Later Life Transitions… What Families Need to Think About

When I first met Martha, she proudly explained that her children were going to empty her home of 46 years so she could move to a local retirement residence. Since Martha’s husband passed away three years ago, she found herself lonely and unable to maintain their large home.

Martha’s three children are scattered across the country. They decided the only way to get the job done was to take a weeklong vacation to complete the task and share quality time with their mother.

Everything happened quickly. There was a flurry of emails and conference calls between the kids to kick start the process. In short order they finalized her retirement home agreement, hired a realtor, hired a mover and lastly hired an art dealer to sell her collection. But critically, they overlooked discussing their intentions with their mother.

When they arrived, they immediately explained there was a lot to do in little time. They worked hastily as Martha sat and watched from her favourite chair. Her daughter decided what was going to the retirement home. One son started in the attic and the other in the basement. Two days into their task, the kids became frantic. So many questions – what should we do with this, who wants to take that, is this worth anything? They shook their heads as they sorted through her belongings. “We can’t believe you have so much junk!” Martha hoped they would take her heirloom antiques, but they each declined.

Martha was overwhelmed – stressed by the multitude of questions, fast pace and commotion, the pain of watching her life being dismantled, pressure to make quick decisions and listening to her kids disagree.

The straw that broke the camel’s back happened when the kids informed Martha that a dumpster was arriving in the morning. They were about to throw out a lifetime of her memories and treasures. This scenario happens more often than not. Many in this situation helplessly despair, but Martha calmly told her children that they were fired and to stop what they are doing right now.

Everyone had good intentions, but no one understood the amount of time and work that was involved, the physical and emotional demands and how family dynamics factor in. Here are some tips to consider after making the decision to sell the family home.

  • Discuss options and visit different sites before deciding on a new home location;
  • Start the planning process well in advance with the help of a move management company;
  • Have the children schedule separate visits to spend quality time with parents as they reminisce and begin to part with belongings;
  • Allow the parents to maintain a degree of control; and
  • Leave the work to the professionals.

Transitioning to a new home is a highly emotional time for a senior and using the services of a professional will help your family move forward with pride and happiness.