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Is it time to talk downsizing over dinner?


Is it time to talk downsizing over dinner?

With family coming together (in person or virtually) this holiday season, this may be the time to discuss what’s next for aging loved ones. With the advent of the 2020 pandemic, seniors are increasingly wary of nursing homes and eyeing options to age-in-place in smaller, safer dwellings. Others left nursing homes only to find they can’t return, and now families are left to figure out safe alternatives.


Some nursing homes did manage to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak. But for those that didn’t, the story is frightening for those approaching that age bracket.


This trend means families are pulling together to collaboratively clear out decades of memories from homes and generations of sentimental possessions to help aging loved ones avoid group housing situations and stay safer in private housing. Some are looking into retirement communities, while others are looking at retrofitting an existing home to be safer for seniors.


While some states and families seek to keep loved ones out of nursing homes, the decision to help a loved on age privately is complex.


Is it time to talk downsizing over dinner?


1. Talk about all that “stuff” sooner than later. In fact, how to deal with so many family heirlooms and belongings (perhaps over the next several years) can be a gentle segue into discussing aging in place incrementally and compassionately.

  • a. Because COVID-19 poses a health risk to seniors that is significant and can greatly affect longevity, it is becoming more common for families to hold “What-if-something-happens-to-you?” conversations than before.

  • b. On a more practical level, having too much stuff in a house will keep it from selling, and if taken to extremes, extra stuff can also pose greater safety risks as a person ages. From decluttering to a detailed clean-out, the first step in moving to a smaller home is assessing what is actually a must-keep item versus a give-away item, so you can assess your future space needs.


2. Explore the economics of housing, here and there.

  • a. Where your aging relative lives right now might be paid in full and exactly where they prefer to stay… albeit with some modifications like safety railing, a chair lift for stairs, or some other safety precautions and retrofitted senior living modifications that require budgeting and planning.

  • b. Conversely, where they live may be suddenly impractical and too costly because of shifts in services and amenities in certain areas due to the pandemic. Some are finding that limits to public transportation and exposure to crowds means they want to relocate out of metropolitan areas and into a rural setting. Others want the opposite for access to specialized health care not available in smaller towns… These options require budgeting and planning over multiple conversations to weigh the pros and cons and financial feasibility of a relocation.


3. Have a backup plan. Nobody wants to think about a sudden and unexpected ending to a long life, but in this day and age, it can happen.

  • a. Should something happen to your aging relative that prevents them from living into old age, what are their wishes and preferences for their home and their belongings?

  • b. Do they have sentimental attachments to their possessions, or do they approve of a rapid and impersonal clean-out and estate sale?

Above all, be safe this holiday season.


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