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When It’s Time to Move: A Checklist

Image courtesy mrpuen @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.netFor many persons with dementia, there eventually comes a time when they need to consider moving to a new home.  This doesn’t necessarily mean moving into a residential care facility; it could mean simply moving to a smaller apartment or an independent living center.  The purpose of this move could be just to relocate closer to family, or it could be because the person needs access to increased assistance from others.  Either way, there should be a discussion fairly soon after a dementia diagnosis is made, including the person with dementia and any other persons who might provide some helpful insight into the matter.  This doesn’t mean that a decision needs to be made right away, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the possibilities, and to know the person with dementia’s feelings and concerns.  If things are put off, for example, until Mom has broken her hip and Medicare is only allowing her five days of hospital care, then everyone is going to feel more pressured, and the solution that is reached is liable to be both difficult and painful.

I found a wonderful checklist on what to do in order to prepare for a move, starting from six months to a year before it is anticipated to happen.  (Actually, a lot of this information would be beneficial for anyone contemplating a move — not just someone who has dementia.  I know I’m going to save this for my husband and me, as we’re probably going to be moving to a new state some time within the next few months.)  The original list can be found here; I’ve tried to paraphrase it and add some thoughts of my own.

An important step, to be undertaken probably as soon as you begin to seriously contemplate a move, is to declutter.  Get rid of anything lying around the house that you anticipate that you won’t need in your new location.  This could be furniture, knick-knacks, important (or unimportant) papers, clothing, etc.  Several years ago, my parents moved out of the home they had lived in for 20+ years.  They ended up going through boxes and boxes of old school papers, tax returns, vacation photos, and more stuff than I can remember.  Some of it went to my brother and I, some of it was donated or sold, and some of it just thrown away.

1.  Shred, or otherwise destroy, things like cancelled checks and tax returns.  Check with an accountant or a lawyer to see what should be saved, and for how long.  A pharmacist can give advice on how to dispose of old medications; some may be thrown away but some should not.

2.  There’s no need to do all this at one time.  Do a little bit every month, until the time for the move arrives.  I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can get rid of before the big push begins and you’re tossing things in boxes just to get rid of them.  This also gives you plenty of time to determine just what needs to be saved, and what can be gotten rid of.

3.  While you’re in the process of going through things, be sure to collect important papers in one place.  This should include deeds, wills, Powers of Attorney, medical records, military records, diplomas and degrees, birth certificates, passports.  Be sure to keep this file in a place where it can be found easily.

4.  If there are items in the house that belong to other people, now is a good time for these things to find their way home.  This could be a vacuum cleaner borrowed from Cousin Millie, or Junior’s CD collection, or all those cookbooks from the church rummage sale that didn’t get sold last year.

5.  Try to limit the packing process to no more than two hours a day.  Working for long periods of time can be stressful even for those of us with average cognitive capacities.  Try to keep it relaxed and companionable.  Play some soft music, or have a glass of iced tea.  Working together always helps.

6.  Start a separate notebook for the move, and make lists.  Keep the notebook with you, and when you think of something jot it down.  Think about including to-do lists, calendars, things you’re likely to forget, questions about the new residence, floor plans, notes about the disposition of items, and so on.

7.  Get estimates from moving companies.  It may be possible to negotiate some fees, and you may be able to schedule the move for non-peak times to save money.  (If you’re going to be moving the larger items yourself, you will need time to arrange for a truck and for lots of helpers.)

8.  Make a floor-plan of the new home, whether it’s a 2-bedroom apartment or a semi-private room in a residential center.  This will help you know what you have room for, and how it can best be arranged when the time comes.

9.  Don’t forget about your pets, if you have them.  Are you going to need to find them new owners, or are you going to have to make provisions for them in your new home?  Do you need to make any arrangements for boarding them while the move is going on, and helping them get settled in?

10.  Remember to change your utilities — gas and electricity, etc.  Have the old services shut off, and turned on at the new location if need be.  And don’t forget about deposits.

