From Guest Blogger Jim Vogel with ElderAction.org
Taking care of a senior is hard work. You do it because you love them, but it is a huge responsibility and takes a lot of energy. Inevitably, the day will come along when someone passes and there is nothing easy about losing a loved one. When an elderly loved one loses a spouse, it can be very difficult for them to move on. Sometimes, downsizing after losing a spouse can make it easier to move on, and get back to a place of happiness. It is a process, but helping them downsize possessions and move into a smaller space can benefit them in the long run. Here is some advice on how to help this process along.
One of the prime benefits of downsizing is being able to focus on rebuilding your life and finding a new normal. Having fewer financial- and maintenance-related responsibilities will allow you to focus more on your happiness and less on your home. Shedding some of the excess belongings and moving into a smaller place will free up time and energy to help get back to a happier place.
To begin the process of downsizing, talk to them. Give them some time to mourn, then ease into mentioning the benefits of moving and letting go of some things. It may be a difficult concept for them to grasp at first, so be patient. You’re trying to help them, not traumatize them. Explain to them that it’s not about moving and forgetting their spouse, but rather about taking care of themselves, being happy and healthy, and less stressed in life.
Start sorting. Pick a room to start on. Begin the process by sorting through smaller things first. If you focus on one room, and even one dresser within that room, it will make it all easier in the long run. Not only will this help make progress toward the transition, but it won’t be too overwhelming for anyone. It will be a gradual change, rather than a sudden shift in a way of life. Keep them involved in the process. All change takes time to adapt to, especially if you’ve been living one way and with someone for so long. This helps to keep the process more positive.
Look for a new place based on requirements. Maybe it’s time to move into an assisted living community, so doing research into what assistance they have to offer and consider what your loved one needs daily, will help you both make the right decision. Be sure to look into more fun activities as well, not just care. They want to enjoy things, so having a beautiful park to walk in, transportation provided for them, planned group trips, or even games to play all important amenities to consider when making a choice.
However, you plan to help them downsize, take your time with it. Nobody should make any major life-changing decisions immediately after someone passes. It’s important to take time to mourn, but also to look toward the future and embrace some change eventually. Everyone copes with loss in different ways, and it may take some people a little longer than others to come to terms with who they lost, and how different life is going to be. It’s not easy for anyone, including a caregiver. But, looking forward in life and understanding that things will be different and accepting that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing will help. Downsizing gives us the opportunity to shed some of those financial obligations that come with a house and gives us the freedom to move on and embrace a new way of life. Just be gentle with the process and allow time to adjust along the way. Soon, your loved one will be on their way to being happy again.