One of life’s most challenging aspects is watching our parents age. Then comes the day when you, and they, realize they’ve lost their physical independence.
Whether they are downsizing into a smaller, less maintenance-intensive home or condo or are moving in with you or to a care home, giving up a long-loved home is wrenching.
Thankfully, they have you and you have us and we have tips to help your parent or parents — an you — through this tough time.
Get legal advice
You may be required to use the proceeds of the sale to pay for your parents’ care if they will be moving to an assisted living facility or long-term care facility.
Speak with your attorney early in the process to learn about the complex aspects of selling an elderly parent’s home.
Line up some labour
Cleaning out a family home is a huge job so don’t try to tackle this alone. If you have siblings, enlist their help. In fact, insist on it.
Not only will you need their muscle but having family around may help ease your parents’ transition as well.
Otherwise, hire some help. Visit the neighbours to let them know what’s happening and ask for a referral to local manual labourers or companies that specialize in decluttering and downsizing. Who knows? They may volunteer to help.
Hire a real estate agent
It may seem that it’s too early in the process to hire a listing agent, but we disagree, and here’s why.
Your agent should see the home before you start moving things out of it. Advice on what to leave for staging purposes is invaluable.
Ask for tips on whether to paint, replace carpet and other updates that will make the home more attractive to potential buyers.
Your agent will also be able to refer you to an estate sale company (if needed to help downsize, get rid of belongings), cleaners, painters and more.
Hiring an agent early in the process also allows Mom and Dad to get to know the agent and feel more comfortable about the sale process.
Move first, then sell
Because it’s so important for the homeowner not to be present during buyer showings, most experienced real estate agents will counsel you to move your parents before putting the home on the market.
If they need the equity from the current home to move, however, come up with another solution. Perhaps they can stay with you or a sibling until the home sells.
It’s time to purge
Purging a lifetime of belongings (and memories) will be the most challenging aspect of downsizing for your parents. What to keep, what to get rid, of will be decisions not easily made.
“ … the problem isn’t denial, but rather, the extraordinary difficulty associated with giving up items that are so closely linked to their identities, their past and their memories,” claims Sarah J. Stevenson at APlaceforMom.com.
It’s not really the items, it’s the memories attached to them
One way to ease your parents’ reluctance is to promise them that you will photograph everything they decide to get rid of and place the photos in a lovely scrapbook that they can take with them to their new home.
Or, if they prefer, you can video their cherished-but-leaving items. This way, they’ll still be able to refresh those memories.
Still, unless the parent is suffering from dementia, it’s important to allow him or her to take the lead in the purge. Yes, it will be slow-going, but it’s important that, in the future, they don’t look back and feel they were railroaded into getting rid of certain items.
Gather family members together to go through your parents’ purge pile. As one elderly woman in an online forum stated, “It is SO much better to know cherished family things will continue on.”
Have conversations with Mom and Dad about these items and the stories behind them. This helps ease her anxiety and lets her know that the memories associated with the items will live on.