11.  Will you need to change doctors and pharmacies?  Do you need to get a good supply of medications to take with you?

12.  You will need to notify a number of entities of your new address.  This can include the post office, credit cards, bank accounts, investment/retirement accounts, Medicare and Social security, voter’s registration, driver’s license/registration, family and friends, newspaper/magazine subscriptions, social clubs, places of worship, lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, etc.  (It’s always amazing how many of these there are.)

13.  Do one room at a time.  Sort furniture and possessions into four categories:  definitely save, possibly save, sell or give away, and discard.  Use colored tags to designate which group everything belongs to.  This is the time to designate whether specific things are going to specific people.  (Make a list.)

14.  Don’t try to sort paperwork or photos at this point, unless it’s obvious that certain things are not needed.  If there is any paperwork that is discarded at this point, be sure to shred it for security’s sake.

15.  The number of kitchen items should be greatly reduced at this point.  (Especially if you or your parent is going to a place where meals are going to be prepared by someone else.)

16.  When the time comes, move only your loved one and the designated items he/she has indicated will be desired in the new location.  Furniture and other household goods can be moved out later.  And, if something has been forgotten, it will be easier to retrieve it.  Make the actual move as unhurried and free from stress as possible.

17.  During the actual move, as well as all of the preparation leading up to it, be patient and allow your loved one to freely reminisce.  Share memories associated with the items being packed or disposed of, and be sure to acknowledge any emotions that may come to the surface.  This can be a nice way of bringing you and your loved one closer, and of helping them to deal with the idea of moving to a new home.

18.  Don’t go hog-wild on throwing out things.  Be sure to save a few mementos — photographs, collectibles, and so on.  Be sure there are some things in the new surroundings that make your loved one feel at home.

19.  Solicit help with the actual packing chores — family members, friends, and so on.  If you’ve labelled everything, that should make the process easier.

20.  Be sure to label all boxes with the room they will be placed in at the new location.

21.  Even if you’re not using a moving company, check with them about specialized containers.  For instance, they can provide boxes for clothing that have rods which you can put hangers on.

22.  Pack a few boxes to “open first.”  These should contain those things you will need the first couple of days, until you can get to the rest of the stuff.  (Personal hygiene items, a couple of changes of clothing, medications, scissors, flashlight, and so on.)

23.  Pack another box with items you will need during the move:  lease, keys, legal documents, checkbook, cell phone, address book, first-aid kit, extra cash, your relocation notebook.  Store valuables in a safe or safety-deposit box.

24.  When the time comes, dispose of any items so designated.  You may need to arrange for extra trash pick-ups.  Some organizations (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.) will be glad to pick up any items you wish to donate.

25.  Give away any items that you’ve chosen to dispose of in this way.  It might be nice to give family members and friends a special memento of your loved one.

26.  Before you sell something, be sure to have it appraised by someone who knows about such things.

27.  Think about disposing of furniture and other large items through entities such as estate sale companies, auction or “want ad” websites like e-Bay or Craig’s list, consignment shops, and garage sales.

28.  If using a moving company, be sure you have a contract that clearly specifies coverage for lost or damaged possessions.  Make sure they give you a firm time for their arrival, both at the old and new place.  Have an inventory list of things they will be responsible for.  Be sure there is someone at the new location to meet them, if you will not be able to do so.  Make sure they have a key!  Properly label all boxes.

29.  Prepare to spend a few days unpacking and organizing.  Have someone help you, if possible.  Make the new place seem homelike as soon as possible.

30.  Check in frequently with your loved one, to be sure they are settling in.  Be aware that it may take a little while for them to adjust to their new surroundings, and their reactions are liable to vary regarding the move.  Some may feel relief at not having to be responsible for such a large place; others may feel withdrawn and anxious about making new friends and accustoming themselves to their new location.  There may be some grief involved, but they may also say they should have moved long ago.

  1. May 12, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    great blog, one I will probably re-blog at some stage! thanks 😉

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