Maybe you and your senior loved one have come to the decision that he or she should move to assisted living. Or perhaps you're just doing some housekeeping in his or her home. It can be difficult to part with items when you've had them for decades, even if you don't use them anymore. You'll find this sentiment is one often held by older individuals as they go through their belongings. To assist a senior in sorting his or her material positions, try these tips:
Start with what the senior needs
In any moving or organizing situation there are items the owner clearly needs. Have the older person make a list of all the things he or she can't live without. Toiletries, bedding, a radio and perhaps a set of heirloom china may make the list. Now you can help the individual sort out those items to a "keep" pile. Label everything so nothing accidentally gets donated or thrown out.
Then move to wants
The senior may have a hard time parting with sentimental items. Depending on their size, it may be OK to keep some things even if the person is downsizing or moving into a memory care community. Small mementos like knickknack souvenirs and photographs should be kept as they can easily be transported and stored. Plus, they bring the older person joy and may even help him or her feel connected to the past if he or she has Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.
Talk about where discarded items will go
Your older loved one may feel better about getting rid of some items if he or she knows they are not simply being thrown into the trash. Instead, come up with a few organizations that accept donations of items such as cutlery, clothing, pots and pans and furniture. Also consider letting family members take items the senior no longer wants. A college-age grandkid could probably make use of a couch or waffle iron, and the senior's kids might love to have his or her golf set. Just make sure the senior is ready to part with the items before people come swooping in to stake their claims.
Will the older individual need a swimsuit at his or her new home? If he or she plans to take trips to a local community center to try out water aerobics to ease aching arthritic joints, you will want to pack this item. If, however, the swimsuit's been sitting in a drawer unused for several years, you should consider tossing it. Explain your practical mentality to the senior so he or she sees the logic in donating or throwing out some things.
Ask for help
The older loved one may not be the only individual clinging to material items in the thought that getting rid of them would erase a memory of a beloved person. Because you have a relationship with the senior, you too may feel the tug to keep certain items.
"Throwing away an item doesn't mean erasing a memory."
In this case, look for outside help when going through the senior's things. There are many moving companies that offer senior move managers to assist with this very issue. They are also well-versed in what assisted living communities already have that an older person won't need to take. If you're not sure what items your loved one's new living space will include, call the community and ask for a list of things to bring. Typically, clothing, toiletries and mementos are all a senior will need to transition to his or her new space. You can add some decorative elements, like curtains and a bedspread, to make the new apartment feel comfy and homey.