What to Do When an Older Relative Comes to Live with You

As life expectancies and health care costs increase, it has become increasingly common for families to make the decision to invite aging relatives into their homes. Much like blending families this poses a series of significant challenges. One of the biggest is what to do with your relative’s belongings. Very few of us have enough room in our homes to add an entire house worth of furniture, and so the process of bringing an elderly relative into your home must include plans to organize and cope with their belongings.

Things to Consider Before the Move

Assuming that you have already made the decision to have your relative live in your home, here are some things that may help you prepare.

  1. Where will your relative live? If there are mobility issues, you may need to put them on the first floor or install a chair lift to help them navigate the stairs.
  2. How much space do you have to accommodate their belongings?
  3. How can you allow your relative to maintain some autonomy while still honoring your family’s need for privacy and the use of their home?

The most difficult thing for many older people is giving up some of their freedom. You may need to compromise when it comes to things like meal preparation and furnishings to allow your loved one to retain dignity and autonomy.

How to Deal with Belongings

family-2It isn’t reasonable to expect that your relative give up all of their furniture and personal belongings to move in with you. Before the move happens, it’s a good idea to sit down with your relative and have an honest conversation about how much room you have and what sorts of things they can bring with them. You should focus on your relative’s physical and emotional comfort.

  • Bringing additional furniture into your home can be a challenge, but it can also make a big difference in how your relative feels about living there. You might agree to bring their bed and a few other pieces of furniture so that they feel at home.
  • Personal belongings such as artwork and other things with sentimental value are extremely important to our emotional well-being. Make sure that you let your loved one know that they can bring the items that are most important to them with them when they move.

After you have had this conversation, you can go through your loved one’s home and sort items accordingly.

Deciding What to do with What’s Left

The final step is to look at the things that won’t be coming with your relative and deciding what to do with them. Because it may be very difficult to expect someone to give up a huge percentage of their things all at once, you may need to rent a storage space to store items that have sentimental value – or that may eventually be passed on to other relatives and friends.

Take a few days or longer to go through everything and decide what to store, what to donate, and what to throw away.  As much as possible, your relative should be made part of the process. However, if the person who’s moving in with you has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you may need to do your best without their input.

Once the move has taken place, it’s important to be patient and kind. It’s going to be a period of adjustment for everybody, and it is inevitable that you will run into some bumps in the road. However, if you make a point of doing your best to make your home feel like their home, then the transition period may end up being a brief and relatively stress-free one.

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