older peoples’ energy, are we helping? And how do we help in a way that respects everyone’s wishes, time, and abilities? If we can answer that last question, we can offer our greater supply of energy, have grateful aging parents and grandparents, and feel good.

But most everyone puts off downsizing until we realize we aren’t as able as we were and may not have the energy if we wait much longer. The earlier everyone starts, the better.

Note, Boomers:  Some children, who are old enough to care, could care less about their parents’ treasures.  Yet some parents–aging or not, moving or not–are giving things to their children. (If giving photos or photo albums they need identification if they’re to have meaning.)

It takes a lot of energy and time to go through shelves and drawers, photos and folders of papers. If you’re like me with deceased parents who kept everything–you not only have your things to evaluate, but must read and double check theirs before recycling one scrap of paper. Why?  Because, for example, my parents haven’t been gone long enough for me to legally shred everything.

My almost 98-year-old mil, Sr. Advisor R, on the other hand, (recently recovered from her broken hip), is conscientiously tossing or giving “stuff” weekly.  Her energy hasn’t returned completely, but she is disciplined as I’ve written previously. Says she doesn’t want us to be stuck with it.

When aging parents aren’t mentally capable, it’s another story. But when they can do, if we didn’t know how to help before, why not reread paragraphs 7, 8, and 9? Hopefully we can adapt the concepts, help our aging parents, help ourselves, and perhaps even our children.


Downsizing–Leaving Home: Energy,Organization, Loss, Change–For Aging Parents….And it’s a ‘Heads Up’ for Us Too!

Tuesday’s post presented today, Wednesday

Downsizing to help aging parents?
A sobering thought: in a way that might surprise you, it applies to us too.

Personal experience: I’ve been writing about helping parents age well for about a year now on WordPress with 2 goals in mind:
1.  hoping that sharing my unpublished book/manuscript with the world will ease certain aspects of life for adult children
2.  increasing the number of older people who age well, as well as my parents did and my mother-in-law does.

Rewind to last summer. My parents had died, my then 96-year-old mother-in-law was aging well out west, and my husband and I were settled in our home of many years, enjoying our routines. While some friends were thinking of moving to Florida, thoughts of giving up our home didn’t enter our minds.

I’d joked about a city apartment being the best place to age well. “When you’re really ill, the doorman can call a taxi, dump you in the back seat, and tell the driver which ER to take you to,” I’d laughingly say. Then someone at the NY Times read my mind, I guess, and addressed the subjecthttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/nyregion/19aging.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=anemona+hartocollis&st=nyt. I followed with my blog  https://helpparentsagewell.com/2010/07/page/2/. 

Next our 18-year-old feral cat died.  We took it for granted we could never move while she was alive–although loving and loyal, the “feral” in her would not allow her to age well in a new environment according to every veterinarian who had contact with her.

Suddenly it occurred to me (since I give careful thought to the ideas expressed in my posts), why not at least look at apartments in NY City—for the future of course. We were theoretically too young to have to move or even want to move.

But moving–we are; and selling our home–the “For Sale” sign goes up this weekend.  I’ll skip the details of apartment hunting and how we ended up with what could be a perfect apartment but needs serious renovation that I had no inclination to do….but am presently doing.

Thus, I’m mired in downsizing to move, while renovating so we won’t be homeless in NY.  I must step back every hour and remember my counselor training so emotions don’t overtake good judgment. And since it’s painfully fresh, I’m going to blog–objectively–about what I see as the major components of downsizing: ENERGY, ORGANIZATION, LOSS, CHANGE as they impact aging parents and us. If possible I will try to post a bit each night, since large swatches of time are currently in short supply.