Just One of Life’s Many Transitions

After a simply wonderful holiday in Italy with my family I’m now back and looking forward to some warmer weather like that I experienced in Italy.

This month I want to talk about one of the transitions that many of us will be involved in sooner or later, and that is helping our aged parents to make the huge leap in moving out of their home and into residential care.

It’s probably mainly the baby boomers among us who are facing this tough time, and I know first-hand how emotional this can be for all parties involved, and especially for our loved ones who may be unwell and needing special care.

Although my parents have been gone for a few years now, those memories of that difficult time are still vivid. Mum had to go into a specialised care facility as she had Alzheimer’s disease and was no longer safe in our family home. We were so fortunate that she settled in easily and with my sister, brother and me visiting her often she still knew she was cherished. Dad remained at home for another two years and our attention was also focused on him and making sure he knew he was loved, was secure and got to see us most days. Sadly he also reached a stage where regular falls made his living in a 2-storey home untenable. He settled into a rest home in Browns Bay, close to where my sister lived and not too far from me. With his fancy little red scooter he was able to get out and about and enjoy his surroundings.

We were fortunate in a way that our parents had both reached a stage where moving to a care facility was not a question but rather a necessity. For many families this decision can be a struggle with a parent not wanting to budge from the family home, and all their possessions.

What brought all of this back to my mind was a conversation I had just yesterday with a woman who is needing to move her father into care, and wanting some ideas on how to make the transition as easily and stress-less as possible. Interestingly she said her Dad had said to her “I just want someone to make the decisions for me on what I need to take to the new place, and then settle me in once I get there.” I totally get what he is saying; he will already be in some overwhelm just thinking about leaving the family home and all his possessions, to then try to make decisions around what will fit into a much smaller serviced apartment in a residential care facility would be far too daunting.

This is where family comes in. This loving daughter and I chatted for some time about how this could be handled with as much sensitivity as possible. Here’s the path we discussed:

– First chat to her Dad about a plan on how this can be made easy for him, and although I mentioned that I could meet with her and her father to help with this discussion this is also something she could do on her own. The main thing is that he is respected and able to speak for himself as to what he wants to do. Being bossy and railroading a parent, for their own good, is unkind and disrespectful to my mind.

– Secondly, I suggested to the daughter that she and I visit the serviced apartment to see exactly how much space there is, and potentially what pieces of his furniture could fit, as well as checking out possible storage for clothes and the like.

– The next step is to make the decisions, with her Dad alongside so he can give his opinion, on what will be useful to take to the new apartment and what definitely won’t fit. Please be careful with decisions around large furniture, and lots of possessions. Large furniture in a small area can become a tripping hazard, and lots of possessions on table tops can also quickly become messy. People living in small areas need as much space as possible, and that includes on table tops where they need to be able to safely pop a cup of tea, newspaper or book.

– His daughter said that once he was safely moved she and her brothers would pitch in and empty the house so it can be put on the market. She mentioned selling some items, and donating others. At no time did she say she would be keeping any of her parents’ possessions for herself.

I want to make a point here that I feel is important: please be wary of keeping boxes and boxes of your parents’ possessions and trying to store them at your own home. I’ve seen this time and time again: boxes stacked up to ceiling height in a garage, or in a spare room. This immediately cuts down on your own valuable storage space, but there is also the fact that oftentimes these boxes of possessions remain sealed sometimes for years. I’ve spoken about this in a previous newsletter but I want to reiterate here: do you really think your parents would expect you to hold onto their possessions once they’ve passed on?

When we were ready to put Mum and Dad’s property on the market we packed up the majority of their possessions and donated them. Books went to the second hand bookshop to earn some extra pocket money for Dad. My sister in Italy was delighted to get some of Mum’s lovely china and crystal. I have two beautiful figurines that Mum loved, that I have on display in my home, and that’s all I took of theirs. I have so many wonderful memories of my parents and our family life that I don’t need possessions to remind me.

I do understand that this is just a personal preference and everyone must make their own decisions on what they want to keep and there will be precious items that will be shared around the family I’m sure.

I also want you to know that if you are going through these often difficult and potentially emotional circumstances you are very welcome to call me to chat about it. Sometimes an idea or comment can make all the difference.

I wish you joy and blessings, and a wonderful month.

In Joy!

Angella Gilbert

P: 09 410 4166
M: 027 224 8937
E: angella@gioia.net.nz
W: www.gioia.net.nz

Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to anyone you feel may be interested.

They can subscribe via this link: RSS Feed